Party Down in Godliness!

Work is always there.  Eventually, I will have to talk about keeping a good attitude on the job and all that stuff that you know but don’t want to do.  But for NOW — we are still talking about fun! 

I went through a stage, and perhaps other girls have too, where I didn’t know what to do with my friends.  I saw them once a week at drama, but other than that I was at a loss!  I have given it some thinking since then, and I have come up with some great ideas for fun, some of which can be just girls, and others can be a mixed crowd. 

Spa Day:  I haven’t been to a real spa (yet!) but when my girlfriends came over in the summer I used to get out my Klutz natural spa book and we would make up face, hand and foot masks.  These are all-natural — like the banana and honey mask I did on my sister’s face (she looked… interesting).  There are also hair rinses and masks we would do outside.  One recommendation:  don’t rinse out an egg yolk hair mask with hot water.  I had scrambled eggs in my hair all day.

Shopping!:  One of my best friends (the one pictured in the last post) loves to shop, and so do I.  Often we go downtown and window-shop, or when the district has a Spring or Winter Open House, and the streets are closed off for shoppers, we go together and help pick out Christmas and birthday presents for each other’s families.  It helps knock items off the lists and is a great time together as well.

Movies:  I usually check the ratings before I head to the theater, simply because of one mistake I made with three girlfriends.  We all had recommendations for the movie “Mamma Mia” and were appalled with what we saw.  We thought it was PG, but I guess it was PG-13.  The theater didn’t show ratings on the board!  When there IS a good movie in theaters, my friends (guys and girls) usually get a group together and watch it.  We had a great turnout for the latest Indiana Jones movie — I think we had 15 homeschooled and graduated movie-goers!

Horseback Riding:  My family has horses, so for those who ride, we take on trail rides out into the country.  It’s a blast, and the more experienced the friend, the more fun it is.  There is so much wildlife and nature to see, and depending on the time of year, we can eat different wild fruits, berries and plants. 

Dancing:  Our local arts school offers dance lessons of all kinds, so for several months (before I started working late) my sisters and I, along with a group of guys and girls, would go Tuesday nights to ballroom dance lessons.  Afterward was an open dance that we stayed for.  Twice a month the local Big Band played at an old ballroom for special swing and ballroom dances.  I never made it to one of those, but my friends did.  This type of dancing is clean, elegant and beautiful — and SO much fun!  We had a blast learning the steps and hope to continue it when we can.

Skiing and Skating:  Depending on where you live, the snowy sports can be a great place to go with family and friends.  Of course, as my readers may know, don’t spend any quality time with the lift runners (see ‘A Little Flirt Don’t Hurt’)!  If you know how to ski or skate, or are at least willing to learn, these are some of the most memorable sports for wintertime. 

Go to a Game:  What sports do you and your siblings and/or friends share a liking for?  My fam is really into hockey — it’s a multi-generational sport with us.  I also like baseball.  And I will watch football, although I don’t understand it.  My cousins and sibs go to the hockey games that my dad and uncle play in, and I went to a baseball game this past summer with the church.  This is another great group event. 

Kayaking, Canoeing and Rafting:  Now we’re getting more athletic, and slowly moving out of my area of expertise!  I do participate in these sports though, and this past summer we had such fun kayaking the Crooked River with friends.  Canoeing is my personal preference, although I did go rafting with the college group as well.  If you have water nearby (and Michigan does, I assure you!) there are plenty of great outlets available.

These are just some options for a great time that are still honoring to God and including family.  This is one of those ‘fluff’ posts you write when you can’t think of anything else :-).  I will be talking about making brothers and sisters best friends next time.


The ‘Good’ Kind of Party

When I went downstate to spend a weekend with a friend who was at college, she told me how some other students in her apartment complex were constantly inviting her and her roomate over for ‘a party’.  They never quite defined what ‘party’ meant.  From the thumps, shouts, and raucous laughter my friend rightfully inferred that it was the kind of party she didn’t want to be at.  “Why can’t people just party the GOOD way?!” She exclaimed to me.  “WE know how to party down in godliness!”

This isn’t exactly an astounding, controversial or life-changing topic.  It’s the topic of Fun.  However, fun is a part of life too, and how we go about having it directly affects us and our witness.  How can we have a good time without sacrificing our walk with God?  It’s very possible.  But it comes down to what you want.

