Friendship With God – Chapter One

Anytime is a good time to deepen your friendship with God. This is the story of how my relationship began and has grown over the years. It is the first chapter in my book, Screaming On the Inside. 

Each chapter is a true story and each one concludes with an Application Study Guide, Nuggets of Truth, Meditation Questions, a Personal Prayer and Scripture References that are relevant to the topic of the story.

I hope you enjoy Chapter One- Friendship With God in it’s entirety.

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Chapter 1                                             Screaming On The Inside

Friendship With God

By Leann Albrecht

In 1960, my dad pastored a little country church in Mosier, Illinois.

The old wooden frame building—where we met every Sunday

morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night—was not a comfortable,

or comforting—place. It had no carpeting or padded pews.

The eerie creaks of the hardwood floors made me feel hollow and

cold inside. Our family was always the first to arrive. We had a routine—

things like straightening and sweeping the welcome mat, clearing

cobwebs, turning on lights, building a fire in cold weather, etc. I

was always relieved when people started arriving. Their smiling faces

brought life and softened the harshness of the old Christian Church.

 

I liked to sing along with mom and dad as they led the song service.

I held a hymnal and pretended to read the words. Dad was

so handsome; I loved to watch him preach even though I didn’t

understand much of what he said unless he told a Bible story. He

was a great storyteller.

 

Longwinded guest speakers were downright agonizing for me. It

seemed like hours crept by as they preached and I fidgeted. Mom

frequently “shushed” me because every time I squirmed, the rickety

pew would squeak. I just couldn’t get comfortable and didn’t

understand how a human being was supposed to sit on those hard

straight-back wooden benches. I had never seen anyone with a

square bottom.

 

You wouldn’t think a three-year-old squirming little girl would

retain very much from church. But apparently I did. One morning,

sitting alone in our living room, I looked out at the carpet of green

grass that blanketed the hillside behind our country home. Such a

peaceful spot, it was my favorite place to gaze out of the window.

 

As I quietly sat there, an unusual feeling came over me. I felt

homesick, even though I was right there at home. I felt like I did

when I missed mom or dad. But mom was in the kitchen, cleaning

up breakfast dishes, and dad always came home for lunch. Who

was I longing for? Right then, I realized I had a deep desire to be

with Jesus. It felt like we had been apart for a long time; I missed

Him terribly. But that didn’t make sense to me. Even though I had

heard Bible stories about Him, I had never personally met Him.

How could I be longing for Him?

 

Earlier that morning, I had asked Mom to play my favorite slate

record on the wind-up Victrola. In fact, I liked it so much I asked

her to play it nearly every day. The gospel choir, singing “Beyond

the Sunset,” captivated me once again. Even though I didn’t know

the meaning of all the words, that song carried me away.

 

Beyond the sunset, O blissful morning

When with our Savior, Heav’n is begun

Earth’s toiling ended, O glorious dawning

Beyond the sunset when day is done

 

Beyond the sunset no clouds will gather

No storms will threaten, no fears annoy

O day of gladness, O day unending

Beyond the sunset, eternal joy

 

Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion

With our dear loved ones who’ve gone before

In that fair homeland, we’ll know no parting

Beyond the sunset, forevermore.

 

As I listened to those words over and over again, I wanted to

know that Person, the One who lived “beyond the sunset.” I

longed for Him; I wanted Him to be my friend. So in my simple

childish way I said, “Jesus, I don’t want you to live so far away.

Would you come and live with me?” As I prayed those words,

tears ran down my face. Instantly, I felt Jesus make my heart His

home. I could feel Him wrap His arms around me. The warmth of

His love reached all the way to my deepest parts. I felt happy from

the inside out. In fact, I didn’t want the moment to end, so I stayed

there with Him for what seemed a long, long time.

 

When I finally got up from the couch, Jesus got up with me. No

matter where I went, He was there. The heaven that was “beyond

the sunset” came to me that day and filled me with His light and

love. My three-year-old mind didn’t fully comprehend what had

just happened, but that day was the beginning of my friendship

with God.

