Friend.

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately. There’s so many different forms and so many complications, it’s a wonder any of us have friends. For instance, I absolutely consider my family friends of mine, but not in the same way that my peers and I are friends. And I have friends that are girls, and friends that are boys. Same word, but it’s not quite the same. Ah, the curse of the English language as stupefied by the Americans. Too many meanings, not enough words.

Succumbing to my curiosity, I looked up the word “friend” on dictionary.com. They have this neat little section that explains the origin of the word and how it evolved over time. (The first time I saw that section on the website, I got pretty excited. It’s just so cool to find out how each individual word has changed and morphed as society has!) So, let me summarize the evolution of the word “friend.” The word first appeared in Old High German as friunt, but quickly morphed into the Gothic word frijōnds. This word for friend is a cognate of the present participle of frijōn, which means “to love.” I thought that was interesting. The origin of the word “friend” meant “to love.” How many people do we call “friends,” but yet we do not truly love them? The Old English language then adopted the word from the Saxons (who had been going around Europe invading and bringing bits and pieces of language along with them. Apparently they borrowed the German’s frijōn and then brought it to England.) In Old English, the word was frēond, and meant “friend, lover, relative.” The English embraced a much wider interpretation of the word and applied it to people they were close to, romantic attachments, and family. The word still held true to the root of love, however. It was still used in situations where the “frēond” was someone you did love. The Middle English changed the spelling slightly, but the meaning remained the same. The next major occurrence of the word came when Quakers took the name as the Religious Society of Friends. The love remained, though. Quakers have been known to show love to everyone they’ve met through providing shelter, help, and encouragement to others. Eventually the word came to mean “patron,” as in a person who funds someone or some organization. I suppose you could say these patrons did it out of love, but I have a feeling that’s when the word “friend” lost it’s sense of love. People began to associate “friends” as loosely, the opposite of an enemy. So, even if I don’t like you, if you’re not my enemy, then you’re my friend. Not much love incorporated at all. With the rise of social media, the word has taken even more deterioration. Facebook specifically uses the word “friends” to describe the people you have agreed to let join your site and view things thereof. I have Facebook friends I’ve never physically met before. (i.e. “Hey friend me on Facebook so I can see your constant flow of selfies!”)

So, with all that said, what should the word “friend” mean nowadays? Because we lack better terms, we call almost everyone our “friends.” From what I’ve seen, if you try to be more specific and say that someone is an “acquaintance,” you seem stand-offish and relate a level of dislike towards that person. What are we supposed to do? How are we going to categorize all the people we’ve ever met if we have roughly two words to describe them: “friend” and “not my friend.”

But at the same time, do we really need to categorize people like that? Maybe we’re on to something. Maybe our liberal application of the word “friend” is a good thing.

We are called by God to love everyone, including our enemies, (Matthew 5:44) so if we call nearly everyone we know our “friends,” whose root meant “to love,” aren’t we just fulfilling what we’ve been called to do? That had a lot of commas. Let me rephrase: The root of “friend” meant “to love,” and God calls us to love everyone. So, shouldn’t we call everyone our friends?

Of course, it’s all in the heart. We can throw the term out as many times as we’d like, but are we truly being loving towards all the people we call friends? That is the hope. -convicted shiver- Pardon me while I go through my Facebook friends list and delete anyone I don’t love. Ha, just kidding. However, there are people on that list I need to actively work to love. Perhaps my Facebook list is a blessing in disguise! It gives me a good list to prayerfully consider how I am loving those people.

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It’s okay to be outrageous

Dictionary.com defines “outrageous” as such:

Outrageous: highly unusual or unconventional; extravagant; remarkable

After years of trying to “fit in,” be “politically correct,” and thus being shy and afraid to be myself, I finally gave up. I realized that I didn’t want to be normal.  (how boring is that?) This realization was freeing in two ways.

FIRST, I found that God does not call me to be normal, to fit in, or to blend in with the world.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV)

Not only that, but God calls me to be different! I am a new creation since I put my trust in the Lord.

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (ESV)

God created me to be unique, special, and different. He knew from the beginning what I would look like, what my personality would be like, who I would become, and what my passions and gifts would be.

