Fellowship – What is that?

Fellowship

In Christian circles we love to talk about fellowship.  When we announce church events, we often try to encourage everyone to attend by talking about the opportunity we will have to “have fellowship with one another.”  There is the weekly/monthly/annual fellowship meal.

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And, of course, when summer comes we often have the church picnic.

Church picnic

Most every church has a fellowship hall.

fellowship hall

Or, a coffee bar.

coffee bar

According to Webster’s dictionary fellowship is:

a community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience; meaningful communication for building trust and fellowship

While this definition could be used for activities not related to church, we usually do not hear the secular world using this term.  When was the last time your coworkers invited you to join them after work at the local bar or restaurant so you could have “fellowship?”  When was the last time your boss offered a fellowship meal for the employees?

In the church world, we love this word.  But what do we really mean when we use this word?  What does the Bible mean when it uses this word?

The Greek word used in the Bible  for fellowship is “koinonia.”  It is usually translated in English to “communion,” “fellowship,” “sharing in common” and “partake.”  The Apostle John wrote a lot of fellowship in his epistle 1 John.  After recently doing a study on that book, I have come to believe we use the word “fellowship” too often and too lightly.  As I read what John had to say about this word, I realize that Biblical fellowship is more than just an informal social gathering.  It is more than just sharing an interest or having meaningful communication with others.

In the New Testament this word for fellowship is translated many different ways.  Its first appearance is in Acts 2:42

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

In his letter to the church at Corinth the Apostle Paul used the word in a slightly different way.

They will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution (koinonia) for them and for all others.

Then when Paul wrote to the church at Philippi he again used this word with a slightly different meaning.

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share (koinonia) his sufferings, becoming like him in his death

Just as we lose some of the meaning of the word “love” when it is translated from Greek to English, I think we have lost some of the true sense the word “fellowship” carries.  Looking at just these three scriptures it appears what the Bible means by “fellowship” involves a relationship between God and other believers.  A relationship that is more than friendly words spoken over a common meal.  It involves identifying with the sufferings of Christ (and of others).  It is real participation in the lives of others rather than just an association with them.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ

John shared the good news that He had seen Jesus, been with Him, heard His teachings and he shared that good news so fellow believers  could have fellowship with John.  But he based that fellowship he wanted to share with others on his relationship with God.

 

Many Christians have concentrated on their fellowship with others.  They emphasize the need for fellowship dinners, the church gatherings, the social interaction with one another, but they leave out the importance of a close relationship with God.  This can lead to the church being nothing more than a social club.

On the other hand, many Christians concentrate on their fellowship with God.  They isolate themselves with their Bible, their prayers and their own personal relationship.  They have little interaction with other Christians, often saying “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.”

But John tells us in order to be the Christian God desires us to be we need both vertical and horizontal fellowship.

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Only as we begin to have more than just a social interaction with others, to really weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, will we experience that fellowship God intended for the church.

Only as we spend time drawing closer to God and allowing His word, His spirit to direct our lives will we experience that fellowship God desires for us.

So, I ask you:

How’s your relationship with other Christians?  Do you have any fellowship, any bonds with other beleivers?

How’s your relationship with God?  Are you taking the time to grow in your relationship with Him?

We have often heard the expression, “You can’t have it both ways.”  But in this instance, I think it is true, “You must have it both ways.”

 

 

 

 

 

Abundance of Friends

Friend – a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.

Friend – a person who you like and enjoy being with.

I sometimes envy other women when they share how they have been friends for 10, 20 or 30 years.  I listen to them talk about their high school days or they share those years when they were both raising their families and the good times when the two families would get together for holidays or camping trips.

Looking at my own life, I have moved around a lot.  In the 12 years of grade and high school, I attended 10 different schools.  In sixth grade, I was in three different schools.  Growing up, I was always the new kid.  The longest I have ever lived in a house is 16 years and that is the house I live in now.  When people ask me where I am from, I am not certain how to answer.  My “home town” – the place where my parents and their families are from is in southern Illinois.  However, we moved from that town when I was ten and the only connection I have to that place is the graves of my parents.

So sometimes when I listen to these women speak of their long-time friendships, I feel like “I have no friends.”

