Start again… get it right.

I wrote a blog about friendship yesterday. Well, sort of about friendship, and a bit about prayers and a bit about me. I was OK with it. Not exactly revelatory but no worse than my usual. I came back to it an hour later, checking for typos (I don’t see them unless I’ve had a break from the text) and the blog was not what I thought it was. It was… erm… how do I put this? It was OKish. I had strung a few words together so that they made sense of a sort, but it was… it was…. erm… bitter around the edges. I had thought I was celebrating the gift of friendship but actually I was indulging in a somewhat veiled whinge. So it went in the bin.

But I do want to celebrate friendship. You know, if you have the gift of friendship then you really are in a good place. The mistake I made in yesterday’s attempt at blogging was that I focussed on having friends but the gift of friendship is about being a friend. And that’s even more rewarding. We can’t create people to be our friends, we can’t take uncaring people and make them love us, but we can do something about our own attitudes, and our own willingness to befriend.

There’s a deal of delight to be had in being a good friend. I think it comes more easily to some than to others, that’s why I call it a gift. We’re told that all good things are from God and I reckon that covers this subject very neatly.

The gift of friendship is a good feeling, a feeling of love, it’s being unable to walk around a shop without seeing something that brings this friend to mind, or that friend, wondering if maybe they would appreciate a packet of their favourite biscuits, or a well marbled steak… or a silly packet of liquorice for the bloke who said ‘you never see it in the shops any more’. It’s making someone’s favourite pie even when we don’t really feel like baking because we want them to know they’re loved. It’s being conscious that while they cheerfully say they’re fine, they may be lonely, or homesick, or anxious and it’s being ready to listen, however faltering their words. Listening to the silences in-between. It’s hearing them when they call me to account, telling me that I’m in the wrong, and accepting what they say. Knowing them and trusting them. Being someone’s true friend is just bloody well loving them and caring about them and being conscious of what it might feel like, occasionally, to be them. And for the Christian, the gift of friendship means the desire and passion and delight of praying for those we love. But not only praying. I think this is where we Christians get it wrong sometimes. Here’s a statement to make some of us recoil, to make some of us squirm :

praying isn’t enough.

There! I’ve said it. I am so glad if you pray for me. But if you also rarely speak to me, or write to me, or make any sort of meaningful, honest contact, if you never think of me until you work through your prayer list, if you don’t share with me what God is doing in your life, or care about what he’s doing in mine, then you don’t know me and I’m really struggling to know you. So do your prayers for me mean anything at all? God will hear the words we speak when we pray, but he will also see our heart. James wrote

‘… if a brother or sister in the faith is poorly clothed and hungry  and you leave them saying, “Good-bye. I hope you stay warm and have plenty to eat,” but you don’t provide them with a coat or even a cup of soup, what good is your faith?  So then faith that doesn’t involve action is phoney

To mangle James a bit, ‘prayers that don’t involve action are phoney.’ That’s not biblical, it’s just Lucical. I can’t be doing with phoneyism, all that smiley stuff, saying the right things and regretting that we can’t hug, and saying that we long to be able to meet again. Of course we can meet again. We can meet under God’s wide sky, pray together under his great canopy, worship up in the hills, by the sea, wandering along the riverside. It was good enough for Jesus so it’s good enough for us. Isn’t it?

Oops. I digress. Back to friendship – we’ll leave phoneyism for another day.

Maybe my life as a non-Christian has spoilt me, in a great rollicking social and work sphere of friendship that lasts and reaches deep. Just tomorrow a good, good mate who I worked with 20 years ago is driving a 6 hour round trip just to have lunch with me. That’s so wonderful. I’ve been very fortunate to work in an industry where bonds are made that really do last a lifetime; bonds forged in ridiculously long hours, often driving through the dawn to be on set with the first grey light and just as often working through to midnight, problem solving, being accountable, team minded, challenged, happy, exhausted – and it was friendship that kept us going. We made a point of spending spare time – when we had any – together. Friendship makes us strong. In Ecclesiastes we’re told

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labour:
if either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broke

As a friend, I know I’ve fallen way short. There are two daily alarms on my phone, to remind me to pray for two couples in our church. They will be praying at the same time, so it’s a quiet virtual communion. As I wrote yesterday’s blog I realised that it’s months since I saw one of these couples and weeks since I saw the other. Bad Luce! How can I possibly know how to pray for them, when I don’t know where their thoughts are right now? Phoney Luce.

I’m going to think more about friendship. Not what it owes me, but what I owe to it.

When Paul wrote this, he wasn’t thinking about Covid 19 but nevertheless….

Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing, because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning. Hebrews 10:24-25 (TPT)

I thank God for my friends. You know who you are. You are wonderful.

God’s gifts are all around us.

Brotherly love

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