What Kind of Friend?

Two and a half million people on Red Flag Alert due to fires. That’s just about the population of Chicago, at 2.6 million! California is suffering from some of the worst wildfires we’ve had.  Other states are experiencing terrible floods. Lives, homes, cars, goods and sentimental treasures are being lost forever.

In III John, the Apostle says:

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.”

We have an opportunity to do that with those who have lost so much, in some cases everything. Right now, many are praying for and helping those in the Carr and at least a dozen other California fires, who are devastated by loss of loved ones, homes, in some cases, everything. Loss of life has included two firefighters, two adults and two children. Cal Fire reported that by Thursday morning, the blaze had destroyed 1,060 homes, 18 commercial structures and 477 outbuildings. The fire is larger than the city of San Francisco! Thousands have had to evacuate their homes. We have friends in the Redding area, as I imagine many of you have.

I was glad to read that of eight evacuation centers currently open for Carr fire evacuees, five are churches and one is a Christian university.

Don and I often talk about how many of our friends are hurting in one way or another. Physical pain, financial needs, disasters, broken loves or friendships, loss of loved ones. True friends support, challenge, comfort, affirm, walk alongside, pray, and help. If you have this kind of friends you are rich or, as I said after meeting friends of my husband’s, “I feel fat with friendship.”

Over chicken tacos and enchiladas mole on the Capitola Esplanade this week, a dear sister in Christ helped give me perspective on a sticky situation. I knew my attitude toward another was neither healthy nor Christ-like. My friend reminded me that God doesn’t stop loving us when we make choices that are displeasing to Him. He understands our frame, our family of origin, our insecurities and fears, and the growth of our faith; and in His love He continues to pursue us. I need to be like Jesus, and to reflect Him to the person about whom I have concerns. At lunch, my girlfriend walked beside, not criticizing me, but challenging me in how I think about and relate to another. I need friends like her!

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses … Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. Proverbs 27:6, 9

Another friend who is going through significant challenges and trusting God’s purifying work in her through it all, sent an email, which I share with permission …

Just picked up your most generous and thoughtful card, and wept. It was literally a kiss of encouragement from the Lord.  I needed His loving touch today. Hit bottom last night feeling overwhelmed with physical pain and the pressures, and going it alone. You know, the kind of helplessness that turns your whole being, heart to Jesus. The weeping remained this morning.  Weeping and trusting as God does His Handiwork.
While picking up mail I mustered the courage to call Kay and ask for a hug. No words, just a hug. That hug pierced that aloneness and unworthiness like a knife ….. And then came your note.  I can hardly express what both actions of love mean.
…And as I’m realizing on a deeper level, it’s also in relationship with trusted others that we walk, share burdens and joys and sorrows and sin. We lift one another’s arms. I’m ashamed to say how easily pride and business distracts us from both.  Or our own brokenness, insecurities, fear keep us from doing this.  A tool of the devil, since we are admonished to confess and bear with one another, comfort one another …  
We can be true friends as we listen, pray, hug, give, encourage, or walk alongside. And we can let others, including strangers, know they are not alone, that we care for them and their needs. Many churches will offer opportunities to give to those who have lost much in current disasters. Other organizations, and even workplaces, will do the same. Let’s ask God to guide us as to how we can best be friends to people we haven’t even met, but who need affirmations of love, a “kiss of encouragement from the Lord.”

For a link on what to do if you should be caught in a wildfire, go to https://www.worldvisionusprograms.org/disaster_response_wildfires.php.

If you have other ideas of how we can help those in the wildfires, as well as friends who are hurting, I’d love to hear them.

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