But when I take a second look at my life I realize I have been blessed with an abundance of friends.  Looking at the definition of friends as “a person you like and enjoy being with” I recognize that moving around as I have – different communities, different schools, different churches, different jobs – I have been blessed with many people who I liked and enjoyed being with.  There are, I have come to believe, seasons of friendship.  People have come and gone in my life – not because our friendship ended but time and distance have made it hard to remain close.

That does not negate the value of their friendship.  Even the many friends in the past with whom I have lost contact remain in my mind with precious memories of our times together.  Although  there are even some whose last name I cannot recall, I remember their support and friendship at that season of my life and how valuable it was.  And Facebook has been a blessing in that area as it has helped me connect again with many friends from the past.  I was surprised and so happy when I got a message a few years ago from a woman in the Philippines asking if I was the same Barbara Lane who had taught a leadership class at their church years ago.  We reconnected and I was able to encourage her as she went through a battle with cancer.

  • There are my friends from fifth grade who took this shy new kid on the block and made my fifth grade year probably the best school year of my life.
  • There are friends from Perryville, Missouri who supported me with such love after my husband was killed in a tragic accident.  They offered food, they offered babysitting services.  That first Thanksgiving I had so many invitations for Thanksgiving dinner from friends who knew I had no family in the area.  They all  offered their home if I would not be able to go home for the holiday.
  • Friends from Iloilo City in the Philippines who helped me adjust to a different culture, different climate.
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Celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends in Iloilo City, Philippines

  • Friends from work at the law firm of Bernard & Davidson who prayed with me and took on some of my work load when I lost a beloved step-father and brother in death just weeks apart and had a daughter in Texas with toxic shock syndrome.
  • Friends from Mid-American Energy who took such care of me for over a year while I went through treatment for cancer.  The day I came to work after finishing my last radiation treatment, they stood up from their desks and applauded me as I walked to my desk.  I felt like an athlete making a victory lap.
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Friends from MEC who took this picture the day of my mastectomy and brought it to me with a gift basket

  • Friends from churches I have attended as a pastor’s kid, a lay person, a pastor’s wife and now a lay person again.  With them I have laughed, cried, prayed and they have helped me grow in the Lord.

 

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Women from Free Will Baptist Church on a field trip to Galena

 

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Ladies Weekend Retreat with friends from Milan Christian Church

Have all my friends proven true?  No.  There have been times when those I thought were friends have hurt me, disappointed me, even betrayed me.  But I still reach out to make friends.  To shut myself off from others because of a few hurts might spare future pain – but would certainly stop future joy!

But the best friend I have ever had is my Lord Jesus Christ!  All of my friends have been able to help me many times, but there are times when only the Lord could meet my need.  I shared in a past blog about being all alone when I had radiation treatment.  No friend could be with me then.  But the Lord was.  Coincidence or An Act of God?

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Best friend!

One of the old gospel songs says it best.

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer

If you need a friend, let me introduce you to the best friend who will ever have – Jesus Christ.

 

 

All those “One anothers”

One another

 

 

 

 

I have been planning with some of the women in my church for a game night.  Just a time for us to get together and have fun with one another getting to know each other better.

  • Not a time of Bible study
  • Not a time to do a service project
  • Not a time to fix a meal for the church
  • Not a time to “do” anything

Just a time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

So many times when we go to church (or to any other type of meeting) we sit in our same spot, talk to those who sit near us or who are in our small circle of friends and only give a nod and “hi” or “how are you” to the rest.  We know each other’s names, but do we really know each other?  I must confess that after attending my church for almost three years (and it is a small church) there are a couple of women whose name I still do not know.  At this point, I’m embarrassed to ask them their name, to admit that I have been attending church with them week after week and I don’t even know their name.

We can get so busy with our own concerns and often our prayers consist of “bless me, my four and no more.”  It’s not that we are selfish people.  It’s not that we don’t love others.  It’s just when we know people only by their face and their name and little more, it becomes harder to remember to pray for them, to be concerned for them.  We have no idea what their needs might be.

