Swallowed Up By The Great I Am

By JMathis

I am not someone you would characterize as a dog aficionado or an animal lover. You won’t ever find me working for PETA or volunteering at the local animal shelter. In fact, more often than not, I am pretty terrified of the average, household pet.

For some reason, though, Ilia managed to steal a bit of my heart when we first met nine years ago.

My husband traveled so much in the first five years of our marriage, that it was just me and Ilia most nights. She was my Scooby Doo and I was her Shaggy—both of us running wildly in fright over shadows caused by tree branches, the wind beating against the windows, and spiders scurrying into the darkness.

Partners in crime to the end. Get Smart-style.

She had these long, floppy ears, which were awkwardly saddled onto her scrawny frame. Yet, she carried a noble, kind gaze that just melted men of steel into puddles.

While she was never very bright, she sure knew how to get tangled up in my heartstrings.

She was a glimmering ray of light and love in my life, and this past winter, my beautiful Ilia succumbed to cancer and moved out of my grasp.

I try not to think too much about her these days. Life catches up and takes over the tick-tock of my daily timepiece. Mainly, it’s because I get a little too teary-eyed remembering how devoted she was to me.

I did think long and hard about her this morning, though. Donald Miller wrote a post this week that had the most heartwarming sentiment for dog owners: that when your dog passes on, she gets swallowed back up into God’s imagination.

I choked up at the beauty of that thought.

To be perfectly honest, I can’t even say that I understand the statement completely, as I have no idea what happens to dogs after they die.

Still, the concept that God created my dog, gave her breath, and allowed me to experience the joy of loving her, before bringing her back full circle into the creative expanse of His mind, is simply just overwhelming to me.

That He would reach far into the recesses of His imagination and give me the pleasure of knowing this wholly inadequate ‘type and shadow’ of friendship—through my dog—is just beyond my comprehension. How did He even conceive of the idea of giving me this earthly hint, this mere taste of the rich, vast fullness of His never-ending love and undying loyalty towards me?

Oh, what I would do to become swallowed back up into His imagination.

To become swallowed back up into eternal communion, fellowship and friendship with Him.

To become swallowed back up by The Great I Am, who died just for me and who calls me friend.

What a friend we indeed have in Jesus:

He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.” Isaiah 25:8

Eternal Friendships

By AbbyA

The friendships we form on earth are simply types and shadows of what our Creator wants from us, desires from us, needs from us. Friendships provide a mere taste, a slight glimpse into the very best God has specifically and uniquely designed for me and you. – JMathis

Types and Shadows.  Shadows of His Perfection.  Types of the way His Spirit reaches into our hearts and minds.  Types and Shadows.  He speaks to us in languages and through forums.  Ways in which we can know Him.  Through the Distance of Time.  Through the Seemingly Opaque Door of Eternity.  Through Friendships.

There is a seemingly opaque door with a window or maybe a linen screen.  There is a way in which to see in.  Through dreams in the night time.  Through views of nature that are so beautiful, you feel you can walk right through them.  Through places you see in your thoughts.  That you cannot place in reality.  But know undeniably they are there.  Through Friendships.

The neat thing about friendships is that it is one of the few things that we will take with us to eternity.  Many things will pass away as unnecessary when we trade in types and shadows for the face of Christ.  But Friendships.  It only makes sense that in our spiritual form, we will know one another.

In our spiritual form, we will have ways to share Me-Too moments that did not occur to us here.  We will have an entirely new set of Me-Toos to open up the door to shared purpose and shared experience.  In that perfection, in the supernatural way of the Father, even the forgotten pain and mutual hurt will deepen the closeness available through eternal friendships.

Perhaps I spend too much time in the possibility of what is to come.  But I cannot help to think that in the space of my imagination.  In the space that I dream about my Father’s home.  I am clothed and covered first in Him and then by . . . Friendships.

Me-Too Moments

By JMathis

It’s always nerve-wracking when you walk into a women’s group.

What do I wear? Why did I have to break out today? What if they’re a bunch of freaks? What if everyone is dull as a doorknob?

You sign up hoping, just hoping you’ll have a somewhat pleasant experience, but just in case, why come in expecting too much? Just temper those expectations, honey, because meeting new people, especially other women, is never better than the way you imagined it in your head.

After all, in your head, there’s always a ton of laughter, good food, and most of all, a chorus of Me-Too Moments.

Who likes Indian food? Me too, me too! Who loves the beach, but hates South Florida drivers? Me too, me too! Whose husband always leaves the toilet seat up? Me too, me too! Who’s dying to see The Help this weekend? Me too, me too!

Well, my Saturday was full of Me-Too Moments.

It began in the morning when AbbyA called me to tell me that she had a nightmare that this women’s group was going to be a total bust. Me too, me too! No, seriously—Me too, me too! I had a dream that instead of eating sushi and Thai at a great restaurant, women were packed into a classroom, starving, impatient, yelling, kvetching and trash-talking each other. In one word: chaos.

