Archive: May, 2009

Protecting the Beautiful Gift of Friendship by: Heidi Avery

There are few things more precious then God’s gift of friendship.  I think you’ll agree that women especially long for that special friendship where there is a deep trust and a feeling of complete safety.  It’s a wonderful feeling when you find that you not only like one another, but you also relate and most importantly share the same belief in God. 

 

It’s awesome and in that moment when you experience that wonderful feeling you also know without doubt that God himself has hand-delivered this beautiful friend into your life.  He has personally blessed this new union and so begins that sweet intimacy you’ve heard me talk about… the beautiful combination of women and the word of God.  It’s where a godly friendship experiences its birth, where His great power causes it to grow, flourish and ultimately glorify himself. 

 

Recently, I read an article on the blessed friendship of Renee Swope and Lysa Terkearst.  They shared the wonderful story of how they met, but what stuck out to me the most was two very wise commitments they made to one another in an effort to protect their friendship. 

 

This caused me to reflect on the godly friendships that God has gifted to me and how I have at times left them unprotected and exposed to the selfishness of my own flesh and the evil desires of Satan.  This careless exposure could and in some cases for me almost did lead to the complete break down of those precious friendships. 

 

So, starting with the two vows made in the article I mentioned above I’ve devised a scripture inspired friendship protection plan.  Feel free to implement this plan into your own God given friendships, I plan too…

 

1. Always believe the best about one another.  “A friend loves at all times” Proverbs 17:17 

 

Vowing to believe the best about one another at all times means trusting your friend with the pure trust from which your relationship was born.  It means no matter what she does or says you believe her intentions towards you are good.  It is glorifying to God to be a friend that loves at all times and if we indeed love at all times than we also believe the best of our friends at all times.    

 

2. Never speak a bad word about one another to anyone.  “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”  Matthew 15:9

 

I think this vow goes hand in hand with number one.  If you believe the best about your friend at all times you will not want to speak a bad word about them.  From our heart comes our feelings and because of this our feelings will surely deceive us into believing less then the best about our friends.  When we do that the need to be affirmed takes over and we discuss our feelings with our spouse or another friend.  Whether we mean to or not a bad word may be spoken. 

 

Once the thought has moved from our mind to our mouth it becomes truth to us even if it isn’t the truth.  Worse then that we’ve slandered our precious friend.

 

Never speaking a bad word about one another keeps you free of slander and gossip which glorifies God.  It also protects your friendship from faulty views of one another and the potential of very hurt feelings.         

 

3. Pray for one another.  Pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  James 5:16

 

What’s more special then knowing that your friend is praying for you?  Know her strengths and weakness, her hopes and fears and pray for her.  If you pray for her like this you will know her so well that questioning her intentions will be unnecessary. 

 

I have a lovely friend that when I call to clarify what my intentions were just in case she misunderstood she says to me… “oh Heidi, I know your heart, no need to worry.”  She blesses me every time.  She doesn’t doubt my intentions because she knows me. 

 

Praying for one another will give you an intimate view of your friends heart and there is nothing more sweet then having a friend that knows your heart beyond your words and actions. 

 

4. Speak the truth in love and receive the truth in love.  “…speak the truth in love…” Ephesians 4:15

 

This is a hard one, but God commands us to lovingly correct one another when necessary.  I believe this can not be done without careful consideration and great prayer.  If praying for one another leads to really knowing one another then knowing the right way to approach your dear friend in correction will not be hard.  Even if the message isn’t received well she will eventually remember that she knows your heart and come around. 

 

This is also why it is important to be a friend who is prepared to not only speak the truth in love, but to in turn receive the truth in love.  My close friends know that I expect them to “call me to the carpet”, so to speak.  If I was doing something against God’s word and they didn’t I would actually think they didn’t care enough to bring me into the light. 

 

Being able to speak the truth in love and receive the truth in love is a defining characteristic of a godly friendship. 

 

5. Keep your friendship grounded on the Rock at all times.   “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”  Matthew 7:24-27  

 

Just like marriage a godly friendship, if founded on the Rock and grounded on the Rock at all time it will be protected.  If all other vows are broken at any time this one alone will allow God to restore your friendship that has been broken and being restored by God it will be nothing less then stronger and wiser then it was before.  It will be blessed again, because that is the nature of our wonderful Father who loves us so much to gift us lovely friends. 

