Creating Friendships that Last

In a world bloated with quick fixes, instant gratification and social media profiles, it can be hard to know how to build—and keep—lasting friendships. And while we may want to portray a particular side of ourselves online, the truth is that we need friends who know us here and now, in the middle of our mess and our daily routines. And we need to be those types of friends, too.

Creating Friendships that Last from annswindell.com

The secret to these kinds of friendships is actually pretty simple: You just have to show up.

The secret to friendship is actually pretty simple: You just have to show up. via @RELEVANT Click To Tweet

The Scriptures calls us to draw near to Christ and to draw near to one another: “let us draw near [to Christ] with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” and “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:22, 24-25). As people of faith, we are called to live so that we are encouraging those around us toward love and good deeds. I think this comes most obviously and importantly through deep, meaningful friendship.

Here’s how to start—and build—friendships where we spur one another on to godly lives and where we reflect God’s love to one another:

SHOW UP WITH A MEAL.

A friend doesn’t have to be sick to need a meal. A new baby doesn’t have to be born, and it doesn’t have to be a holiday. Many times, we need a friend to care for us—spiritually and practically—in the midst of our everyday lives when things just feel like a little too much to handle. I’ve taken meals to friends who are emotionally overwhelmed, to friends who have sick kids and to friends who just need a break from adulting. If you don’t cook: Take a pizza. Breaking bread together—sharing meals—is something that marked the early church, and it’s not hard to understand why. Sharing a meal together feeds both the body and the soul. It’s not hard—it just takes intentionality.

SHOW UP WITH PRAYER.

Hanging out and talking, watching a game together, laughing together—these are good gifts of friendship. But being friends who follow Jesus also offers us the rich opportunity to pray not only for but with one another. I’ve found that my times of prayer with friends have been some of the deepest and most steadying parts of our friendship.

Can it be awkward, especially if you’ve never prayed together? Sure. But it can also crack open the opportunity for deeper relationship and trust. Maybe you can’t help your friend practically, with her need or with his struggle. But you can pray with your friend, right there, asking God to meet that need and provide grace in the struggle. If you don’t know what to pray, consider getting a copy of The Book of Common Prayer and praying a liturgical prayer together. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But when two or three of us get together in the name of Jesus, He’s there with us (Matthew 18:19-20). When we pray, He hears us, and moves on our behalf.

Staying Close to God During the Busy Holiday Season

5 Ways to Stay Close to God During the Busy Holiday Season at www.annswindell.com

This is my newest piece for RELEVANT Magazine.
You can read the whole article here.

Life doesn’t ever stop, especially during the busy holiday season full of to-do lists, parties, shopping and (hopefully!) worship and service opportunities. So how can we focus our hearts in a deeper way on the presence of God in our lives, especially during a time of year filled with increased opportunities and responsibilities? How can we stay close to God when everything around us is demanding our attention?

Here are some simple steps that I’ve found are helpful to stay close to Jesus during the holiday season.

Start with Scripture.

It sounds simple, but it can also be very hard to read the Word regularly. Still, I have found that when I start my day in the Bible, my heart and mind are better prepared to respond to God’s presence throughout the rest of the day. It’s like tying up my shoelaces before going out the door—it’s much easier to keep from slipping as I walk through the day.

During the holiday season, when time seems short, get creative about reading the Bible if you’re struggling to do so. Listen to the audio version of the Bible on your phone or in the car. Or read for five minutes before you get out of bed (or even touch your phone!) in the morning. You might even consider starting a special Advent devotional to help you focus on God during this time of year.

5 Simple Ways to stay close to God during the busy holiday season via @RELEVANT Click To Tweet

Make time to serve.

Too often, the holidays can cause us to focus on ourselves—what we want, what we wish we had and how much we have to do. But when we take time to serve others through our church and community, we are fulfilling a central call of the Gospel (1 Peter 4:10, Galatians 5:13).

Who in your church community needs some attention and love, especially this time of year? While it can be wonderful to participate in official service opportunities, sometimes the most meaningful chances to serve come by loving the people right in front of us with our time, our energy and our attention. Pray and ask the Lord who you can serve this holiday season, and then set aside time to do so.

Sometimes the most meaningful chances to serve come by loving the people right in front of us. Click To Tweet

Listen to truth.

In our home and car, I play music that reminds me of God’s presence in my life. Music seeps into my mind more easily (and mindlessly) than most things, so if I find myself humming a tune unintentionally, it helps my soul if it’s a song that reminds me of who God is. If Christmas music is your style, there are wonderful stations and streams to listen to that are full of Christ-centered Christmas music. And if you don’t love listening to music, find a podcast, radio station or audio book that declares the truth of who God is and turn it on while you’re doing mindless tasks around the house or even working out!

