Becoming Friends with Compassion

The length of the hallway leading to the conference room is lined with banners, books, and booths. Both sides of the narrow corridor form a living-breathing mural of ministries. They lean over their tables, clasp our hands, and invite us into friendship.

Friendship with the world.

They come to Allume en masss in order to share with us what God is doing – where He is at work throughout the world, doling out His justice, mercy, and compassion. Ministries travel to South Carolina each year in order to educate and invite us to partner with them.

 

Allume Sponsor Hall 2013View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allume2014sponsors-2sponsors

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We are today’s online influencers, and these ministries recognize the power of our words and ask us to spend some of them generously to advocate for others. It was at Allume where I learned what a good friend I can be to people half a world away. Here in this digital age we have the ability to reach beyond our real life friends, even beyond the ones we minister to directly online, and touch the lives of families on the underbelly of this globe.

Sole Hope and their care for children in Uganda… The Seed Company‘s mad pursuit of Bible Translation… Preemptive Love and the way heart surgeons can get to the hearts of everyone in foreign communities… Compassion International‘s international compassion for hurting, malnourished families… Vi Bella‘s heart for women in impoverished communities in Haiti and Mexico… So many ministries reaching out over their tables, that we might be inspired to reach out through our blogs.

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Bloggers move up and down the center of the hallway, greeting one another with hugs and exclamations. Women who have come to know each other online, finally meeting face to face. Friendship. And hemming them in together, is a friendship deeper still – a friendship with God’s heart for the world.

After a month of posts here at Allume, reminding us that we were made for iron-sharpening-iron relationships, we invite you into a friendship greater, wider, deeper than any of us imagined. Befriending compassion because we are friends with a compassionate God. Befriending mercy because we have been treated mercifully morning by morning. Befriending those in need, because we’ve tasted need in our own blessed, needy circumstances.

We have all sung the words “What a friend we have in Jesus…” and so we respond in the chorus of our lives, so that all may know the friendship of God.

View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allume2014

 

Let your light (your friendship light) so shine before men,

that they may see your good works, and glorify

your father in Heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

 

At Allume we receive the invitation into this different sort of friendship – an others-centric friendship that shines like light out into a dark and hurting world. Shining from the words we write, the children we advocate for, the link in a blog post, or a button on our sidebar.

Friendship.

I am eager to meet you in the girdle of this long corridor. Grab my hand and introduce yourself. Let’s spend some time together getting to know one another as we get to know what God is doing throughout the world.

Friendship. 

You’ve Got To Have Friends

We are going to be asked to do hard,

When I was 16 a friend pushed me to the top of a mountain. Within mere seconds of setting my feet at the top, I fell all the way down–literally from the top, to the bottom.

Let me explain.

The morning we gathered our belongings and suited up for a ski trip in the hills of Pennsylvania started off like any other cold Virginia morning. The church parking lot hummed with the chattering of anxious kids, spouting off about what amazing skiers they were and which mountains they planned to attack first. I felt like a coral fox, sporting my Mom’s melon colored snow suit from the late 80’s and her “Wookie” boots she’d picked up while we had lived overseas. (These boots were so rad. They were covered in long, white goat fur) I’d even matched my nail polish to my snow suit. Obviously, I had my priorities in order.

When we arrived at the ski lodge after pairing off with some friends, one of the guys I was with asked me to ski with him. As we made our way to the lift we needed to catch to the top, I watched as we passed all of the signs for the green (beginner) and blue-level courses (intermediate, for you non-skiers).  At this point, despite the frigid air, I started to sweat. “Where are we going?” I called to my friend who conveniently blocked the sign to the mountain we planned to ski.

I will never forget the playful grin that spread across his face as the lift chair scooped us up and started for the top. As the ground disappeared below us, and all opportunity for escape evaporated, I looked to the left to see the sign. We were preparing to ski a black diamond course. For you non-skiing people, black diamond courses are not for beginners. They are not even for people who have skied a few times. These difficult courses are intended only for people who have knees made of rubber bands, and nerves of steel. And also, lots of ski experience under their belts.

I had none of these things.

As our skis touched the snow at the top, my friend pulled me out of the safety of the lift. I strained to look over the edge of the mountain, desperately plotting my strategy for getting back to the bottom in one piece. The trouble was, I could not SEE the bottom. It looked like a straight drop off. I punched my friend hard in the arm and he took off shooshing down the mountain, snow flying in a cloud behind him.

“Come on!” he hooted as he whooshed past me.

I decided the best way down, was to angle my body parallel to the mountain and step down on the sides of my skis. My plan was brilliant except that by the third step or so, I hit a mogul and lost my footing. From that point, I don’t remember much except that the entire mountain consisted of a series of teeth-chattering moguls, which I bounced off of, one to the next, like a pinball. Apparently, I howled all the way down. I don’t remember this, but my friends, who were waiting for me at the bottom recounted the sounds of my howling for me in stereo. Bless them.

This goes down as one of the scariest, most exhilarating moments of my life. I was utterly terrified, but at the same time, inspired. The challenge to ski the mountain was not posed with malicious intent. My friends loved me and challenged me out of their own bravery.

It was risky. I could have been seriously injured. And while I don’t recommend that as friends we push each other off of black diamond mountains in life, my friend gave me a gift that day. As a a semi-experienced skier, I tended to stick towards the easier slopes. I wanted to stay on my feet. I didn’t want to risk looking like a fool. I wanted to play it safe.

