Monday, January 27, 2014

When Friends Change Your Life

Have you read the book about Ruth?

She is one of two women who have a book named after them in the whole Bible. Sixty-six books. Two bear the name of women. One was an orphan and the other a widow.

I don’t know how God contained Himself to weave her story in only four chapters, but He did. The irony is not lost on me, how this was the first book in the Bible I read from beginning to end, twenty-three years ago. To be honest, I didn't really understand her.

The book begins by introducing Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law. Naomi’s name means “pleasantness.” But poor Naomi buries her husband and two sons, in a land far from her homeland and when she decides to return to her roots, one daughter-in-law clings to her. It was Ruth who refused to leave her side. And the famous line…  -one of my favorite lines in the Bible is uttered.

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

Even when it made no good sense at all, Ruth tells Naomi, “I’m not leaving you.”

This Ruth, who is grasping the hand of a woman who has renamed herself “Mara.” The name Mara means “bitter.” Ruth is devoted to a resentful, angry woman, with no means, no hope, no future. She is unwavering in her loyalty to a woman, in such deep pain, she doesn't even know how to be a friend in return.

But Ruth has the kind of love that stays.

These two women set their feet to the path that would take them home and the One who is Love, sweeps down to unfold a love story complete with a happy ending and our sweet Ruth gets swept off her feet.

And Ruth is listed in the history of mankind as the great grandmother of King David.

What I love, is that Ruth was a friend when there were no guarantees. She had no idea what would happen in her life, but her priority was to be a faithful friend to Naomi.
That commitment of friendship was a rare display of love. A tender love that endured hardship, was patient in the pain, kind in the mess. This friendship that was not self-seeking or self-promoting. Ruth, a true friend, that pressed into love a woman who called herself  Bitter. She loved, by living this love that stays. By being committed to the relationship even when, …especially when, the friend had nothing to offer in return.
Ruth displayed a friendship that is rare. A friendship that displayed commitment.

It will probably not be a huge surprise, when I tell you the meaning of the name Ruth. This is a Hebrew name, which was derived from the Hebrew word רְעוּת (re'ut) meaning "friend".

Yes. It made me raise my hands in the air and praise God. This God who redeems the broken hearts and the messed up stories. The God of Once Upon a Time’s and Happy Ever After's, the God who weaves life stories that are complete with all the elements that novels are made of. The setting, the conflict, characters, plot, and theme.

And His theme is always love and redemption.

Few of us have probably had friends like Ruth. Few of us have been friends like Ruth.

The thing is, a friend can change our life. A friend can change our story.

They needed each other to have the redeeming story that has survived all these generations.

Can I tell you that friendship has all kinds of faces? It will most often involve us stepping out, taking a risk, being known and spending time with other women who are willing to do the same.


Today you have an opportunity to connect in the amazing online community of  (in) This is my fourth session being a part of this beautiful community of women. They come from the four corners of the earth, with every kind of story.

This on-line space has made the world a smaller place.

If you are a woman, you are invited.

Just as you are.

Becausue a friend can help us rewrite our stories.

Monday, January 20, 2014

When You Walk On Thin Ice

January’s cold, lies deep in the ground and digs its icy fingers across these plains. Frosty mornings are dark longer than I care and peeling back layers of soft bedding is painful for at least thirty seconds of eternity.

And I have no idea what possess them to come here so early and to stay so late   -but they do.

The thrill seekers, better known as ice fishermen, women, children and their pets. Trucks filled with tents, augers, fishing gear and bright colored jigs, to set out on the frozen flatland, with layers of thermal. They need every bit of it because, on the ice there is nothing to stop the wind from slicing you to shreds. The impromptu ice shanty towns spring up as quickly as they vanish. Their motivation is that fishing is good. It seems like a maximum risk for a minimum return.

It was over thirty years ago, I learned to scuba dive in preparation for a trip to plunge into the wild blue seas of the Caribbean. Certification included hours in a swimming pool to learn the equipment that enables you to breath underwater. Then there were open water dives in local lakes. On a good day the waters we dove in might have a visibility of around twenty-five feet. Honesty is was most often half of that, and sometimes just your hand in front of your face was blurred. When large carp swam into view, they look thirty-three percent bigger than real life, which is quite frankly disturbing. They talked to our small, adventure-seeking class, about pursuing certification in ice diving rescue and recoveries. I didn't need a course in risk-management to know that I never wanted to add that certification card to my must-do-before-I-die list.