Read the rest of the article here, at RELEVANT!

 

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

Creating Friendships that Last

The Secret to Creating Friendships that Last www.annswindell.com

This is the start of my newest piece for RELEVANT Magazine.
You can read the article here.

In a world bloated with quick fixes, instant gratification and social media profiles, it can be hard to know how to build—and keep—lasting friendships. And while we may want to portray a particular side of ourselves online, the truth is that we need friends who know us here and now, in the middle of our mess and our daily routines. And we need to be those types of friends, too.

The secret to these kinds of friendships is actually pretty simple: You just have to show up.

The secret to the best kind of #friendship? Keep showing up. Click To Tweet

The Scriptures calls us to draw near to Christ and to draw near to one another: “let us draw near [to Christ] with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” and “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:22, 24-25). As people of faith, we are called to live so that we are encouraging those around us toward love and good deeds. I think this comes most obviously and importantly through deep, meaningful friendship.

Here’s how to start—and build—friendships where we spur one another on to godly lives and where we reflect God’s love to one another:

Show Up With a Meal.

A friend doesn’t have to be sick to need a meal. A new baby doesn’t have to be born, and it doesn’t have to be a holiday. Many times, we need a friend to care for us—spiritually and practically—in the midst of our everyday lives when things just feel like a little too much to handle. I’ve taken meals to friends who are emotionally overwhelmed, to friends who have sick kids and to friends who just need a break from adulting. If you don’t cook: Take a pizza. Breaking bread together—sharing meals—is something that marked the early church, and it’s not hard to understand why. Sharing a meal together feeds both the body and the soul. It’s not hard—it just takes intentionality.

We all need friends who give us a break from adulting. Click To Tweet

Show Up With Prayer.

Hanging out and talking, watching a game together, laughing together—these are good gifts of friendship. But being friends who follow Jesus also offers us the rich opportunity to pray not only for but with one another. I’ve found that my times of prayer with friends have been some of the deepest and most steadying parts of our friendship.

Can it be awkward, especially if you’ve never prayed together? Sure. But it can also crack open the opportunity for deeper relationship and trust. Maybe you can’t help your friend practically, with her need or with his struggle. But you can pray with your friend, right there, asking God to meet that need and provide grace in the struggle. If you don’t know what to pray, consider getting a copy of The Book of Common Prayer and praying a liturgical prayer together. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But when two or three of us get together in the name of Jesus, He’s there with us (Matthew 18:19-20). When we pray, He hears us, and moves on our behalf.

Read about other ways to show up here, at RELEVANT.

4 Things I Wish I Knew About My Body in My Twenties

What I Wish I Knew About My Body in My 20s. www.annswindell.com
This is the start of my newest article for RELEVANT Magazine. 
You can read the entire article over at RELEVANT.

I spent a good portion of my twenties focusing on my body and being critical about the shape of it, the size of it, the weight of it. If my pant size moved up, I did what I could to move the size back down. I worried that my body wasn’t as it should be, that it wasn’t good enough and that it needed to change.

Now, in my thirties, I have come to a comfortable peace with my body. Are there still things I would change if I could? Sure. But over the last decade, as my relationship with God has deepened—and as my body has altered and shifted—I have been able to cling to gratefulness.

Your body’s main purpose is to worship the God who created it. Click To Tweet

My body has carried me through severe sickness and emotional pain. It has grown and stretched with a child I love dearly. It has walked me over thousands of miles across the world. I am thankful for it, jiggles and all.

Here are the things I wish I had understood about my body in my twenties—the things that have allowed me to not only accept but rejoice in the body I have:

Your body’s main purpose is not to attract others to it.

Our culture shows us more than enough images of bodies to make us believe that they exist simply to attract others. And in large part because of that, I had a lot of angst in my twenties about how my body appeared to others. I looked in the mirror for lumps and bumps in what I considered to be the “wrong places,” and chose my clothes based on how attractive I thought they made me look to others.

I wanted to look beautiful, and I wanted to be attractive.

Now, hear me: I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with wanting to appear attractive. I still want to be a beautiful woman. But it was the way I approached my body in my twenties that made my mindset so unhealthy. I was operating from the lens that culture had taught me, rather than getting my grid for beauty and attractiveness from Scripture.