This month I have asked God to help me be more aware of those around me and not so consumed with my own issues.  I have asked God to help me see people not just as the lady who sits behind me in church or the woman who checks me out at the grocery store, but a person who, just like me, may be tired, sick, worried and could use a smile and a friend.

Looking at the Word of God, I see how important the Lord felt those “others” should be to me.

There are 59 “One Anothers” in the New Testament.

1. “…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

2. “…Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)

3. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

4. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

5. “…Love one another…” (John 13:35)

6. “…Love one another…” (John 15:12)

7. “…Love one another” (John 15:17)

8. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)

9. “…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

10. “Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)

11. “…Love one another…” (Romans 13:8)

12. “…Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)

13. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7)

14. “…Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)

15. “Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (Romans 16:16)

16. “…When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)

17. “…Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)

18. “…Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)

19. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)

20. “…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

21. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

22. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)

23. “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)

24. “…Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

25. “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)

26. “…Forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32)

27. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)

28. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

29. “…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

30. “Do not lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9)

31. “Bear with each other…” (Colossians 3:13)

32. “…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)

33. “Teach…[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)

34. “…Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

35. “…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

36. “…Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)

37. “…Encourage each other…”(I Thessalonians 4:18)

38. “…Encourage each other…” I Thessalonians 5:11)

39. “…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)

40. “Encourage one another daily…” Hebrews 3:13)

41. “…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

42. “…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

43. “…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)

44. “Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9)

45. “Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16)

46. “…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)

47. “…Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)

48. “…Live in harmony with one another…” (I Peter 3:8)

49. “…Love each other deeply…” (I Peter 4:8)

50. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)

51. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” (I Peter 4:10)

52. “…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”(I Peter 5:5)

53. “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)

54. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:11)

55. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:23)

56. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:7)

57. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:11)

58. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:12)

59. “…Love one another.” (II John 5)

John apparently really thought the most important “one another” was love as he kept saying it in two of his letters.    In his gospel he also told us that Jesus said

They will know you are my disciples if you have love one to another

Interesting that the mark of a disciple was not now much scripture you could quote or how much money you gave or any of the many things we often judge others by – but by love.

My goal is to put these “one anothers”  where I can see them each day and then ask God to help me truly keep these “one anothers.”

How about you?  Want to join me in this?

 

 

 

 

Words Do Matter and I’m NOT Ugly!

Sticks and Stones

Edgewood, Illinois.

Just the mention of that town brings back bad memories.  About three months into my sixth grade school year, we moved from Mason to Edgewood (both small towns about 10 miles apart).  For me, they were opposite sides of the universe.  Mason Grade School was one of my happiest times in school.  I had lots of friends, was always busy playing with the group at recess.  I took my hula hoop to school each day and we would all gather in the playground after lunch to see who could keep the hoop going the longest.  It was great!

My fifth grade teacher was very impressed with me and told mother in testing they had done I tested as a genius.  She also thought I was the most polite child she had ever had in her classes.  When I began sixth grade my teacher designed extra curriculum for me and talked about advancing me to the next grade.   I was a very confident and happy girl.

Then came Edgewood

Shortly after sixth grade started my family moved to Edgewood and there I lost my confidence and happiness.

The school building at Edgewood had eight grades in four rooms.  The first four grades were on the lower floor and the last four grades were upstairs.  My first morning at Edgewood, I started climbing up the stairs to go to my new classroom.  About half way up the stairs, I met two boys coming down the stairs.  As they got about two stairs above me, one of the boys grabbed the other boy, pointed at me and in a very loud voice said, “Move over!  Don’t get near her.  That’s the ugliest girl I have ever seen.”  They both laughed and moved over as far to the other side of the staircase as they could get from me.  I hurried on up to my classroom hoping they would not be in my class.

Shortly after the teacher had showed me where I would sit and I was settled in my new desk, in walked the young boy who had just called me the ugliest girl he has ever seen.  He was sitting in the next row over from me.  Every time the teacher’s back was turned, he would look at me and make faces as if the sight of me was making him sick.  Kids around him started laughing.  Of course, when the teacher turned around and wanted to know what was funny, nobody seemed to know.