Under-ice diving is an extreme environment on a good day and the reason people have to be trained in rescue and recovery, is because someone got in over their head.

One miss-step into a previously drilled hole, covered by a dusting of snow or fresh layer of ice. The constant shifting of pressure cracks, which is caused by the ice expansion and contraction with temperature changes and water currents. The weight of people and all their gear walking across this layer of crystallized water, causes shifting waves of tension and strain, just like boats cause as they skip across the water in warm sunny days.

People push the limits for what is considered, "safe-thin-ice."

The limits they push aren't just areas of grey, they turn black, like black ice that is the most dangerous of all. And by the time you are walking on it, it's too late.

If they take the breath-taking plunge, they estimate between two and five minutes, before cold-shock sets in to claim the last breath from your lungs.

Not long ago thirty three men had to be rescued who were ice-fishing in the most frigid of places, on over eight inch thick ice, when the weight of them broke and caused an ice floe. One man died.

There are always dangers when you decide to walk out onto the ice.

As we drove by the hoards, on the second unseasonably warm day, complete with warm breezes blowing, our daughter is the one who said it:  "That's how sin is really..... "  "You step into it and think it's fun and nothing bad happens so you keep doing it and thinking there won't be consequences."

The heavens may have opened up while all the angels sang:

The girl is growing up!

Isn't that wisdom we can all apply? 

We are enticed out on the thin ice of all life has to offer. The lure of something that seems important at the time. We do things, which we seem to get away, so we think we can do that again. Only that is never enough. So we usually end up going out farther and farther and are surprised when we step off into a fast moving current and cannot control the circumstances that are happening to us any longer.

Sin most often starts in small choices and then leaves us trapped in lifestyles that control us.

But there is One who can save us from the chasm we try so hard in the flesh to close the gap on. This abyss of sin between us and God.

That's what Jesus came to bridge.

And when we have Him in our life, we are swept off of our feet and a life of defeat, to no longer being under the control of our old sin nature.

It isn't luck or chance. Its not about being smart enough or self-sufficient enough.

It's about Jesus and what He did for us on the cross.

He is the ultimate Rescuer.

There is no situation He isn't qualified and certified, to redeem you from.

Just call out His Name.


He is the Life-Line we all need.

Run to Him while you still have breath in your lungs to speak His precious name.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

You Have A Story

Hanging upside-down from the monkey bars, on that old country school playground, we were instant friends. Dark curly hair, framed her cherub round face and deep brown eyes. We played without inhibition, skipping as we held hands, just like little girls do.  She invited me over to play. Her home was small, crowded and very different from my own home. Her mom tried hard to make me feel like the honored guest, even serving homemade chocolate shakes in small glasses. It was a treat for everyone seated at the long table.  My parents never let me go to her home again. There were whispers of neglect and abuse. It would be a decade or more before I would even think about what that might have meant for her. So my very first friend slipped away and no one seemed to know what ever became of her or the family.

There were others in those early years. Like Kelly who liked everyone, tea parties in the grove of trees with Mary, easy going, kind-hearted Pat, who arrived and left in the same school year. Just as Anne of Green Gables longed for that bosom buddy, I dreamed of having just one little girlfriend, with whom we could connect our kindred-spirits, as we skipped down the path which led to our families wooded acreage, complete with wildflowers, makeshift forts and cold sparking stream that bubbled up from the ground near our property line. Just one dear friend with whom I could share mutual admiration and intimate language of our hearts.

Mostly that was a fantasy and there were few golden threads of girl-friendships woven into the fabric of my growing up years.

Like so many women I meet, what was the normal experience, were the exclusive cliques, mean girls and betrayal. Even in Christian circles, there are those who like to look down on others as, "less-than" and view others as, "more spiritual."

In the first three decades of life, I secretly longed for the strength, comfort and encouragement that seemed to come to women who had close friendships, yet I lived as though I didn't need them.

I believed the lie, that I wasn't good enough.