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (ESV)

SECOND, I discovered how this newfound knowledge impacted my life.

God made me who I am for a reason. I know I have flaws, and I know I am a sinful creature, but I should not be afraid to fully embrace my personality and passions. God made me REMARKABLE. There is no reason to cower at myself.

So many young teens struggle with this. They don’t know who they are, and if they catch a glimpse, they are afraid to embrace it. I was imprisoned by this for years, imprisoned by fictitious expectations and unrealistic images of who I should be.

I have been set free, unafraid to be who I am: a child of the King, a reborn daughter of Christ, and an outrageous teenager ecstatic to be courageous for my Savior.

I hope that each of you know how important and special you are. Christ died for you, he loves you, and he made you to be who you are.

Psalm 139:1-24 says,

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!”

 

God has made you extravagant. God has made you remarkable. Surely that is testimony of his love for you. No matter how much you mess up, God will still love you in a great and indescribable way.

 

Guest Post: A Furnace, Not a Candle

This post is by the beautiful and gifted blogger, Camilla, from her blog Clothed in Dignity. I encourage you to go check her blog out; I have been inspired and I’m sure you will as well!

Hi, readers of ‘Dance to Life’! It’s a privilege to be able to share this guest post with you today. When Hannah asked for a volunteer to write on the topic of salt and light, I felt it was something that has been very relevant to me recently. In the past few months I’ve been challenged on what it means to live out my faith every day, everywhere.

It’s easy to feel pumped up about serving Jesus on a Sunday morning, but I don’t always carry that into my Mondays. When the rubber hits the road, I can quickly lose my focus. There have been times when I wondered if people around me even knew I was a Christian, let alone saw any difference in the way I spoke and behaved.

Clearly this isn’t what God intended for us. Jesus never took a day off from loving. Everywhere He went, people crowded around Him. They were desperate for Him. In John 8:12, He says the oft-quoted words: ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.’

The people of Israel saw this light in Jesus and they wanted it.

Matthew 5: 13-15 says this: You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. ‘

Jesus instructed us to do exactly as He did- to be salt and light in a world that desperately needs it. It’s our calling to represent Jesus to whoever we interact with, so that they can meet Him through us. In our own strength this would be completely daunting and frankly impossible, but that’s why we have the Holy Spirit- the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead!

A month ago I was working in an office job to help support me through university. I was the filing girl, the one who carried piles of paperwork around and sorted the post. Through this job the Lord taught me so much about what it means to be His light, when in the world’s eyes you’re far from being in the spotlight. I learned that even filing can be done for the glory of God when done with a cheerful heart, willing to go the extra mile to help somebody else.

For me, living this way is only possible through intimacy with God. It’s all very well to know what Jesus did and how He behaved, but knowing Him is the only way that I can be anything like Him- the only way to be salt and light. There is no shortcut to this. There is only spending time in His presence and pursuing a lifestyle of holiness.

I love this verse in Philippians: ‘Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.’ (Philippians 2: 14-16). Paul illustrates here how righteousness stands out in the crowd- people might not say anything, but I am sure they sit up and take note.

Knowing what we know about stars today, I think this verse carries even greater significance. From where we are, stars may look pretty, but in reality they are enormous balls of burning fire. The closer you get to them, the brighter and hotter we realise they are. 

Shouldn’t that be us?  As people get to know us better, will they see more and more of Jesus in us? Will we still shine bright in dark situations? The way I respond to trials in my everyday life is what will set me apart, far more than how I act when all is well. I think this is what it truly means to be salt and light; to be so contradictory to the world’s way of doing things that people are befuddled and very curious.

I for one know that I want to blaze, not twinkle. I want to be a furnace, not a candle.

May people be attracted to that light in us and draw closer as they hunger to know the source. May we never lose our salt; our effectiveness in bringing meaning and life to this world through Jesus.

Thanks for reading!

Much love,

Camilla.