The harassment continued on the play ground.  When we played games that required us to pick participants, he would always yell out, “Don’t pick the ugly girl.”  Everyone would laugh and I would be the last one picked.  He was obviously the leader of the kids and he saw to it that no one played with me or sat with me after lunch.

Every day I cried as I walked to school.  I couldn’t wait for the dismissal bell to ring so I could get out of there.  I quit bringing my hula hoop to school because no one wanted me to play with me.  Most of the time after lunch I would sit and read my Bible.  Of course, that probably brought more ridicule for me.

Until that time I had not really given much thought about how I looked.  What little thought I had given was positive.  In second grade I had been in a style show at the high school with my oldest sister  She had made us matching dresses and we were part of a program at the high school showcasing the talents of the students.  My sister practiced with me over and over how I was to walk out on the stage, how to turn around to show off my dress and then return to the back of the stage.  I was the hit of the show.  Everyone had commented how cute I was, how beautiful my red hair was.  My sister was clearly very proud of me.

Everywhere my family went, people would comment on my beautiful red hair so I had a pretty positive image of myself.  But the experiences at Edgewood Grade School left me feeling very ugly.  All though my teenage years and even into adulthood, I felt ugly.  Although the compliments on my red hair continued, I always thought “Yeah, my hair is pretty but it doesn’t make up for the fact that my face is ugly.”

It was only years later that I came to understand perhaps why this boy made so much fun of me.  He was a poor student, barely passing.  He was also a bully and a trouble maker and spent a lot of time in the principal’s office or in detention after school.  And guess who his mother was?  My fifth grade teacher.

I, of course, do not know, but as an adult I realize it is very possible that his mother had told him about me transferring to his school and perhaps bragged on what a smart and polite student I was.  Or, maybe he was just a bully who picked on me because I was the new kid.

Looking at pictures of me as a teenager now I realize while I was no Miss America, I actually was a pretty cute kid.  How sad that it was not until I reached my 40’s that I began to gain confidence in my appearance.

Words matter!

So sad to see today how bullying on social media is causing other young girls and boys to have no confidence in who they are.  I also hate it when I hear parents in the stores yelling at their kids sometimes telling them they are stupid, dumb, mean.

Words matter!  Think before you speak.  Speak up when you see someone bullying another.

A Surprise Christmas Card

merry-christmas

A dear friend died this week.  My husband and I had watched him battle cancer (two different kinds) for over two years.  It was hard to see him slowly lose the battle.  He fought hard and he never lost his courage or his great sense of humor.

His family asked my husband to do the funeral service.  It was an extremely hard thing for Paul to do.  They had been friends for almost 20 years.  In the very beginning of their friendship, I had surgery for breast cancer.  The cancer was very advanced and my husband was  frightened as his mother had died from breast cancer.  Richard came to the hospital and sat with my husband through my surgery and did not leave until I was out of recovery.  That cemented their friendship.

That – and their love of golf and corny jokes.  Although they claimed they played golf, I think from listening to their tales that they spend more time laughing at each other’s skills than they did actually playing the game.

After my retirement, I often joined the two of them for breakfast.  It was such fun to just sit and listen to them as they teased one another and shared stories of their time on the golf course.

While it was hard for my husband to do the funeral service, he was honored that the family said that was what Richard would want.  As we arrived at the funeral home, his daughters handed us an envelope.  On the outside it said, “Paul and his bride.”  That was how Richard always referred to me – “Paul’s bride.”  When Paul and Richard met, if I was not present, he would always ask, “How is your bride?”  The handwriting on the outside was clearly not Richard’s.  So we assume it was just a card saying thank you for doing the service.

When we opened the card it was a Christmas card.  Thinking it was a little strange that his daughters were giving us a Christmas card, we opened it up.  My heart skipped a beat as I saw the signature inside the card.  It said simply, “Richard.”  We immediately recognized his signature.  Also enclosed was a picture of him.

His daughters told us although Richard never sent Christmas cards, just before his death he asked them to get him some Christmas cards.  He then signed a few and asked them to give them to his special friends at his funeral.  He knew he would not be here for Christmas and he wanted us to know what our friendship had meant to him.

This is a special card my husband and I will treasure forever.

Merry Christmas Richard!