The world advertises a specific kind of fun to us, saying that if we aren’t doing these specific things, then truly, we aren’t having fun at all.  The world’s definition of fun is, from a Christian perspective:  “sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft… fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like…” (Galatians 5:19-21).  These things come wrapped up in neat, pretty little packages — like cocktail parties, ‘romantic’ nights out that escalate to greater proportions, clubs and groups that dabble in cults or witchcraft, and ‘harmless’ visits to bars and nightclubs.  To our world, these things are just part of life.  Yet for the Christian, these are representative of the life they left behind. 

For Christian girls and boys, usually homeschooled, doing these things is the last thing on their minds.  It wouldn’t even occur to you to go to a bar, much less to attend a drinking frenzy on a beach somewhere.  For the Christian, the problem comes from compromise.  We can’t just say “I don’t drink” and call it good. Our commitment requires us to go deeper in evaluating what we do and where we go.

I have been invited to parties where they would be drinking.  I have been places where drinking was taking place.  Being in the presence of drinking does not motivate me to join in, but at the same time, if I were endorsing the goings-on with my presence, then perhaps the better choice would be to leave.  This is not simply for my sake, and my reputation, but also for my witness.  People judge Christians by their actions — if we seem to be compromising a life of purity for the sake of a good time, our representation of Christ is sullied.

This post is not about drinking.  Drinking is just one of those widely accepted aspects of our culture that is too often taken too far.  Alcohol in and of itself is not evil:  it is not a ‘demon in a bottle’.  But we must ask ourselves:  who is my God?  Can I give up drinking this at a party even if I look like the stick-in-the-mud?  Can I give up anything so that God is truly God in my life?

It could be drinking; it could be an occultic game; it could be a questionable relationship; it could be gossip — it could be anything that feels like fun!  In that moment we have decision to make.  Do we sacrifice Christ on the crucifix of Good Times, or do we allow Him to reign over every circumstance?  It is perfectly possible to have a wonderful time with friends without turning our backs on the grace of God.  I will discuss how to ‘party down in godliness’ in my next post!

What Friends Are For

“A friend loves at all times.”  (Proverbs 17:17)

That’s a big order.  What kind of person loves at all times?  Well — a friend!  This week I will be posting somewhat regularly on friendship:  what makes a good friend, more on friendships with boys and in a few weeks forward, on what can destroy a friendship from the inside out.  But for today, I am going to be talking about girlfriends — those wonderful, laughable, giggly gals you have in your circle of closest relationships.

The thing about good girlfriends is the fact that they can share in your feelings, understand your mentality, comprehend your situations and support you in trial.  While guy friends are great (we’ll revisit their whole end of the deal at a later date) girl friends are going to be able to identify with you much better than guys.   Men have an entirely different outlook on life than women; they tend to be much more practical, less emotional, and often simplified (not simple!) in their thinking.  Their comprehension of the world is less complex than a woman’s.  For instance, in a romantic relationship the woman might go home after a date evaluating the inflection of the second syllable in ‘Can I see you again?’, while the man may simply go home thinking, “Wow, nice girl.  Glad she accepted another date.  What’s in the fridge?”

So friends that are girls can be a wonderful support to you.  Unfortunately, good friends can be hard to come by.  A ‘good friend’ is not defined by how much she laughs at your jokes or how many times you go out for coffee;  a good friend is defined by her character.  “Do not be deceived:  bad company corrupts good morals.”  (1 Cor. 15:33).  A woman of good character will encourage you to become a better woman yourself; one that lacks spiritual stability or who does not take seriously her walk with God will lead down her path if you spend ‘quality time’ with her.

What are the qualifications for a good friend?  There are several Scripture passages that can point to what she needs to be.  One of them is what I used for my WONDERFUL group of girls and boys here up north:  1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Since we know a true friend ‘loves at all times’, what does it mean to ‘love’?  According to that passage, love is “patient and kind, love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”

A true friend will either possess or be working on these qualities in her own life.  Most likely, it will be a combination of both!  We all struggle with specific temptations and sins.  This is very important to note, because what you require in a friend you must also be.  You know what they say:  “If you wish to have a friend, you need to be one.”  The standard you set for yourself will actually determine which friends you have.  If you are passionate about Christ, there will be people who don’t like you.  But you can bet it won’t be the ones who are passionate about Christ!  The same goes for hobbies and interests — a writer like myself doesn’t have a lot of girlfriends that like to hike.  I have friends that are artsy, intellectual, musical, and literary.  Who you are, what your motivations and interests are, will effect what friends are closest to you.