Evangelism

“A broken, leaping heart will love like Jesus. And the power of the love will be proportionate to the felt fearfulness of our nearness to destruction. The keener the memory of our awful rescue, the more naturally we pity those in a similar plight. The more deeply we feel how undeserved and free was the grace that plucked us from the flames, the freer will be our benevolence to sinners. We do not love as passionately as we ought because our belief in these things is not real. So our pride is not broken and our demeanor not lowly. And we do not look with aching and longing on the crowds that pass us in the airport or the straying of members of our flock.” ~John Piper

My pastor has said before that “when you fall on the Rock, it’s going to hurt.” (And no, he did not mean Dwayne Johnson) I think I often avoid fully believing and passionately loving my Freer because I know it does hurt when you fall back on the Rock. By relying on him, I completely die to myself, break myself, and give up wholly to Him. 

A major problem with Christians these days is the hypocrisy in every one of us. We say we wholeheartedly believe in Christ’s sacrifice, but we remain comfortably sitting on the fence between completely relying on Him and relying on our own strength. It does not hurt us to see people walking around without reliance on God, because really, we are not so far removed from them. If we would just give it all to Jesus, it would pain us to see others living without the freedom of Christ. And isn’t that the whole idea of evangelism? We so hate to see people without our Lord that we cannot help but share the good news, and every aspect of our lives shine the light of the Lamb who sacrificed Himself for us-and for everyone who has lived, lives now, and who will live. Doesn’t that just fill you with excitement and passion for sharing Christ with others? 

Freedom is Found

“He that is kind is free, though he is a slave; he that is evil is a slave, though he be a king.” ~Saint Augustine

This two weeks I spent a good deal of time reading Paradise Lost by John Milton. It is truly a wonderfully insightful book that made me look at the common Bible-story of Creation and the Fall. One thing that really struck me was the way Milton described Satan’s symbolic chains that bound him. His chains were his evil and his own helplessness to do any good without the Good. Inversely, Paul in the Bible, though in chains, was spiritually free because of his faith in God and his kindness toward men. 

I want you all to know that no matter what goes on in life, you are never a slave to chains. If you abide in God, He will abide in you, and you will know the truth, and that truth will set you free. (paraphrase of John 8:31) 

You might not be aware of this, but this week is National Suicide Prevention week. Normally, I’m not all into the “awareness” holidays and so forth. But suicide prevention is important to me because it has been very personal to me in the past. I have had suicidal friends, known people who have attempted suicide, and I’ve even struggled with it myself. I’m not trying to host a pity party here, but God has shown grace to me and allowed me to learn from those painful-at-times experiences. I’ve learned that nothing, not medication, not counseling, and not friendships, can fill the hollow hole that all have in their hearts until they fill it with Christ Jesus. No one is truly free from addiction, depression, suicidal ordeals, or crime histories without the Lord Jesus Christ vouching for them with God the Father.

Freedom is found through him who freed himself from death itself. 

Classical Education and Wisdom

“Wisdom is all a matter of viewing the world God’s way, with God’s revelation providing the necessary framework which alone makes sense of life, giving it some sort of coherence and direction. This is sometimes called a worldview, a kind of moral map with the main points located so we can steer our way through life to maximum benefit. Accordingly, whatever it is that is to be studied, whether science, history, or home economics, all of these things can be placed within a Christian framework, in terms of the Creator-Redeeming God, and where they can be made sense of.” ~Melvin Tinker

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love classical education. 

Every subject relates to each other, and every subject comes from God. It is a wonderful testimony of God’s ingenuity, purpose, and logic. Why wouldn’t I love to learn the way that God created-intertwined and with Him at the center! 

The Fine Line

“The man who is meek is not even sensitive about himself. He is not always watching himself and his own interests. He is not always on the defensive… To be truly meek means we no longer protect ourselves, because we see there is nothing worth defending… The man who is truly meek never pities himself, he is never sorry for himself. He never talks to himself and says, “You are having a hard time, how unkind these people are not to understand you.” ~Martyn Lloyd-Jones

There is a fine line between a inferiority complex and being meek.

And I believe residing on that fine line is when I can look at myself, understand that I am nothing, but at the same time, realize that Jesus is everything. He is my everything, the everything, and has made me something worth dying for. In that knowledge, I can rest at peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding. I can have strength, courage, and bravery in the face of fear because of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.