" Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." Hebrews 10: 24-25
What could be better than friends gathering, feasting, gabbing up a storm and ending the evening inspiring each other to stay strong and fast in our desire to love our precious Lord. Ten years ago, I found myself alone again, in a new town with no friends.
"I need friends and people to walk with through life, Lord, I prayed." And then I sent out an email invitation to as many women as I could find and we began our times together. Swelling to 180 on our email address list, we have seen women come and go--but always there is room for whoever wants to come--and always prayer and love for whoever needs it.
Every year, I get hundreds of letters from women all over the world telling me they long for a mentor, and a friend. I know what it is like to be lonely and to feel isolated. I have moved 17 times--started all over again so many times. But I have always had to be the one to initiate a group in my area. I have always had to start, to reach out, to initiate.
But it is because Jesus was the initiator--I learned it from Him--while we were yet sinners, Christ died--He reached out and so I was taught early in my spiritual life that I was to reach out. He created community and fellowship by gathering a whole variety of people into His calling, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." They ate and walked and lived and loved and argued--together.
"Two are better than one," Ecclesiastes tells us. And "a chord of three strands is not easily broken."
You have so many people who are praying to God to bring a friend into their lives--but you have to spend yourself to invest in others who are hoping for a friend, a mentor, a group that you could start--but it begins with owning your potential influence, your potential legacy of building a community of friends hungry for love and longing for God.
And Paul encourages older women to teach the younger--to help them, to give them a heart to share stories--its almost as though Paul envisioned pot lucks! :) I delight in so many sweet women who are much younger than me, but truly dear friends--and I do not want them to feel alone like I did. I love sharing in their lives and the possibilities of the stories they are living each day and the dreams and ideals they have.
Each of us has a big capacity to love, to reach out to others in friendship, but we must take charge of our influence, learn how to make friends, understand how to serve and work towards the goal of providing not only what we ourselves need--that person to stand with us in all seasons of life-but for the sake of our love of Jesus--to reach out to others who may be lost--like sheep without a shepherd
Each year, woman gather from as far as 100 miles away, just because our fellowship is so encouraging and sweet. Friendships are celebrated. We don't even all know each other because each meeting is varied in who is able to come--and of course we always have newbies and they are welcome, too.But all know that when they are here, we sort of belong to each other, even if just for an evening.
Each year, everyone brings their own favorite mug, tea cup or Christmas cup--all are different and beloved by their owner. Warm, spicy cider, coffee and teas are offered to drink and everyone brings a hearty appetizer sort of thing and desert. The women outdid themselves this year. Everyone came back for 2nds and 3rds!
Tonight, we were serenaded by lovely carols as we sat and chattered away--I could hardly get anyone to quit talking because everyone was having so much fun, being away from the common stresses, away to share burdens, laugh, celebrate this light and life we have cultivated for an evening away, together.
The smiles say it all--it is a merry group and all are so very happy to sit and talk and talk because all of us need time to relax and celebrate the beauty of moments that we miss in the busy whirl of duty filled days.
Tables are set up all over the house and people sit on stair cases, floors, couches and release a little of life weariness. No one notices if there is dust on the tables or messes tucked in here and there-as a matter of fact, these piles make us all feel more normal.
Some friends have been with me almost from the beginning. We raised our children through the years together and we have shared in hundreds of evenings of Bible study together--and it is all stored in our hearts and souls. Ten years is a lot of history, phases, seasons, and watching God be faithful through all the twists and turns of life.
There is a value to commitment and staying faithful--as it provides a pathway to long term memories and relationships that give solidity to life. But sweet fellowship must be planned, worked for, committed to--for a legacy to happen. It requires one person or two to reach out, to work hard, to open their hearts to give love and to stay the course.
There is a core--friends who set up chairs, come early, stay late, pray with those who need it--these who serve with me at my conferences, and who cook for my intensives. We ordinary women caught a picture of changing our world together, and now we see that literally hundreds of lives have been changed merely because we have reached out, prayed and worked together and asked God to use us to be a force of encouragement together. (We missed you Brandee and prayed for your ear infection and cold. But you were being appreciated and loved all evening long.)
How are you owning your arena right where you are? There are women just waiting to find a friend, to be encouraged in Jesus. You will never know how God might use you and your friends unless you reach out. It is not always easy and some groups work and some don't. But after doing this group for 10 years, I see a history of God's touch on the lives of so many who just needed to know they were not alone in their ideals and struggles.
I am so very grateful for all who have been sharing about my new book. You are the best!
Remember, if you order for your whole group, you will get lots of pieces of encouragement from me--a free devotion, video of encouragement, how to start a small group--lots more. It is because I want to help other groups all over the world become a strong community for Christ. It just takes someone initiating.
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