Monday, November 17, 2008
The One-Year Women's Friendship Devotional
The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional (Tyndale) is the latest book from friends and coauthors Cheri Fuller and Sandra Aldrich. Not only does the text provide a deeper connection to and enjoyment of God and His Word, but it is a wonderful opportunity for today’s busy women to connect with each other as they discuss the short daily devotions and the “To Ponder” questions at the end of each week’s section. Perfect for small groups or two girlfriends meeting over coffee, the devotional also is appropriate for those who prefer individual study.
Angie's Take: I've been using this book as my personal devotional this month. I'm really appreciating how personally I've been able to apply the devotionals each day. There are topical issues that will work for me alone, but they also create great talking points for my friends and I. I have a Bible study group that meets on Wednesdays. I showed this one year style devotional to them and we all decided that we liked the idea of using it each week together also. For the time challenged (or those who are learning to include a devotion time in their life) this is a simple, easy entry into a regular time getting closer to God.
Here's some great questions and answers from the authors:
1. What can women gain from The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional?
Sandra: The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional is designed for today’s busy woman. Each of the 365 devotions are on one page and contain a daily Scripture, short devotional thought from either Cheri or me and end with an honest prayer and an insightful quote. At the end of each week are questions to ponder individually or talk over with a friend. But beyond the friendship connection is our heavenly Father’s invitation to know more about Him and His living Word.
Cheri: One of the benefits of our One Year devotional is it provides a vehicle to discover your natural rhythm for drawing near to God in a personal and regular way. For right-brained people like me, the structure helps me stay in God’s Word day by day so my roots can grow deeper in Christ. Being a lover of people, I also enjoy exchanging ideas and discussing how a certain verse or story spoke to me, and the weekly questions are ideal for that purpose.
2. Why do you say “His living Word”?
Sandra: God’s Word isn’t just ancient wisdom. Its principles apply to modern challenges such as how to make good decisions, how to get along with those who irritate us, how to handle finances, how to know our heavenly Father on a deeper level. And that is just some of the treasures contained with the pages.
3. What’s the target audience for The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional?
Sandra and Cheri: This devotional is written for women of all ages. Some of the illustrations deal with situations young career women face, and some touch a woman’s experience during mid-life. But all age groups will find material that will relate to their life and situations.
4. I understand the need for younger women to develop solid friendships, but why is friendship so vital to women 40-65?
Sandra: Friendship is vital to all age groups. However, women 40-65 often have entered the Empty Nest and/or grandparenting stage of life and need the strength and advice from friends who already have experienced these challenges. In addition, women in this age group tend to be more comfortable with who they are. Not having to prove anything to relatives, friends or even themselves provides remarkable freedom that allows them to encourage others and share the wisdom of their years.
Cheri: Nothing is more refreshing than time spent with a girlfriend, and who doesn’t need that? A friend can quiet our fears, pray for and with us. We all need friends to laugh with and even travel with (I took my first across the country road trip with my sister Marilyn last summer and it was a blast, and summer before last a great trip to Maine with my two “since teen years” friends). Three of my longtime girlfriends and I celebrate each of our birthdays together—so no matter how busy we are, we get to see each other four times a year. We’ve found enjoying a long lunch out at a fabulous place (and gifts from the other three) really takes the sting out of growing one year older.
5. What are some of the topics covered?
Sandra: The 52 weekly themes cover many issues of a woman’s life, including career challenges, the power of encouragement, joyful living, hearing God above life’s roar, when your childhood family is toxic, faith building, avoiding overload, attitude adjustments, finding your spiritual pathway, dealing with stress, wading through grief, telling and hearing truth, making a difference, dealing with Christmas frenzy, a fresh-brewed prayer life, freedom from fear, and reaching a hurting world.
6. What types of questions are at the end of each week?
Sandra: The four or five questions work well for either journaling or discussion with a friend. For example, the first week of April presents the theme “Loving the Lord and Others.” The questions at the end are:
1) What loving-kindness have you received at a low moment in your life? Who gave it? 2) What encouragement do you try to offer others?
3) When it is most difficult to show love?
4) Have you ever learned a lesson from someone who didn’t know you were watching?
Cheri: We also suggest to the reader she might pick a few of the questions for the week to discuss as she exercise-walks with her walking buddy. Or she can share her responses and thoughts via e-mail with an across-the-miles friend. Reading the same daily devotional with its Scripture, prayer, and devotional thought is bonding and connects our hearts no matter where you and your friend are. You could even share it via webcam or over lunch with a co-worker in the office. The format makes it very versatile and doable.
7. Does the reader need to start reading the devotional on January 1?
Sandra: No. This devotional isn’t about performance; it’s about connections. One of our weekly themes is about guilt, and we don’t want to add more to our readers’ stress-filled lives.
Cheri: One of the helpful facets of The One Year Women’s Friendship Devotional is that you can jump in and start any day, wherever you are—which is very much how God graciously interacts with us. We don’t have to get to a certain place to experience his grace. In this book, there is encouragement, hope, and inspiration for every day of the year—whatever age or stage you are currently in.