 

Over the summer, I learned to swim and dad started teaching

my brother, Mark, and me to sing. At first, we sang the melody

with him. Then he started teaching us how to sing harmony. Dad

would sing a note, and then tell me to stay on that note. He found

another note in the chord for Mark and told him to sing that one.

But as soon as I heard Mark’s new note, I couldn’t hear mine anymore,

so I wandered to his note. That tickled us and we had to

start the process all over again. After a while, Dad wouldn’t think

it was funny anymore and we got into trouble because we couldn’t

stop laughing. Finally, Dad hung a towel between Mark and me

to keep us from looking at each other and giggling. It worked.

Eventually, we were able to pick out our own harmonies and sang

along in three-parts.

 

In 1963, when we moved to Versailles, Illinois, I was so glad my

new friend, Jesus, went with me as I started first grade. I didn’t adjust

well to school. Although I received good grades, I never seemed to

fit in with the other kids. The little girls had their cliques and made

it clear that I wasn’t cool enough to be one of them. I cried in the

bathroom because they treated me so badly. It was always such a

relief when the last class bell rang so I could race to our home four

blocks away. I didn’t stop running until I crashed though the front

door. When the screen door banged behind me, I felt safe again. I

was home.

 

Special privileges came with being the preacher’s kid. Dad was

a pastor, but he was also a pioneer. He always pushed us past the

boundaries of piety. One day, he committed the “irreverent” act of giving

us permission to swim in the church baptistery. So, one Sunday

night, after everyone else had gone home, we turned out the lights. A

damp musty fragrance rose from the tank as we quietly lifted the old

hinged wooden door. Just before we jumped in, Dad told us, “Now,

you have to keep this a secret.” We all knew the elders would frown

on such impious activity. With a quick promise, we plunged in. I

thought, “This must be what it feels like to be rich. We have our very

own pool in the floor of the church sanctuary. Life is good!”

 

Soon, we moved to Pontoosuc, Illinois, a small town on the Mississippi

River, where Dad was pastor of a non-denominational church.

Every Sunday morning, he let Mark and me ring the bell from the

belfry in the vestibule. I couldn’t wait to hear its loud bong reverberate

through the neighborhood, letting everyone know church was

about to start. Dad unhooked the long rope that was safely hung

near the ceiling. Then the three of us pulled it down hard causing

the huge cast iron bell to clang. Mark and I took turns clinging to

the rope as the weight of the bell pulled us all the way to the ceiling…

squealing with delight. After six or seven rings, Dad would

say, “That’s enough, kids. It’s time to start church now.” Reluctantly,

we handed the rope back to him and made our way to the second

row pew.

 

Other than ringing the bell, Sunday School was my favorite part

of church. I especially liked it when mom taught the class. I liked

her gentle and comforting voice. She often used a flannel board

as her visual aide when telling Bible stories. Each animal or character

was hand-cut from velvet, which would stick to the flannel.

She often asked me to help her place the cutout characters on the

board at the right time in the story. It was such a great feeling to be

needed as I caressed the velvet figures, waiting for the next scene.

 

Growing up, I tried to do the right thing—like reading my

Bible every day and singing in church when my parents asked.

We were always involved in ministry…either traveling or at our

home church. I enjoyed my friends at church but going to school

remained a difficult thing. Not having buddies in class didn’t get

easier; I just learned to live with it. Instead of laughing and talking

with other kids in the halls, I was usually alone. However, I took

comfort in knowing my true Friend was always with me.

 

I was “born again” as a child, baptized with water at twelve, and

then baptized in the Spirit and received my heavenly language

when I was thirteen. Even though these spiritual experiences were

authentic moments; my relationship with Jesus remained juvenile.

I was like a child who learned the alphabet but never learned to

speak the language.

 

Even when I entered the tumultuous and hormone-raging teen

years, the divine encounter on the couch, at three years old,

remained my anchor point. I never forgot He lived inside of me.