 

I am praying for you, that you have experienced the joy of a godly friendship and if you have that you would be driven to protect it.  It will not only glorify God, but you will be blessed and your friendship will produce living fruit and you will be equipped together to do the work of the kingdom.  “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:12 

 

 

  

“Give your fears to God, He will be up all night anyway” By: Kelli Zaniel

In truth He is my rock of deliverance, my tower of strength, so that I stand unshaken. The Bible instructs us not to be fearful but place our trust always in God. Pour out your hearts before Him; kneel at His feet; God is our shelter and our deliverer.

One evening, eleven years ago in my hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, I approached the front door to my loft apartment where I lived alone. I placed the key gently into the lock and entered my dark apartment. As I turned on the lights, I soon realized that my angry ex-boyfriend was strategically hiding and waiting inside. I had been involved with this man in a relationship where his abusive words and actions seeped into my daily life and poisoned my soul. I finally gained the strength and courage to break ties with him. My mission was to re-introduce God into my life and allow Him (not other people) to fill all the brokenness and cracks in my tattered heart. In return, that night I entered into my worst nightmare. This man spent an hour beating and assaulting me in every imaginable way. In my attempt to save my own life, I swiftly jumped over the bed, grabbed the phone and dialed 911. The phone rang only once before it was forcefully jerked out of my battered and bruised hand. Fortunately, the police responded to my home, but not before the damage had been done. I can only describe this event as a fight to stay alive.

I share this less than sparkling image of myself to describe what true paralyzing fear means to me. The immense fear I experienced is both haunting and freeing. Only when I turned the key and unlocked the secret places in my heart, did I experience true renewal and healing from God, my Redeemer, my Deliverer and my Protector.

I do not want to allow fear to define me; or Satan to hold me prisoner to it. I desire to be the godly woman my Heavenly Father designed me to be. I feel God rescued me the way He rescued David. Samuel 22:17, describes God’s deliverance of David, “He reached down from on high and took hold of him; he drew him out of deep waters.” God reached down from on high, and took hold of ME, drew ME out of deep and treacherous waters of fear, worry and despair. He carried me to the security of dry land. I am reminded in Isaiah, that God is with me when I pass through rough waters. He will never allow a river of trouble to sweep over me, (see Isaiah 43:1-13). Are you leaning into the wind and trusting God or are you sinking into fearful waters?

What is fear? Fear is defined as a feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence of imminence of danger. Fear is the direct opposite of faith. Fear and faith both come from our beliefs. Wrong believing breathes fear into our lives. Right believing pushes aside doubt and allows the emergence of a faithful heart. When Jesus dealt with fear, He always pointed to faith as the answer. At the height of the storm on Galilee, the seasoned fishermen were overcome by fear. They asked Jesus, “do you not care that we perish?” This was the wrong question to ask. By asking Jesus this question, it actually increased and grew their doubts instead of their faith. Jesus responded to the disciples, “Why are you afraid? The very faith I have in the Father, you can have too.” Jesus is the living water in our earthly stream. He is forever present and watchful as we endure some of life’s most challenging seasons.

We are to accept and embrace fear for what it is. We are not to wallow or indulge in it. Satan, the Father of Lies, delights in our fear. God, the Father of Truth, delights in us. Satan’s evil scheme was to expose my broken soul, emotional scars and bruised heart. His ultimate goal was to saturate my life with constant and tortuous fear, worry and doubt.

My Heavenly Father desires to hold me as His precious child in His mighty righteous right hand, (see Isaiah 41:10); and help me so that I will not be afraid, (see Hebrews 13:6). “I will cast my fears, anxieties and worries on Him; for He cares for me affectionately and cares about me watchfully,” (1 Peter 5:7). “He will not fail me neither forsake me. I will be strong and of good courage,” (Deuteronomy 31:8). The Bible gives much insight into the power of fear. We should refuse to live with fear, worry, bitterness, obsession or discouragement. We can be comforted in the knowledge that our God is all-powerful. He gives courage to those living in fear and comfort to those who worry. He satisfies the weary and refreshes those who languish. “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,” (John 14:27); “For the power of God is made perfect in your weakness,” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

What are your private fears? Will any amount of fear or worry prevent them from coming true? When you are at the end of your rope, will you allow God to take over? One of my favorite quotes from an old devotional book is… “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.” Lord, please help me to be still and quiet in the midst of all the noise of life. I know I may not be the woman I want to be, but I know I am better than the woman I use to be. Wherever my journey takes me, help me not to be afraid, “for you are with me to the ends of the earth.”

