The Art of Friendship

A friend is an interesting thing. Over the years, we have a variety of friendships. Some are seasonal, others last a lifetime. Returning from Texas yesterday, our hearts are filled with gratitude at the many deepening friendships. Some are new, emerging, filled with hope towards increased enjoyment and encouragement in this thing called friendship. Others have stood the test of time and distance, where reconnecting feels like weary ships returning to harbor.

To relate to one another deeply, we need to know ourselves. To know ourselves, as we all know, is not as easy as it seems and requires intention. As broken, insecure and incomplete souls, it’s often quite difficult to face our true nature. We hide behind performance, isolation, staying busy and a host of other defense mechanisms. Stephen Seamands in a book entitled Ministry in The Image of God calls these hiding places fig leaves. A reference to Adam & Eve’s reaction to their broken fellowship and newly processed shame. We humans are good hiders. I think the journey of life is designed for this revealing progression, out of the darkness, into the Light.

“Creator has no beginning. However, we humans have a beginning, and a middle. It’s for this progression we have been made.”

Irenaeus (130-202 AD)

To embrace our true self requires a reckoning of sorts, a show down, and through the great love of God as we see in Jesus, His conquering through our surrender. This process has a chance of taking place when we practice solitude. It does not, I believe, when we remain in unhealthy, frantic rhythms.

What we desperately need is the deafening sound of silence.

Penetrating whispers allowed to weave through our mind, falling, dissolving until nothing remains but the still loving voice of God. We hide behind those fig leaves I think, because we believe His voice just might speak – and we’re terrified at what He might actually say!

“In these hurried and feverish days there ‘s more need than ever for the deepening of our spiritual life through periodical detachment of the world and its need for lonely communion with God.” A quote I just read from 1928!

Jesus truly is humanities best friend.

Jesus knew who He was. He was from the Father, perfectly loved. He could stare the religious down because He didn’t need their affirmation. He was able to speak the truth in love in every situation. His love wasn’t conditioned on a response. It was uni-directional, it simply went out, found it’s target and that was it. He could do this because He was true, whole, not a brand of himself or managing questionable motivations. We can learn so much from Jesus, and I pray we can become the kind of friends that reflect His nature.

I don’t think I’ve been a great friend. Probably a poor one more often than I care to think about. I’ve spent the last decade raising kids, running business, and trying so survive in a foreign country. I’ve enjoyed people, but been protective, insecure, and someone that is purposefully difficult to deeply know.

As we get older, we become naturally more independent, but need to embrace and pursue deepening relatedness to others.

In the US/Canada, we don’t get to see our friends very often, but we are being more intentional with remaining connected. Social media is a friendly reminder, but is not friendship. We are looking forward to finding more creative ways to divest, care, and journey with those God has given us.

How do you stay meaningfully connected with your closest friends? How do you practice true self, and remain vulnerable in order that you (the real you) can be truly known by others? How do you maintain a rhythm of solitude with your Creator?

To be a good friend, I’m learning, is to fear less. There is no fear in love.

To identify with the struggles of others, and speak them as an act of solidarity. To ask questions that you yourself are still working through, and to be OK with simply journeying with others as an end.

Friends are a gift, one that is worthy of unpacking.

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After the Arrows Have Flung.

You raise them, form them, and then fire them out into the world. What’s next? Plenty!

Broderic (22) is working full time at Disney in Orlando and taking online courses with University of Florida (International Business).

We’ve arrived in Canada. It’s such a blessing to have a family, and a such generous one at that. My parent’s house is large, the food is plenty, we even have an extra car here to use. We can take for granted the trickle down effect of marriages sticking it out, hanging in there. I’m thankful to God for His grace in my parents marriage – it’s been far from perfect, they’ve come close to calling it quits on several occasions over the years.

As Deb and I grow older, we identify increasingly how difficult marriage really can be and have a lot more sympathy for those who don’t make it. In the valley, we fail to recognize the vast implications, the countless ways remaining together will impact those we love. Beyond the immediate, the number of souls a united family can influence and bring hope to is staggering to me as well.