Even when I rebelled, I knew He was still with me. In whatever

I did, I knew when I turned around, He would be there waiting

for me.

 

During those years, I became completely self-centered. Basically,

I called on Him when I got in trouble and He would somehow bail

me out. I had very little passion to get to know Him or deepen our

relationship.

 

The moments of tenderness with the Lord that I knew as a child

seemed distant. That left me wondering, what was real and what was

just childhood emotions. There were times when it felt like I was simply

going through the motions of what I was being taught in church.

 

I think the Lord knew it was time for me to grow up. “The Lord disciplines those he

loves, as a father the son he delights in.” —Proverbs 3:12. Like a master trainer taking

a dog for a walk, there comes a time when the master trains the dog to walk beside

him, instead of in front of him, always pulling on the leash. My “day” of training had

arrived. That training lasted several years. Much of the story will be told in later

chapters. But, I want to tell you one of those stories now.

 

In 1992, my husband Carl and I moved to Nashville. My calendar

was full of recording sessions, conferences and tour dates as

a back-up singer with several artists. I was flying high through

life. Work and friends were plentiful and everything seemed to be

going my way. I was very proud of myself for being good at what

I did. I felt smug about “hanging out” with famous people and

about climbing the social ladder.

 

Then the same Jesus, who met me as a child, allowed everything

in my life to collapse. Within days, most of my scheduled “gigs”

cancelled! Some of the cancellations had legitimate reasons while

others had no explanation. I was left completely bewildered. The

bubble of favor around me popped. Even after many attempts to

get work, I couldn’t land a single job. No one seemed to need a

singer…or at least they didn’t need me.

 

In desperation, I cried out to the Lord like I had always done

before. This time, He was silent. It didn’t matter how pitifully I

pleaded, I could get no response from Him. As the weeks went

by, I felt tormented by His silence and by my lack of work. Anxiety

began to build. Fear of the future became a tsunami. I knew

something was terribly wrong but I didn’t know what I had done.

I even wondered if I had unknowingly committed the unpardonable

sin because He wasn’t speaking to me and I couldn’t sense His

nearness. He felt so far away.

 

Then one day, in my desperation, I was reading the Bible when

these words seemed to be illuminated on the page: “But then I

will win her back once again. I will lead her

into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will

return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of

Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to

me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when

I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. When that day

comes,” says the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’

instead of ‘my master.’ O Israel, I will wipe the many

names of Baal from your lips, and you will never mention

them again. On that day I will make a covenant with all

the wild animals and the birds of the sky and the animals

that scurry along the ground so they will not harm you. I

will remove all weapons of war from the land, all swords

and bows, so you can live unafraid, in peace and safety. I

will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness

and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful

to you and make you mine, and you will finally know

me as the Lord. —Hosea 2:14-20

 

Suddenly, His silence was over. He spoke to me! Beyond this

word from Hosea that came alive, He said to me, “This is what I

am doing with you right now. I am stripping everything away from

your life so that all you have left is Me. I want you to know Me, not

only for what I can do for you, but for WHO I AM.”

 

I was so relieved to hear His voice again. As I wept, my eyes were

opened to the fact that He wanted my complete devotion and love

for Himself. He wanted my undivided attention. My heart was

very unbridled; I had been blinded by my selfishness.

 

He had pursued me when I was a little girl. Now, I suddenly realized

I had never really pursued knowing Him. I had simply “used”

the Lord for favors and sought Him for what He could do for me. He

had become my “genie in a bottle.” How could I have been so self-

indulgent? I cried out for mercy. Through much weeping and sorrow,

I told Him how sorry I was. In my brokenness, I found Him again.

 

The Lord had used silence to get my attention and now that He

had it, I wanted to know where He was taking me. I wanted to know

what this dry place—this desert or wilderness—was all about? As

I began to search, I found that it’s a place free of distractions, a dry

barren uncultivated region with no inhabitants. Up to that point,

my life had been full of activities. Now, everything was quiet and

dry. This was going to be a huge adjustment! I wasn’t sure how I

was going to handle it. I had no reference for that kind of lifestyle.