8. What’s the biggest challenge to women developing friendships today?
Sandra: Lack of time. And a lack of a sense of community. Today’s women have daily to-do lists as long as their arms. It’s difficult to concentrate on deepening friendships—or even developing them—when our idea of fun is crossing items off that list. Also, those endless lists make us feel alone even in a crowd. Women need each other, but often it takes special effort to form those connections.
Cheri: Recent research shows that 30% of Americans are lonely and often feel isolated. The more hectic life gets, the more we need friends and the encouragement that comes from relationship with God and our sisters in Christ. Our hope is that reading The One Year Women’s Friendship Devotional will energize your spiritual life and your friendships.
Another major challenge we face as women is taking care of so many people that we neglect ourselves and become irritated or burned out. Taking time to refuel spiritually and emotionally is important and the benefits ripple out to our children and family members, job, and all the people our lives touch.
9. You both are busy women. What has been your hardest friendship challenge?
Sandra: Even though most of us do not have our days consumed by cooking meals over a wood-burning stove or washing clothes in a copper kettle in the yard, our schedules still are not our own. Some days it seems as though each minute is controlled by demands from bosses and needs of family, leaving us little time for the soul nourishment friendship provides. The women of my long-ago farm community worked together—canning, quilting and cooking for ill or grieving families. In addition to accomplishing a needed task, they built a friendship fortress that provided an example of how community is supposed to work. I long for those relationships today.
Cheri: When I started speaking and writing, women I knew assumed I was working all the time and stopped calling to go to lunch or play tennis. They thought I was just too busy for fun. But I love people; I’m refreshed by being with people. My heart would dry up and have nothing to say without friendships with women and time with loved ones. So I’m very intentional and initiate getting together with friends.
10. How did you solve your own friendship challenge?
Cheri: Taking time to cultivate friendships is one way I solved my friendship challenge. For example, I call my friend Marcy, who owns a women’s clothing store (she’s beyond busy!) and we go to a chick flick every once and a while. I meet my thirty-two year old daughter Ali for coffee at Starbucks, because she’s one of my dearest adult friends and I want to stay in touch on a heart level. I have a writer-friend in the area, Melanie, and we occasionally get together and encourage each other about our latest book project. Older women friends have been incredible supports for me (since my mom died at 59) and I’ve learned so much from them because they’re farther down the road. Like Patty, who is 80. When I was about to turn 50 and a little down about it, she said, “Cheri, you’re about to enter your ‘Fabulous Fifties.’ The fifties were some of the best years of my life! Enjoy them.” And you know what—they are! How grateful I am for friendships with women!
Sandra: I don’t have that farm community today, but I still need the friendship. Thus, I asked the Lord to provide a friend or two who would understand my intense schedule, accept my down-home personality and provide the honest relationship for which most of us long. Through a series of events, five of us from church began to meet five times a year to celebrate our birthdays. Our little group represented separate ministries, so we scheduled the dinners in our daytimers as though they were important board meetings. Soon, what began as polite meals in which we talked about families and careers, turned into the cautious opening of our hearts and led to an incredible bond. Now, we meet several times a year and are there for each other during life’s challenges. My Birthday Group is a wonderful answer to my prayer asking for a “friend or two.”
11. What’s an example of a devotion in the book?
Sandra: My accounts usually feature one of my young friends facing a challenge or a memory from my Kentucky farm days, which leads to a spiritual point. The following devotion is from June 13:
Carried by Our Father
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.—1 Peter 5:7
I remember a long-ago night in our Kentucky farm community. I was five years old, and my parents had taken me with them to visit neighbors. By the time we left for home, the stars were already out, and our lane looked long and dark in the moonlight, especially where the thorny blackberry bushes hug over the ditches. Quickly my dad swooped me up and carried me on his strong shoulders. The night was still dark, and the bushes still had thorns, but I felt so safe I fell asleep.
There have been many times in my adult life when I’ve been carried by my heavenly Father. And I’ve noticed that though I long to be carried away from the darkness, I’m actually carried through it, just as Daniel was saved in the lion’s den rather than from it (see Daniel 6:16-23). I confess, I don’t like the challenges and trials that often accompany daily human existence.
In fact, I’ve often thought I’d like God to say, “Good morning, Sandra. This is what I plan to do today for you and your family. Is that all right?” But, of course, he doesn’t, and I’m left to choose once again whether I will trust him during the scary times.
A while back, I was intrigued by the word care in 1 Peter 5:7, so I researched it. I discovered that the word can have two meanings: our worry and God’s comfort. The worrying type comes from a Greek word meaning “to divide the mind.” How perfect. My mind is divided when I allow worries, distractions, and anxieties to interfere with my trust that my heavenly Father will carry me past life’s dark ditches and thorny bushes. So what’s my goal? To concentrate less on the situation and more on him.
Lord, even though I’m an adult, many times I feel like that little girl facing thorny bushes and deep, scary ditches. Help me to feel your strong arms carrying me to safety. Help me to rest in you.
God is in His heaven; God is on the throne; God is fully in charge of His world.
--J. I. Packer, Theologian and Author
The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional provides connection in this fragmented world—connection to other women and, most importantly, connection to our heavenly Father. The quickest way to order it is through amazon.com.
For more information about Cheri Fuller or Sandra Aldrich visit their websites at www.cherifuller.com or www.sandraaldrich.com And remember: the heavenly Father is just a whisper away.