Do you have Sacred Friendships?
Thursday, October 29, 2009
We're going to do something a little differently today. We're going to talk friendship.
I've always been one of those women who has only ever had a very few close friends at a time. I have lots of people I like to hang out with, but if I need someone to bounce ideas off of, it's really only a very few. My husband plays the role of friend for most of my needs.
But I still think there's something really important about female friendships, and so I agreed to be a stop on the awesome blog tour for Bob Kelleman's and Susan Ellis' book "Sacred Friendships". This looks like an awesome book full of stories of great Christian friendships, and if you want something cozy to inspire you on a cold winter's night, snuggle up to the fire with this.
I asked the authors some questions that I thought would best relate to women who read this blog, and here's what they said:
1. Do you think it’s harder to have real godly friendships today? Or do things like the internet actually make it easier?
Every generation has had its challenges when it comes to building and keeping strong, godly friendships and each of us have our own individual challenges to overcome. Meaningful relationships take time and commitment. Technology can always be used for our benefit or our detriment and that hinges on our choices. We can choose to use e-mail and IM’ing as a way to keep people at arms length, but we can also use them as a means to stay connected to people who are physically far away from us or who are on a different schedule. We don’t see that as being any different from people relying on letters to keep them connected. Elisabeth Leseur and her dear spiritual friend, Marie Goby, only came face to face for a very brief time, but they were powerfully connected as sisters in Christ and shared with each other deeply. So, if we use technology wisely, it can help spiritual friends maintain a lasting relationship. Ideally, we would connect with our dearest friends in person…to see their facial expressions, to read the unspoken thoughts and feelings, to get a big hug…but life is not always ideal and never has been. It ultimately comes down to how badly friends want the relationship, and how willing they are to make sacrifices for each other.
2. Susan and Bob, you talk about the necessity of friendships for Christian growth. This blog tries to be a “friend” for women where they can go for help in their marriages and families. But I don’t sugar coat it; I tell it like it is. So let me ask you this: if a woman sees a friend making really poor decisions, what should be the proper response of a friend?
That’s a good question. Unfortunately, we don’t think it has a one size fits all answer. It’s essential that, as spiritual friends, we are first and foremost connected intimately with Christ. He’s the One who knows what’s best for each individual in each situation. We are certainly called to speak the truth in love. What that looks like is going to depend on the people involved, the particular situation, and their history as individuals and as friends.
In Sacred Friendships we layout a historical model of soul care and spiritual direction that includes sustaining, healing, reconciling and guiding (SHRG). In sustaining we empathize and help people understand it’s normal to hurt. With healing, we help our friends move beyond their circumstances and pain and remember it’s possible to hope. Reconciling moves us to the understanding that it’s horrible to sin, but wonderful to be forgiven. In guiding we help our friends remember that it’s supernatural to mature. We move in and out of them based on many factors as mentioned earlier. We like to call it “spaghetti relationships.” We might be in reconciling one minute and in sustaining the next. Oftentimes people who are suffering, sin out of their pain. Conversely, people who are sinning are often masking their pain. It gets very messy and requires Christ-like wisdom and discernment.
Now, within the context of sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding, taking all the other factors into consideration, there absolutely is a time and a place for “not sugar coating it” when we see a friend making poor decisions. There is also a way to lead our friends to their own godly conclusions about their poor choices by asking them good open-ended questions founded on biblical principles, that get the heart of their beliefs about themselves, the situation, other people involved, and about God and where He is in the midst of their situation. There are also times that we need to take a step back and let our friends feel the full weight and consequences of their poor decisions.
3. Who was your favourite example of friendship from the book? Why?
Susan: A spiritual friendship that quickly comes to mind as a favorite is between Betsie and Corrie ten Boom, the two Dutch sisters who found themselves in Nazi prison camps for their involvement in hiding Jews. Neither sister ever married and at the time of their capture they both lived in the house in which they were raised. They truly did life together and knew each other inside and out. They were good friends as well as sisters and clung to each other throughout their ordeal. Sadly, Betsie died shortly before the prisoners were freed, but it may very well be their deep bond that kept Corrie alive. What’s remarkable about this friendship is that it flourished in the humdrum day-to-day stuff of life as well as in the unthinkable and unimaginable. Sometimes friendships fall apart when circumstances change, but their relationship only strengthened.
Bob: It’s so hard to select a favorite from among these 50 remarkable women, but forced to do so, I would say the relationship between Elizabeth Keckley and Mary Todd Lincoln. Keckley was African American and had been enslaved as a child. Gaining her freedom as an adult, she became the seamstress for Mrs. Lincoln. More importantly, she became Mrs. Lincoln’s lifetime spiritual friend. When President Lincoln was assassinated, the only person Mrs. Lincoln wanted to talk to was Elizabeth, or Lizzy, as she called her. Elizabeth “soothed the terrible tornado of tumult” the best she could through listening, empathy, and shared sorrow. Mrs. Lincoln lived a troubled life outside the White House, but for the rest of her life the one person who was always there for her was Elizabeth Keckley. Among many lessons, we can learn from this that sacred friendships can and should cross cultural and racial boundaries.