To check yourself on your Love Gauge, I suggest picking up a Bible and finding that passage in 1 Corinthians.  Read through verses 4-8 replacing your name for the word ‘love’.  Convicting, isn’t it?  Once you have done it, evaluate what you need to work on to be a better friend — and to better glorify Christ.  Meanwhile, perhaps you can find a very close girlfriend to keep you accountable… which gives you an excellent excuse to go out for coffee!!

High Expectations

“You’re such a good person Phylicia,” exclaimed Debbie. “You don’t swear, you don’t smoke and you don’t drink.” “Yeah, she’s so nice, she doesn’t even know HOW to be mean,” added Amy.  “And to never have dated!” Continued Debbie incredulously.  I really didn’t know what to say.  “Um, thanks?”  “Er, okay…”  “Yeah, you should try it!”?  On schedule, these conversations will come up —  always involving the inevitable analysis of my character.  And the diagnosis always comes out the same:  I am a Good Person.

Being the Good Person consists of several attributes, all of which (by my co-workers’ admission) I possess:  you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you aren’t living with someone, you don’t swear and as a general whole, you’re “nice”.  “Nice” means you don’t yell at people, backstab your boss, call co-workers names or kick the coffee machine when you’re mad.  As a whole, the Good Person is a very likable, friendly individual.  But there’s one problem:  the Good Person is expected to be Good on a consistent basis.  As soon as she fails, everyone is right there to watch her crumple.

Being the Good Person is an effort.  Once you have established yourself as the resident Goody-Two-Shoes, you have to maintain the persona.  You have to continue to live up to the expectations of the people around you.  There is no room for weakness, no room for mistakes, and certainly no room for failure.  Every morning you wake up to face them again — forced to be a person you’re not sure you truly are.  Everyone will fall.  Everyone will fail.  But you must be a pillar of strength, an example to all.  You have to meet the expectations of the people who are watching, or you and the God you represent are fodder for mockery.

How do I know the life of the Good Person?  Because I have been her.  I have been the Good Girl on the job; the one who wouldn’t swear, wouldn’t joke about crude and ungodly things, wouldn’t drink or condone drinking.  But after only a little while, I couldn’t do it anymore.  It wore me down… trying to live to impress, to be an example, to be the Difference.  I wasn’t making a difference.  I was just… different. 

In living this life, I came to understand something.  We aren’t here to be the Difference.  We aren’t here to be the ones who are good and moral by the world’s standard.  And we certainly aren’t here to try to do it all and be it all to all people.  We can NEVER meet the standard the world will set for us.  Sure, we’re “good”.  We do the right things.  We abide by a moral standard.  But to try to keep up with the world’s expectations for us will wear us down, tire us out and ultimately, plunge us into discouragment and despair.  The standard can’t be met… on our own strength.

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.  It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.  For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.  But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal.6:11-14)

Those who want to make a “good showing”…  I ask you, are you that person?  I know I have been, and I still struggle with a tendency to be so.  I want to please People.  I want them to think well of me, because in my mind, if they think well of me, they’ll think well of Christians and Christ himself.  But there is the untruth.  Jesus said:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your father who is in heaven.” (Matt.6:1)

God uses us for His glory in ways we may never know.  The best way to bring glory to Him, to attract people to Christ, is to love Him, live Him and let Him lead.  Let Him draw others to you, asking about your faith,  but do not work to attract them with your good deeds.  In the end, you will be pursuing an ever fleeing goal: the goal of gaining the approval of men.  Their expectations may never be met.  Seek to meet God’s expectations for you, and all else will fall into place.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt.6:33)

I can’t boast in my own strength, because I am unable to maintain the life of the Good Person.  But I can boast in one thing: the cross of Christ.  It is through His sacrifice alone that I can stand in righteousness today.  I will boast in the Lord my God; I will boast in the One who is worthy.  Because I am not.