We simply have to swim upstream you marriages out there. Remain united in our families, offering our culture a taste of something out of this world as we too enjoy the reciprocating benefits of God’s best of community.

My parents and sister Lorrie visiting with her family from British Columbia. My parents now have 20 grandkids, and one great grand kid 🙂

A united family is like a garden, rich with an abundance of ripe fruit.

My parents remaining committed to one another have provided such emotional and tangible resources for not only their children, but also their grandchildren and even their first great grandchild. I think we discount the spiritual influence of this family thing. Even while we are here visiting North America, our houses in Ukraine are being used to encourage, provide a haven of rest, and bless several friends. Our ‘big house’, the guest house which was a blessing from Deb’s parents, has been deeply blessing many in need of a quite retreat to work through some difficult times. We families, no matter the size, open the garden of our lives and allow hungry souls to eat from the fruit. We give vision for the world, what we’re designed for and a hope that seems to be evaporating in our day. We Christ followers can get so sidetracked with what we ‘think’ is spiritual, when the most obvious spiritual realities are right in front of us – self sacrifice & love towards those living alongside us.

Healthy souls = healthy marriages = healthy families = healthy churches = healing to the nations.

Broderic has met a super sweet girl named Kristen from Orlando area. She’s a lifeguard and was cool to spend a few days with them both!

Our family lives on a farm. We harvest wheat, corn, The farm over the years has provided summer work and a place for growing a work ethic for budding young adults. The longer we have lived in Ukraine in a very broken economy, the more thankful I’ve become for this place. It’s not only a place for earning some money, but growing character, learning self discipline, failing, and learning about oneself in the context of committed relationships. It don’t write to boast, but to highlight the importance of staying united, building as family units – the gifts just keep giving and trickling down to our heritage which Jesus can abide in and bring His kingdom through. When we seek our individual needs in an attitude of independence from God and others, the system simply breaks. Instead of winning the sense of hoped happiness, we are duped into more striving.

We were so happy to see our two oldest for a few days, Broderic (and his girlfriend Kristen) from Florida flew up, and Bronwyn our daughter who is now working and going to college in Pennsylvania. This parenting thing just keeps surprising us. The oldest kids become adults, and you go through that initial letting go, flinging the arrow into the world. You’re done. You think.

Once the arrow is flung, the parenting role doesn’t end, it just changes.

The pea field! I grew up driving pea combines in the summer. It’s long hours, sometimes weeks without a break, but it’s good money.

No longer needed for daily operations, the departed young adults are still in need of wisdom and encouragement. The guide on the side! Some of them still need emergency funding too 🙂 Andy Crouch wrote something I really appreciated concerning surrounding ourselves with healthy relationships, “We need those in our lives who will champion our dreams, but also puncture our illusions.” A parent, when in trusted, honest, transparent relationship with their adult children, I think, are the best ones suited to do this. We love to see them building their lives, struggling through difficult decisions, but we also walk alongside to keep them focused on reality.

The greatest gift, the best friend, is one who speaks the truth in love. We love that our arrows are embracing this gift because its been our aim to make them confident in our love.

Our love must be affirmed as something detached from performance or their doing.

They are deeply loved by who they are, as image bearers of God, intrinsically valuable. We can give them this love when we ourselves are receiving love’s gift too.

Deb with her two giants – they are working all summer harvesting peas in Western Ontario.

I didn’t intend to write about parenting. I simply intended to update my blog, and post some photos! There are, I know, some friends and family that read and follow along that have reached out and thanked us in the past for our notes on parenting. You are journeying along with us as parents, some of you have younger kids, some of you older and identify with the changing seasons. The main thing I wanted to highlight was how incredibly important it is for us to stay united in our marriages, because this blessing of walking alongside the flung arrow is one that is so powerful, so essential I think to this next stage of parenting. The continued blessing of families that stick together, and grow together in learning Jesus and their own formation must not be underestimated.