If my friend hadn’t pulled me up the mountain, I’d have never have done it myself. Sometimes, we need to borrow from the bravery of those who have more experience than we do. That day my friend pushed me dangerously out of my comfort zone. I faced a fear and survived it.

While I am no longer tumbling down mountains, I am facing down other fears as I continue to step into places God has called me to, with my writing and work. My friends these days challenge me to get on the lift and ride it to the top of wherever God has invited me to meet Him. 

This is the gift of good, godly friends. Iron sharpens iron. Having friends that push us to go harder and further than we think we can, strengthens us.

Following Christ’s call on our lives doesn’t often look like life on the bunny slope. We are going to be asked to do hard, scary, seemingly-impossible things. True friends don’t let us off the lift. They hold our hand to the top and say, “come on, here we go!”

You’ve got to have friends, and if they love you, they’ll be waiting for you at the bottom of the hill, ready to recount your glorious decent, and remind you how far you have come.

What are the black diamond mountains God is calling you to descend? Who are the people pushing you on and cheering you on the way? Mention your friends in the comments and share this post with them so they know they are one of your people. 

 

the changing landscape of friendship

the landscape of friendship

My 20 year high school reunion is this year. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed! The reunion happens to be the same weekend as Allume, so I won’t be attending, but it’s made me think back to my high school years.

In “those days” we didn’t have social media. Friendships looked different. And to be honest, making friends didn’t always come easily for me.

If you had told me back then that I would meet some of my closest friends on something called Twitter, I would have laughed.

If you had told me I would get on a plane to attend a blogging conference and share a hotel room with someone I had never even met in real life, I would have said you were out of your mind. I mean, what if she turned out to be a psychopath? (In case you’re wondering, she wasn’t. :) )

Social media has changed the landscape of friendship. It has enabled us to connect with others far away who share common interests and goals. There’s no doubt that God can use the online world to build real connections.

It’s also created a world where you can call a complete stranger, “friend.” And that’s a funny thing. Sometimes I wonder if that cheapens the meaning of the word. But on the other hand, what if we treated everyone online with the honor and respect we would treat a friend?

I’m not saying we’re called to be friends with everyone (Proverbs 12:26, Proverbs 22:24-25), or that we are supposed to agree with everyone. But I wonder what would happen if we treated each other online with the same dignity and care we show to those we see face to face on a regular basis, whether they deserve it or not? I think we’d see less disagreements and a lot more love.

We’re called to love everyone as Jesus loved. There’s a deeper level of friendship though, that the Lord builds for His purposes. When He is at the center of it … it’s something lasting. And it’s those friendships we need to watch for and cultivate the most, whether they happen online or in person.

 “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

– Romans 15:5-6 (NIV)

The Only Thing Required for True Hospitality

Recently I flipped through some family photo albums, enjoying the 3D memories that popped up from flat pages of pictures. A favorite photo shows my two year old sons sitting on a bench in our front yard next to three of their playmates, all spooning vanilla ice cream dripping with chocolate sauce into their mouths. The parents are outside the picture’s frame, but I can still see them milling around the front driveway and talking about their children’s milestones between bites of their own sundaes.Hospitality

That neighborhood was a joy to live in, partly because we made the most of the laid-back hours between dinner and bedtime by holding all kinds of impromptu, front yard get-togethers. We didn’t need a special occasion or an excuse to hang out. We grown-ups just liked to give each other a little time and attention while our little ones rode tricycles back and forth across the cul-de-sac.

Our family has made three cross-country moves since then, and my sons are now almost sixteen. They have a younger sister who is twelve. Gone is the deep need to get them out and wear them out before bedtime. But what’s also gone is room in my schedule for carefree get-togethers at our house. This isn’t so much true for my kids’ friends who travel in and out our front door frequently. But it’s painfully true for my own friends. It seems that if social time is to happen for my husband and I, it must be planned out, written in bold black ink on the calendar pages.

I can accurately blame some of this on the realities of our family’s current stage, when figuring out where the five of us need to be any given day requires a bit of scheduling Tetris. Planning ahead is a definite necessity. But with the mindset that so much forethought has to be given to every social gathering as well, the natural result is that it’s not going to happen as much.

At the Allume conference last October, I heard Shauna Niequist say a most marvelous thing about our job as hospitality makers. This isn’t an exact quote, but her words went something like:

“When people leave our homes, they should leave feeling better than when they arrived.”

I am amazed at how easily I make simple things complicated. Being a hospitality maker is simple because the only thing you have to think about is giving care to the one visiting. That doesn’t mean I have to probe and prod to find out her deepest troubles or concerns. That also doesn’t mean I have to serve a meal that wins approval from a Food Network Chef. It just means I simply sit with my guest and listen without demanding she listen to me in return. It’s serving her the simplest of offerings: my agenda-free attention.

Perhaps this is why so many of us find fulfillment in our calling to write. Our blogs are the front porches of our hearts, and no matter its size, we find it’s a simple way to offer our attention without demanding it in return. How that must absolutely delight our Father in heaven!

There is something to be said about the impromptu get-together, of throwing figurative confetti in the air just because it’s Thursday and inviting a friend or two over for ice cream, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or plain ol’ conversation. But as we consider when to invite others to the front porch of our homes and our hearts, may we not over plan our hospitality right off the calendar page. May we remember that as long as we answer the call to give attention to others without demanding theirs in return, we are true hospitality makers. And may we relax knowing that simple is always, always enough.

Kristen Strong

Author of Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life’s Transitions (available for preorder now).