Back in the Saddle, Part 2

back-in-the-saddle

I recently wrote about the journey our family has taken over the last 12 months. Now that I’m back in the saddle, I want to share the lessons God has been teaching me in the process.

1. God never changes.

It doesn’t matter what craziness is going on in the world—and there is so much of it—he never changes. He is always good. Always present. Giving us grace upon grace. Forgiving. Leading. Guiding.

In the same chapter in which he encourages us to be joyful in our trials, James reminds us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows,” (James 1:17). It’s not a coincidence that James reminds us about God’s constant nature in the same context in which he talks about painful trials. The weight of God’s unchanging glory is the ballast that keeps our ship upright during all of life’s storms.

There have been so many times when I’ve been amazed by God’s presence and provision during the last year. And I’m so grateful that he doesn’t ever forget about his people. That’s been crystal clear.

2. God’s people are amazing.

It has been truly humbling to be on the receiving end of so many prayers, gifts, and notes of encouragement. Seriously! How does anyone survive difficulties without God’s people surrounding them? For all the flak that Christians get in our cynical culture, try having a struggle or a need in their presence. Then, try not to be overwhelmed by the help you receive.

Our families pitched in to make sure our ends met. Neighbors’ parents dropped off boxes of groceries and an envelope full of gas money. Anonymous gifts appeared in our mailbox. People dropped by to offer help. Countless people prayed on our behalf. Coworkers (Kelly’s, not mine; I was out of work!) showered us with gift cards.

God used his people to continually remind me that he would “supply all [my] needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:19).

3. God is a Redeemer.

God must leap for joy when he encounters an outcast, a down-turned, cast-away, broken, bruised or damaged person. He never delights in our pain. Rather, he thrills to roll up his sleeves and to set about redeeming and restoring. He’s the champion of lost causes.

It’s incredible to see. It’s even better to experience.

God has reminded me, in no uncertain terms, that he “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love [him] and are called according to his purpose for them,” (Romans 8:28). If you’re hurting, keep waiting and watching. I can’t tell you what he has in store for you but I know that he’s at work and that, in the end, you’ll feel the same way I feel.

I’m back in the saddle

It’s been a wild ride. But, now that I have the privilege of being able to look back over the experience, I wouldn’t change it. I am right where God wants me to be. My family is thriving. Ministry is getting more and more exciting every day. It’s great to be back in the saddle!

Doing Life Together

doing-life-together

One of the most amazing things about being a believer is that you never know who’s going to walk into your life and change it forever.

I can think back on dozens of people with whom I’ve been privileged to share a significant season of life. Some of those seasons are significant because of their long duration. Some of them are significant because of their impact. All of them are precious.

We throw around a cliché in the church, “doing life together,” that is shorthand for the type of fellowship and friendship that happens when people live in proximity to one another, sharing life’s joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, ups and downs. Friends who are doing life together take care of one another’s yards. They help with the plumbing. They fix laptops, invest in one another’s children, share meals, talk about dreams and struggles, and share whatever else happens along the way.

A little over two years ago, Brian and Shannon Stopinski − along with their kids: Gillian, Genevieve, Gwendolyn, and Gavin, (and their dog, Laurel, God rest his soul) − moved into the house next door. We did the neighborly thing: baked a tray of muffins and knocked on the door to say hello. They were distracted of course − I think Brian had a plunger and a wrench in his hand − so we didn’t stay long. But, once they got settled a day or two later, they came out to greet us. And, an amazing friendship began. We were blessed to be able to do life together for two years. The time was too short. But, its significance is disproportionate to the amount of time we spent together. They recently moved to pursue an opportunity for their family that was simply too good to pass up. And − oh boy! − do we miss them.

Their move made me think about the absolute treasure godly friendships are and the impact they make on our lives over the years. The Stopinskis − as well as the dozens of other friendships we treasure, you know who you are! − helped us realize a few important things.

Three things I know about Godly friends

Godly friends bring out the best in us.

A true friend is someone who lets you just be you. They appreciate you for it. And, they have a way of knowing when you’re putting up a veil, pretending to be something you aren’t. They prod and provoke you to come out of your shell. They speak truth into your life. They invite you into their adventures and into a bigger story. They give you an opportunity to practice meeting the needs of someone else other than yourself. Godly friends bring out the best in us and, ultimately, make us more like Jesus.

Godly friends bear our burdens.

A good friend is never to busy to see you and hear you. Never too busy to care. They’re available. You know they’re going to pray for you whether you ask for it or not. You can tell them the whole truth without fearing that they’ll walk away or despise you. They know our fears and insecurities and refuse to take advantage. They’ll help you mulch your yard. They’ll lend you their tools. They’ll pay for your dinner when you forget your wallet. They care. They’re present.

Godly friends just make life better.

There is a joy and richness that flows from friendships into all areas of life. Everyone needs the kind of people in their lives that they are excited to see. We all need people whose phone numbers on our caller IDs make us smile and pick up. We need people with whom we can share meals and laugh until our sides hurt or someone spits up root beer, or both. We need people to whom we can tell our silly stories and share our family traditions. Godly friends just make everything richer.

Thanks, Stopinskis, for your friendship. Thanks for welcoming us into your home, for trusting us with your kids, for caring for us, for your prayers, for your laughter, and for all the great memories.

There’s always room at our kitchen table for you when you’re back in town!