The Drive to Newport Beach by Heidi Avery

Hey ladies,

It’s Monday, 12 noon to be exact and this will not be a usual blog from me. I think most of you knew that we were going out to Newport Beach for an extended work/vacation. My handsome, sweet, wonderful, hardworking husband will be covering the work part and we will be taking care of the rest and perfecting it only when he is able to join us 

We also decided to put our house on the market for these 6 weeks just to see what happens. Because of that decision the last 2 weeks have been consumed with repairing, painting and packing.

As Saturday ended our weeks of hard work Sunday began our family’s long anticipated 6 week journey to Newport Beach.

We were so excited and determined that even the 10 or so hour drive with 2 vehicles, a small Uhaul and our 3 sweet anxious children would be the BEST ever.

Our grand plans were to all be in bed early Saturday night and leave Sunday morning at 4 am, arriving to our cute little house on Balboa Island in the late afternoon. Just in time to get settled and relax on the front patio before the setting sun.

Sounds perfect, right? Right.

As prepared as I was we were not in bed until after 1am Sunday morning. Robert decided that a little extra sleep would be best for our long drive to LA and since we were driving both cars I couldn’t argue with that wisdom.

Sunday, 8:30am and off we go! Giving up my dream of arriving in the late afternoon my second-best plans were pulling in during the 7pm sunset. It was Hannah with me in the Yukon and Robert, Robbie and Isabelle in the Avalanche towing the Uhaul. Aside from being asked every 15 minutes “mommy, how many more minutes until we get to our house with the red door?” it was going great!

The un-perfect-ness began at 6pm, what I thought was an hour and a half from our destination. In Reno as you well know we can leave and arrive anywhere in about 10-15 minutes. In LA unexpected and sometimes unidentified traffic can delay you from even your second-best plans. It just happens here. In this case it lasted an entire hour.

Desperate for a bathroom and dinner we began to search for a family-friendly restaurant. It may surprise you, but this took another hour. All I remember is Robert saying I am going to turn in to the first family-friendly restaurant I see. Next thing we know, flashing in the distance was the sign “Dinah’s Diner… the BEST fried chicken” and below that it said “family-friendly restaurant.” A sign from God, right, no… more like a consequence to a wrong turn or something. They did give me a white carnation for Mothers Day, so that was a bonus.
We left at 9pm… no daylight to be found and as it turned out we were actually 2 hours from Newport Beach.

11pm-ish…we pulled up to Balboa island and the streets are very narrow and by that time of the evening the narrow streets are also filled with cars… very expensive cars. We maneuvered our giant trucks and Uhaul through the narrow streets and fortunately managed to find a long enough parking spot for the truck and Uhaul on our street. Remember that game we played as kids, operation? It was like that.

We made it, quickly unpacked and put the kids to bed and passed out… 1am.

Monday, rise and shine its 6am and my children are up! Besides being a little tired and a sore mouth from eating sunflower seeds (barbeque flavored) and lots of them… too many actually and milk duds… a huge box, Carl’s Jr for lunch (yuck), more sunflower seeds and gas station $3.99 teriyaki beef jerky from the bin that I had to ask for a bag for, I was doing fine and once again excited about our 6 week journey.

We’ve unpacked, walked the island and enjoyed a wonderful brunch and the clouds have just lifted exposing the warm sunshine. Right now, I’m sitting on the patio, listening to Sanctus Real, on my laptop writing to you and watching my children play happily.

I prayed for you all yesterday, that your Mothers Day was happy and blessed in everyway. Even amidst a really long drive and really bad food mine sure was. I wouldn’t change any of it… well, I still might have left at 4am 

I’m sorry this is being posted so late in the day and please forgive any errors as I am not printing this out to re-read it, re-write portions of it, allowing my husband to red-ink it or passing it by my darling Kelli for further inspiration… I’m just posting it.