It was in the throes of raising two little girls, widowed, desperate for what was real and lasting, I began my walk with Jesus. God then began to unfold His beautiful gift of women and the power of friendships in my life.

Surprisingly, a woman with my history of  few deep friendships, in a season when my heart was the most wounded, this is when I was graced with women, who helped me in the process of rebuilding my life and stitching my wounded heart back to health. 
First and foremost there was my mom and sister who walked with me on the darkest of all days. 

Unexpectedly there was the tenderhearted, beautiful Shelley and Shelly who did one thousand selfless acts of love, helping me with my young daughters, encouraging me on average days, crying with me on hard days and accepting me on all days. There was Holly who had some kind of radar, of when I was awake in the darkness of night and in the dark night of my soul.

The Lord used these women to begin to teach me what it meant to be a real friend and cultivate deep meaningful relationships. They gave me pieces of themselves when I had nothing to give them in return.

As the years have passed Jesus has given me eyes to see past the faces of women, to peer into their hearts, to see them as He sees them.

The Lord has allowed me the privilege of walking along side of many women, as together we have plumbed the depths of heart and soul issues, discovering what it means to really love. Together we have traversed sickness, health, wayward children, death, divorce, doubt, and deep blessings. 

We have discovered each other’s beauty, that our lives have deep meaning, and that everyone has a story. And we've dared to believe  the Word of God, when it says that He has no favorites and that He is wild about how He knit you together. 

We have embraced the reality of how every single story is beautiful and important.

Dee Brestin in her two decade old, classic book, The Friendships of Women, talks about how “we are not looking to find our strength in women, but as women we can strengthen each other in our relationship with Christ.”

Indeed. When we try to maintain relationships, where we are looking for our strength in others, it will sap the very life out of us. When we connect to strengthen each others, in our walk with Christ, it is life giving and beyond anything we could have hoped for.

Since I have come to know Christ, the beauty of the sisterhood of women has become a stunning, unexpected, reality in my life.

Women come into my life unexpected nearly every day. Each one brings with them their raw broken places, their beauty, love and quivering faith. They stop me in the vegetable section, call me late at night, send long e-mails and reach across continents to be heard.

Some come for a single visit.

Some for a season. 

Some have stayed friends for decades now.

Often they hear my messy story and step out brave, to tell their own.

They each have a story.

They each need to tell their story, have their story heard and to be honest enough to admit, that everything isn't as good as people think it is.

Together, as women, we find encouragement, comradery and deep comfort in the Great Comforter.  

The little girl who wanted to find just one kindred-spirit skipping through the wild flowers, has been wildly blessed more than I can count or name. Each beautiful woman, like a treasured golden thread weaving a tapestry of splendor, for the display of His Splendor. 

Part of my friendships and connections with women, is being in the (in) community. 

This Wednesday, the 15th, there will be a sign up for (in)rl conference, which will be happening in April. You can join a meet-up. You can host a meet up. You can join me at my meet up.

Friendships are important. 

You are important. 

There are women who need to hear your story. 

We all need to fully live our story for God's glory.

And I want you to know, from the very depths of my soul, today, you are enough and your story is important.

I love you. Jesus loves you the most.

Women friendships are a gift from the Giver of Life.

How are you embracing that truth?

Linking up and thankful!

# 1282 A phone call, from one longtime friend. Loved celebrating with her news!

# 1283 Homemade soup on a cold day

# 1284 Our daughter, home safe. God's grace in her life.

# 1285 Five car loads taken to second hand stores. Fresh freedom.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

One Word For 2014

Some people claim, that they are just a new trending way to make a resolution.

The flash mob on social network might offer some support for that statement.

Still I have enjoyed seeing the steady stream of One-Words by the masses as they slip through my news feed and across my screen.

So many fine words they have been, indeed.

Words like Create, Discipline, Resolute, Perseverance, Rest, Joy, Balance, Peace, Simplify  and this one that made me grin, JustDoIt. I like that girl who squeezed three words to make one.

So I've wavered back and forth if I even needed a One Word for 2014, and if I did should I bother to write about it.

For one, I don’t like to ride on bandwagons, and two, as it seems to be with my life, my One Word is kind of unconventional.

You may remember, last year my One Word was "All."