4. To tell you the truth, I’ve had great friends at different periods of my life, but today I have few friends I talk to on a regular basis that go back more than 10 years. I seem to have friends, change cities, and then move on. Does that make me a bad friend? Have we lost the art of lifelong friendships?
We think it makes you quite normal, frankly! And, the fact that you’re asking the question strikes us as a great sign that you have a passionate heart for spiritual friendships.
Have we lost the art of lifelong friendships? In Sacred Friendships some of the women were engaged in lifelong spiritual friendships, while others, like you describe, had short-term or intermittent spiritual friendships. Life has never been a nice, neat package that makes relationships easy. However, historically, many women did maintain lifelong connections through letters of spiritual consolation, spiritual direction, and spiritual counsel. With modern technology we can certainly do the same even when separated geographically.
One of our hopes in writing Sacred Friendships is that our readers who don’t have sacred friendships would see that they are possible and valuable and that they would be in prayer for them, seek them out, and be willing to give of themselves in order to also receive. And for our readers who do have sacred friendships, our hope is that they would be encouraged and reminded that they are blessed and it is worth it, even when it’s hard.
5. How can a woman be strong in ministry for the Lord when she’s also at home ministering to her young kids? Can you give me an example from your book of women who have made a big difference for the wider kingdom while their primary calling is still motherhood?
Susan: I have a twofold response to that. First, I think that we moms sometimes forget that our children are certainly part of the ministry that God has for us. For some women, their children are their primary, if not their only, ministry and that’s ok and it can make a big difference for the kingdom. Our culture puts such an emphasis on doing and producing, that I get a little concerned sometimes that moms, especially stay at home moms, sometimes feel that they are not contributing members of society or the kingdom and that simply is not true. Changing one more diaper or cleaning up one more mess doesn’t seem like it adds a great deal to the kingdom, but little eyes are watching and our responses to the routine…and sometimes the drudgery of life teaches our children more about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control, than our words and a Bible study ever could.
Second, we need to go back to one of the key points of Sacred Friendships, and that is the necessity of being connected to the Lord so that we know and hear His voice above all others. If the assignment isn’t coming from God, it will be fruitless. But, when God has a plan for one of His children, He will make a way for it to be fulfilled. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote one of America’s greatest novels while raising a family and running a household, It has often been said that Uncle Tom’s Cabin launched our nation into civil war and consequently changed our nation’s history for the better; that seems like a pretty significant impact to me. Laura Haviland was a key player in the underground railroad, and the founder of a free school for children, all the while raising a large family by herself after her husband died. The Lord gave them each a calling and provided a way for them to fulfill it. But, once again, the key for both of them was their complete dependence on Him. They heard His voice, trusted, and responded.
6. With all that’s going on in the world, why this book now? What’s unique about Sacred Friendships?
There are a few scattered books out there on the history of women in the church. There are a few books out there on women counseling women. Sacred Friendships is not just a history book. It’s not just a counseling/spiritual friendship book. Frankly, there’s not another book out there that applies the history of the legacy of godly women to life and ministry today.
Sacred Friendships is especially vital in our world today. We are so disconnected from one another. We sit by our computers . . . alone. We send quick text messages . . . without any depth.
People are hungry for profound relationships, for meaningful connections. But they have few examples showing how to connect to others in practical ways. Sacred Friendships provides over 50 concrete models that teach us how to be real and raw, how to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth, how to be a . . . sacred friend.
7. Who should read Sacred Friendships?
First, anyone who loves riveting stories of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat should read Sacred Friendships. Susan and I like to think of our roles as “story-tellers”—we share stories from the lives of over 50 remarkable Christian women. If you like a good, true story, read Sacred Friendships. Second, people might assume that Sacred Friendships is a book only for women. Not true. Susan and I like to say that Sacred Friendships is a gift to women and a gift from women.
As a gift to women, Sacred Friendships puts to rest the lie of Satan that women in church history have been second-class spiritual citizens! Just one example: the famous Church Fathers were mentored by the lesser-known but incredibly gifted Church Mothers. Sacred Friendships encourages and empowers women to realize that as bearers of God’s image they have equal worth, dignity, value, and giftedness as men have. Women young and mature need the message told by these stories—because the world surely is not the place to turn for validation of worth in Christ.
As a gift from women, Sacred Friendships is for men and women—it’s for anyone who learns best by example. Men and women can read Sacred Friendships and glean life-changing skills to empathize with hurting people, to encouraging people with Christ’s sure hope, to exhort people by speaking the truth in love, and to equip people to tap into Christ’s resurrection power.
A free sample chapter of Sacred Friendships is available at: http://bit.ly/1S1haj
Sacred Friendships is on sale at 40% off for $12.99 at: http://bit.ly/MG1l5
Or simply by going to orders at: www.rpmministries.org
People can also order at Susan’s new website: www.eternalcommunity.org
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posted @ 7:30 AM