I’ve also decided to share a poem with you that I wrote in 2005. I think it goes along nicely with our path to bigger faith and each verse was inspired by God’s word. Be encouraged and inspired my sweet friends…

The Mighty Living Vine

When empowered with the strength that only you can provide.
I can pick up my cross daily and walk confidently to the place where I will die.

My desires easily entice me and distract me from your perfect truth.
But with the gift of your Holy Spirit I am able to rise up and deny myself.

I can get caught up in the temptation of the world, filled full of deception.
Or I can follow after you where I can do anything and all that you promise is certain.

I can be your disciple if I hold on to the teaching that you designed especially for me.
Your truth never fails to set me free, it stands bold next to the blur of all that deceives.

Even though I do stray, I know well the place that I should always remain.
All I ask of you is given, even when the answer is not what I expected, it is always for my gain.

Thank you that I am but the branches connected to you the mighty living vine.
If I remain steadfast planting your word in my heart, much fruit will I bear over time.

And should any good fruit be produced at all, it would not be from my own failing ability.
Just the results of your perfect plan, carefully orchestrated, all for your great glory.

You have ever faithfully loved me, with a love that hard as I try, I cannot understand.
I long to love others the way you do, so in me they see the great work of your hand.

There is no greater love then when you laid down your life for me.
Fill me with courage that I may lay down my own life, in complete obedience, sacrificially.

“Spirit in Bloom,” By Kelli Zaniel

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” Galations 5:13-26. If our desire is to possess these qualities, then we know we are being lead by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit produces these character traits that are found in the nature of Christ. The Bible teaches that, they are the by-products of Christ’s control. The fruit of the Spirit is not what we do but WHO WE ARE. When we have these Christ-like qualities, we are transformed into God’s personal flashlight. We become a dazzling beacon of light that radiates from within, illuminating the world around us.

The only way we can procure these “fruit of the Spirit,” characteristics is through the presence of the Holy Spirit residing in our hearts, souls and minds. In order to be guided by the Spirit, we need the following ingredients: a heart that is open to the call of the Lord and a heart that listens and can discern between our earthly desires versus God’s promptings. A heart that knows Him personally and intimately as God the lover of my soul, the omniscient God and the mighty, all-powerful God. These ingredients combined and stirred together produce the sweet emergence of the Christian character.

My daughter, Savanna Faith, recently brought home a “fruit of the Spirit,” seed from church. She was instructed to gather the seeds, plant them in fertile soil and water them so that the seedlings would thrive and burst into leaves. Once the process had begun, the delicate little seeds began to flourish. Their dainty shoots began to burst and blossom into maturing flowers. A few weeks later, it was obvious the seedlings were not reaching their fullest potential. Savanna noticed that the tiny plants were no longer growing because they were not absorbing enough sunlight. Now in survival mode, the frail yet determined stems began to twist, turn and bend toward the light. Once the plants were relocated to a new home, a place where they could truly experience a direct relationship with the warm and glowing sun, they began to “burst forth and flourish,” once again.

We, like Savanna’s seedlings, must be firmly pressed and planted into enriched soil made up of bible studies, godly relationships and our church family, so that our spiritual life will be continually sprinkled with the daily nourishment of God’s Word. We must fertilize and spray the seedlings of our hearts with daily prayer, encouragement through the Holy Spirit and God filled messages. We must physically, mentally and spiritually bend and twist ourselves out of the darkness of our sinful nature towards God’s heavenly and forgiving garden of light. Once the glow of the Holy Spirit has showered down on us, we can truly soak ourselves in all His life-giving glory. If we do these things, our foundation will be strong enough to thrive amidst the neglect of a fallen world. We may even have the honor of sharing our fruit with others who are eternally hungry. We will then notice that, like Savanna’s fruit of the Spirit seedlings, we will burst and blossom into the abundant fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

“Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; LORD, they walk in the light of your presence. They rejoice in Your name all day long, and they are exalted in Your righteousness” (Ps. 89:15-16).
Acknowledge Him; Seek His presence by calling on Him; and Praise His name!