For our young adults, to have the balanced united support from both a mom & dad is essential when everything in their new life seems, to them, to be incredibly shaky – it’s our gift to our kids to come alongside as a heritage & union. Everything from advice on a car purchase to the healthy pacing of budding romantic relationships – this involvement can’t be forced, it must be earned through the earlier years. Our goal has been to move from the positional relationship as authoritative parent to sojourning friend as they leave the nest. That migration from coercion to influence takes a self knowing, resting into the grace of God yourself. To do this, your identity can’t be in being a parent, but a child of God. It’s a freeing place, resting in our individual weakness and finding Christ our ultimate strength. This allows us to come alongside our young adult kids in the reality that we too are still trying to figure out life – we’re just a few miles ahead on this thing and here to help.

“Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards” – Kierkegaard.

As an a man now in his 40’s, I continue to receive blessing, assurance, grace, encouragement from the united commitment of my own parents. As I receive that gift, in its many facets, I have vision to intentionally develop this now for my own young adults & their future families. This, I believe is the beauty of God’s intended design – an union of fellowship, displayed and enjoyed by our heritage, but also as a conduit of grace for the world. This interdependence, this offering of imperfect beauty in an increasing independent and lonely culture.

It’s not as easy as it looks to jump up on that thing.

If you don’t receive our private newsletter and would like to be added to learn more specifically about our ministry and journey along with us, we really would be honored to add you – just email me at bruce@liftupyoureyes.org and you’ll be added!

Our three girls in Lake Ontario.

Thanks for reading and your support!

Bruce & Deb live in central Ukraine and serve as directors of Mir Ministries (www.mirministries.org)

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Two Battles

In reading Christianity Encountering World Religions, the author makes this statement, “Paul, in effect, was fighting two battles, a frontline battle with the Gentiles, and a rearguard action with his own constituency” (Muck, 80).

Right from the onset, the missional heart of God face two challenges – those from without, and those within. It’s encouraging to know this march, this mystery revealed in the formation of the Church throughout history is birthed through trial. The world doesn’t lay out a red carpet, and the people of God prefer comfort and security.

Sometimes we can become weary, and even question whether our efforts are meaningful when they don’t produce the kind of results we might consider as successful. Maybe we should be embracing the trial, the objections of the world and religion, and high-fiving those who’ve gone before and encountered the same things. It was Jesus, after all, who led the way in this regard, rejected by all of humanity, with a resounding slam of the 9 inch nail.

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Basketball Goal

Every day kids come to bounce balls and skateboard at Lighthouse Park!

This past week our basketball goal, which was brought over from Texas 11 years ago, finally bit the dust. Here she is reclining, begging us to let her rest in peace. After several repairs, it won’t stand up anymore, much to the dismay of little monkeys who are learning how to dribble and shoot.

Basketball is still in its infancy in Ukraine. Equipment options are slim, but we have found some options in Kiev and would like to raise $500 if possible to put in a permanent goal.

Would you consider helping contributing towards a new basketball goal for Lighthouse park?

https://www.liftupyoureyes.com/make-a-donation-2/

The beauty of community inside and outside our property is such a joy to participate in. So cool to see this new sewing ministry take off, at-risk kids being ministered and several other ministries growing in depth like our widows care program. Our cafe is non-profit, in a very literal sense! We truly appreciate any investment you can bless us with to keep things running and a blessing to the families of our town.

Outside still has some work to do. This year we have added, thanks to a family sponsor, some benches and plan to add some garbage cans, shrubs and hopefully some swings.

One of my favorite things to see each day when I come to the Cafe and pull into the parking lot is little toddlers with their parents running around, sliding down the slide, going face first, on their belly on a skateboard. There is still so much more potential in our park area – but without the basketball goal it’s definitely less fun

Step by step! Bounce by bounce.

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