Yes, this is what we should expect today. Cattiness, egos and perfectly manicured she-devils.

Imagine our surprise, when we walked into this women’s group to experience what we had secretly hoped for all along: a ton of laughter, good food, and most of all, a chorus of Me-Too Moments. With creative, beautiful and delightfully engaging women, to boot.

Who loves chocolate? Me too, me too! Who sucks at cooking? Me too, me too! Who thinks men are insane? Me too, me too! Who wants to go shopping afterwards? Me too, me too!

Imagine our surprise, when the Me-Too Moments also hit upon mutual pain and loss.

I was diagnosed with cancer. Me too, me too! I’m contemplating divorce. Me too, me too! He cheated on me. Me too, me too! My dad died recently. Me too, me too! I’m having a hard time making friends and being able to trust anyone again. Me too, me too! I just lost my house and my business. Me too, me too!

Imagine our surprise, when the Me-Too Moments began to take a life of their own, and started to radiate with shared strength, courage and conviction.

You’ll get through this.

I want to pray with you.

I can help.

You’re not alone.

Call me.

I think that’s when it hit us. Friendship is a divinely inspired collection of Me-Too Moments that is fragile, not easily found, but so worth the exhausting hunt. The friendships we form on earth are simply types and shadows of what our Creator wants from us, desires from us, needs from us. Friendships provide a mere taste, a slight glimpse into the very best God has specifically and uniquely designed for me and you.

I just want to hear your voice, He says.

I just want to spend time with you, He says.

I just want to love you, He says.

Me too, Father.

Me too.

Ladies, keep searching for your Me-Too Moments. They’re out there. Once you find them, savor them and nurture them as gifts from your Creator.

They’re simply worth the wait.

The Scary What If’s About Making New Friendships

By JMathis

What if you opened your mind to the possibility of a new friend?

What if there was someone out there who made sure you always felt like you belonged?

What if you took a chance at being vulnerable in front of other women?

What if you tried being honest with others (and yourself) for a change?

What if there was a friend out there who would challenge you to be the real you?

What if there was a friend out there who would take you on a new set of adventures?

What if you made a friend who became closer than a sister?

What if you met a friend who always made you laugh? Who made you pee from laughter?

What if you stopped judging someone long enough to realize that she is just like you?

What if you didn’t have to be self-conscious about your body, your mind or your spirituality in front of other women?

What if you always felt like you were personally invited?

What if it didn’t have to be hard to meet new friends?

What if you didn’t have to be nervous or self-aware when sharing your story or your past?

What if it didn’t have to be a chore to smile or make small talk with women?

What if new friends could become part of your family?

What if there was a friend who never made you feel invisible or like a third wheel?

What if you could meet someone who really wanted to know all about you?

What if you didn’t have to play the one-upmanship game with women?

What if the pretty girl wasn’t a mean girl?

What if you didn’t always have to be perfect or right for someone to like you?

What if you didn’t have to feel the need to compare yourself to other women?

What if it was okay to be friendly without being accused of being perky or saccharine?

What if you don’t have to say a word, because she already knows how you feel?

What if you didn’t have to worry about every word you said in front of other women?

What if you didn’t have to prove to someone that you were some über-Christian?

What if the words “fake” and “phony” only applied to the “Prada” purses you and your new friend bought off of a street vendor?

What if you made a friend who genuinely prayed for you and with you?

What if you had a friend who made you want to seek more of Jesus?

What if you could cry in front of someone new without feeling like you are needy?

What if you had a friend who reached out to you, without you reaching out to her first?

What if hugs from a friend came naturally?

What if meeting other women didn’t have to be so intimidating?

What if you felt freedom in being able to trust a new friend?

What if making a new friend didn’t have to feel like being hazed by a sorority?

What if you could hit it off with someone just like you, or someone nothing like you?

What if you had someone with whom you could share your secrets? Your dreams?

What if you didn’t have to prove your friendships through Facebook pictures?

What if you walked into a women’s group and you immediately felt like you were home?

Haven’t you waited long enough? Isn’t it time to put yourself out there?

Take a chance on friendship…again.

Be the friend you always wanted for yourself.

Be the woman in the group who makes everyone feel welcome.

Be the change you want to see in this world (thanks, Mahatma Gandhi).

Matthew 7:12. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

What If…by Donald Miller @ Catalyst West 2010:


Cindy R. and Lynn O.

By AbbyA

Why is it so hard for most of us?  Even walking into a small crowd makes you feel self-conscious.  You are thinking about who you are going to talk to or if anyone will be friendly towards you.  Even when you are invited.  Even if you are all there for a common reason.  Group gatherings make me feel a little nervous.