I’m not suggesting that we wear paper bags and frumpy clothes, but what I wish I would have grasped in my twenties is this: Your body’s main purpose is to worship the God who created it.

The book of Romans exhorts us: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

Your body is primarily a means of worshiping God—through service, through love, through acts of praise and mercy. Attracting the presence of God through the lives we live in our bodies is much more important than attracting the passing attention of others.

Attracting the presence of God is more important than attracting the passing attention of others. Click To Tweet

Sex is wonderful but it isn’t the pinnacle of existence.

Part of the angst about attractiveness and the shape and size of our bodies stems from a culture that is obsessed with sex. And when the act of sex is at the center of a culture’s focus, then bodies become hyper-sexualized—everything about their attractiveness stems from sexualized ideals. But what I wish I had known in my twenties was that the other aspects of sex—the emotional aspect, the spiritual aspect, the relational aspect. These are the things that make sex deeply satisfying, over and over again, with the same person, in the context of a godly marriage.

I needed to hear in my twenties that it’s not the shape or size of a body that makes sex wonderful—it’s the context of sex within a loving marriage to a fun and thoughtful spouse thats gives sex its power and delight.

Read the rest of the article here, at RELEVANT!

4 Ways to Practice Sabbath This Year… (or, 4 Ways to Be More Thankful)

4 Ways to Be More Thankful This Year at www.annswindell.com
This is the start of my newest piece for RELEVANT Magazine.
You can read the full article here.

Many of us have just finished a busy year, full of work, obligations, relationships, and opportunities.

These things are good and meaningful, and we wouldn’t want to live our lives without them. But a lot of us are also intensely busy much more than we should be. We assume that we should be busy or that a busy life is inevitable.

But while there will always be seasons of our lives that are necessarily more demanding than others, they should be just that—seasons that come and go, not indefinite periods of time.

Why?  Because chronic busyness can inhibit our ability to live attentively, and attentiveness is one of the clearest ways we have to acknowledge and encounter God’s presence in our daily lives. When we’re too busy to slow down, it becomes very easy to miss what God is doing in the regular, hum-drum monotony of our lives. And really, that’s the only place we can actually encounter God: here and now, today.

Chronic busyness can inhibit our ability to live attentively and encounter God's presence in our… Click To Tweet

Here are four ways to slow down and pay attention to God’s work in the middle of our normal lives—ways that can strengthen our faith in God’s goodness and love every day.

Pay Attention to What You Have

If you’re like me, then you assume you’re thankful for what you have. But when I actually make the time to slow down and think about what I have—and then speak my gratitude out loud, in prayer or praise, I often find myself overwhelmed with what God has given to me.

Yes, I am thankful for the heat in our apartment. Yes, I am thankful for the gas in my car. Yes, I am thankful for the water that runs like a river from my sink. Yes, I am thankful for eyes that see and for glasses that help me. Yes, I am thankful for my work and my family. Yes, I am thankful for a salvation I could never earn, a Love I can never outrun. Yes, yes, yes.

I am thankful for a salvation I could never earn, a Love I can never outrun. Click To Tweet

Paying attention to all I have—already—turns my heart toward Jesus in thankfulness. I may not have all I want, but I have so much more than I deserve, all because of God’s love and mercy to me. Paying attention helps me encounter Him afresh.

Read the rest of the article here, at RELEVANT!

God Doesn’t Care How Big Your Platform Is: An Article for RELEVANT Magazine

God Doesn't Care How Big Your Platform Is. www.annswindell.com

Most of my life, I’ve felt a tug toward greatness.

You know–that feeling that burns deep and can push us wide? Deep because we know that we were created to do important, meaningful, gorgeous things in the world. Wide because we look around us at all that we aren’t doing and see people who seem great in our eyes—people who carry great influence, great ideas, great power.

And that feeling in us, that yearning for greatness, can sometimes make us feel very small. Small because we lack great influence. Small because we lack world-changing ideas. Small because we lack great power. I don’t have a million followers, a best-selling book, a corporate position or a lot of money. I’m guessing you might not, either.

But we look at others who do, and it’s easy to feel like we should be doing something bigger and greater and more important with our lives. Sometimes, we might even find ourselves thinking: “What if I’ve missed it?” “What if I’m never great in the way I long to be?”

Those are the moments when I find myself trying to push my way into greatness. I think that if I can work harder, think more deeply or just be better—then, perhaps, greatness will fall upon me like a cape. If I just keep driving my way forward, maybe I can make this thing—this elusive greatness—happen.

But I can’t. It never works out that way…

Read the rest of the article here, at RELEVANT!