It really seemed like a lot to take on for one year. Honestly, I could probably have a re-do since giving your all, could take more than just 356 days.

Honestly I'm not kidding.  2013 took all I had to finish well. It was good, it was hard, it pumped up my spiritual muscles. My entire, heart, soul, strength and mind were tested to the very end. I was glad to turn the page.

In December, I wasn't even looking for a One Word, when my One Word came and found me.

I can't even tell you how it arrived, I just know it wouldn't go away.

So this year the word that keeps hounding me is this:

It was kind of irritating really because jubilee seems like an antiquated word.

I mean when was the last time you used that word in a sentence?

Or have you ever heard it used in a sentence?

Even the best wordsmith would be challenged, to work words like jubilant and jubilation into the average text.

If you've ever read the Bible and didn't skip any books, you may have seen "the Year of Jubilee", in the book of Leviticus. With slight reluctance, this is where I began my little journey to study my word. 

What God has been showing me have been pure nuggets of gold.

The idea of a Year of Jubilee was introduced to a large band of God's people, the Israelites, who had just been delivered from Egypt and years of the deep bondage of slavery. They were encamped in the desert, at the foot of Mount Sinai. The book of Leviticus may not seem like the stuff that Hollywood loves to make movies about on the surface, as it outlines how to worship, deal with sin and how to live as people who depend on God.

Please don't run off yet, I'll try to keep it kind of simple about my crazy jubilee word.

The Hebrew word for jubilee is, yōbhēl and means ram’s horn. It may seem ridiculous, but there is a whole book to be written on just that. At the very least, a chapter in my book.

So there is the sounding of a trumpet, the shofar, the ram horn.... which was used to declare victory.

Jubilee is declaring a Holy year, having to do with 50 years, a season or occasion of rejoicing and festivity.

It is called a special year.

A year of liberation and consolation.

Liberation: to free
Consolation: to comfort, to relieve grief

God's people who had sold themselves into slavery were to be set free.

There is debt forgiven, things restored and captives set free. There is repentance and pardon. There is the concept of resting and accepting what comes, as a gift from the Lords' hand.

The idea of taking what has been hard and ravaged and making something beautiful.

A year looking for His provision.

Jubilee is to be a year of releasing to God, the details so that He can redeem things for His glory.

There is that rams horn.

The blowing of a trumpet and declaring victory.

I think of the story of Jericho. When the people believed God could defeat their overwhelming foes and so they moved forward. And they looked pretty foolish as they marched for seven days, around the double-walled city, that appeared to be impenetrable, immovable, unattainable, all while blowing their rams horns. They moved forward in faith, sounding the seven trumpets and at just the right time they gave a shout and a final trumpet blast and the walls came down.

I know it doesn't make sense, but that's how God works.

That's why I'm embracing my word that seems a little outdated, unknown, maybe even weird.

This word that is hard to define, because I want it to be a state of being.

Because I've got some areas in my life, in my heart, that I'd love to see handed over to God to do something miraculous with. I've got some ashes that I'd like Him to make beautiful, some more freedom I would like to walk in. There are people I love who I am circling in prayer and some people that are hard to love, that I want to love.

This definition: "The concept of Jubilee is a special year....... a time when slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest."

Don't we all desire to see the mercies of God manifested greatly in our lives this year?

The beauty of it is this, I'm declaring it a year of jubilee, I'm moving forward in faith, worship, and prayer, but I'm looking for God to take down the walls. I want to be an obedient, willing participant, but the battles that lie ahead of me this year, need the power of God, to move on our behalf.

Don't imagine that I'll just be sitting around, in an overstuffed chair, sipping sweet tea with a pineapple chunk and tiny umbrella, though I may have to try that.  From the little we can glimpse, 2014 is already set to be a crazy year, full of changes, difficult, yet good things.

Would you like to guess how old my husband will be this year?

Lord willing JQ will turn.... 50.

And before he knew that I was wrestling around with jubilee as my One Word for 2014, he just stopped me and said,  "This is the year we get out of debt....."

I just love that man.

I just love the God we serve.

One way or another, this is our year of jubilee.

And by the way, I'm kind of looking for a rams horn.

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© Rhonda Quaney