Just this week, my sweetie girlfriend Susie D. invited me to a back to school coffee fellowship.  I was bound to know a few of the ladies.  My friend Susie D. could not have been kinder introducing me to the few who I didn’t know . . . but no one I actually knew was on the left or right of me.  That feeling . . . time to strike up conversation . . . be charming . . . smile big.  Make a friend?  Group gatherings make me feel a little nervous.

My friend Cindy R. is an extremely Godly, perfect example of being a friend.  I joined a group where I didn’t know anyone.  She grabbed me on the very first day.  Even though she already had a lot of friends in this group, she decided to get to know me.  That certainly changed everything about being part of this group.  She gave me an invisible sticker right over my heart that spells BELONG.

Just because I love the leaders and girls in this group so much, I have to say more.  At the door leading to this group, there is some sort of symbolic garbage can.  Girls throw out their pride, tendency to compete, compare or judge and put on plain old friendliness.  The girls in this group make you feel so okay, so BELONG, that on my worst day, my very worst day, God reached out to me through them.

It was one of those days where all the prayer and faith in the world can’t stop the tremor shaking your core and stealing your very well-being.  I sat in my car weeping to my mother with no hope.  I was fighting depression, my broken marriage and experiencing the kind of pressure that can pop your brain.  I walked into where my group was gathering, told a friend that I needed a friend and fell apart into 1000 pieces in her arms.  Thank you, Lynn O.

Really girls, I don’t know why it means so much to BELONG.  I don’t know why fellowship sometimes feels so scary.  But I do know that fellowship is supposed to be about joy in your sisterhood.  Even if she’s not your best friend, you can stamp her with BELONG.  You can give her the freedom to come to you when she’s falling apart.  You can be Christ to her and hold her 1000 pieces together.

As is our human custom, we get things discombobulated in our imperfection.  We confuse fellowship with the requirements for joining a sorority or becoming a member of the Ocean Reef Club.  Then we act like the elite ladies in the dining room of the Titanic and give the cold shoulder to down to earth Molly Brown.  I think each of us knows what it feels like to be nervous in a group.  I think each of us knows what it feels like to want to make a friend.  To want a BELONG stamp.  Think about that.  You can do that for someone.  Forget what you know about fellowship and be a friend.

Thank You, Lord!

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

Thank you, Lord, for friendships. Without them, Childhood would have been sadness. Adolescence would have been torturous. And Adulthood would have been meaningless.

Thank you, Lord, for friendships.Even for friends long-gone from my life.Whose absence once saddened my heart now waft in my mind like the lingering, nostaligic scent of a sweet memory.

Thank you, Lord, for friendships. For friends of today who were unexpected blessings. For AbbyA and her beautiful poetic words. For JMathis and her sharp writer’s sword. For the time you have let our pathways intertwine into one. Searching, learning, growing…together. An earthly trinity whose eyes strive to stay heaven-bound.

Thank you, Lord, for friendships. For future friends we’ve yet to meet. For the secrets we’ve yet to share. For the prayers that have yet to be prayed.

Yes, thank you, Lord, for friendships. For laughter. For tears. For joy. For sweet sorrow. For only you, Lord, could have created something so, so beautiful.


Stories Worth Remembering

By JMathis

My book of remembrance.

It’s not like HIS book of remembrance, which is brimming with stories of forgiveness and redemption.

It’s not like HIS book of remembrance, which tells of stories that owe their existence to the greatest love story ever told.

No, no, my book of remembrance is insignificant compared to HIS. My book is certainly not grand by any stretch of the imagination.

Nonetheless, I do have a book of remembrance.

My book of remembrance is filled with the sweetest of memories from when I was just a wee, little lass. Filled with far-reaching memories of people and experiences that have changed me profoundly.

It even has silly memories of my preschool friend, Nina, who taught me that smiling is always the best policy.

Even through the tears after your mommy drops you off at school.

Even through the tears of breaking up with your boyfriend.

Even through the tears of losing your job.

Even through the tears that God only sees.

Yes, this book holds life lessons from people like Nina who may not even remember me, or whom I haven’t seen in many moons.

These very same people may believe that they have never made a difference to anyone. That their lives have no significance or meaning.

Oh, but if only they knew about my book of remembrance. If only they could read its pages to see how much they have impacted me.

If only they could see how much life is worth living because of what they taught me.

If only they could see that their wisdom is more priceless than Solomon’s jewels.

If only they could see that their reach stretches beyond the annals of time.

If only they could see how God shifted my course in life through them.

AbbyA and Bindu, you are in my book of remembrance.

In fact, there are whole chapters devoted to you both.

The pages where you are found are lovingly bookmarked, highlighted and worn to the touch.

In case no one ever told either of you…

In case you doubt your role in this life…

In case you forget why you’re here…

Know that your lives are part of a rich tapestry of stories that eternally matter.

Stories that matter to me.

Stories that matter to Him.

Stories worth remembering.