Even though I was a little afraid to get to know Him, I felt it would

be OK because he said, “I will be faithful to you and make you mine,

and you will finally know me as the Lord.” —Hosea 2:20

 

My life wasn’t going to be about me anymore. It was going to

be about Him! He had called me to a destiny that would never be

fulfilled if I remained the most important part in my life. In His

great love, it was my time to go through the school of discipline

in order to make the transfer from my world of importance to His.

 

Through His training and discipline, He built my character and

deepened my love and trust in Him. The hardest lesson was to “wait

on Him.” That required patience, and I had very little of it. He

made me stop my incessant activities and sit still. As I obeyed, I

began to use spiritual muscles that had never been exercised before.

 

My hunger to know Him grew. That year, all I wanted for my

birthday was a study Bible. I devoured the pages using the cross-

references, concordance and footnotes. God’s Word became alive to

me! As I studied it and listened to the Lord, He revealed His flawless

character, and His kindness drew me closer. He lovingly touched

the immaturity in my life. So I would read, cry, repent… read, cry

and repent some more. As I wiped away the salty tears that stung

my lips, I realized that transformation was finally taking place.

 

That season took about a year. Because most of my work was cancelled,

our household income was dramatically reduced. However,

the Lord always met our needs. Just when I thought we couldn’t

financially survive another day, He provided a small job that sustained

us. Even in the testing and training, He was proving Himself faithful.

 

At the end of that season, I was in love with Jesus! He meant

more to me than anything else in the world. I was conscious of

every little thing I said and did because I didn’t want to change

our tender relationship. I was so glad He loved me enough to take

me away to the “desert” so I could get to really know Him…to

know His presence, His voice, and His love. He was always my

true Friend. But after that season, I became His friend…a true

friend of God.

 

APPLICATION STUDY GUIDE

Week  One     [Date:                                          ]

Pick one  day out of your week when  you can take time  to sit and reflect on the following thoughts and respond to the meditation questions below.

First Key To Becoming Free: Become a Friend of God.

Friendship means different  things  to different  people. But, in sim- ple terms, it is a close personal relationship of mutual  affection  and trust with another person. I see  clear distinct  stages of friendship:

• The first stage is when the purpose of a relationship is to “use” someone. It is, in fact, prideful,  arrogant and self-serving.

•  Stage 2 is when the relationship moves to admiration. You develop a genuine interest in who they are. You want to know them  better. Perhaps you want to become more  like them. You feel special  when you are in their presence.

• The next stage is when spending time with that  person becomes a priority in your life; you can open your heart  and share  everything. You take great  delight in knowing them, loving them, caring  for them  and  serving  them. It is also important to demonstrate your love toward  them.

• This ultimate  friendship is laying your life down for another. Jesus gave  us the perfect example; His greatest act of serving was to lay His life down when He died  on the cross. We know what real love is because Jesus gave  up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and  sisters.  —I John 3:16.5

I thank  God  for His abundance of patience with me  through my stubbornness. Even as an adult  I remained a spoiled brat  until He, in His great  love, began to discipline me.  Our relationship continues  to grow and  deepen as long  as I apply  those consistent daily practices—reading the  Word and  cultivating  our friendship. I have a  greater awareness of Him being with me  wherever I go  and  in whatever I am  doing. God  doesn’t love  me  less  when  I let  those practices slip, but I cease to grow when  they  do.  I always want  to go  deeper into the  things  of the  Spirit.   I want  to know Him bet-  ter every day. I heard a speaker once  say, “If you are not paddling upstream, you are floating backward.”

Sometimes, one  must aggressively pursue the Lord with strength and  fortitude: you  study  Him like you  would  learn  a  subject in school.  Read His Word or study material  that  enlarges your under-  standing of Him. Seek out those who understand His ways and  sit under their teaching.

Seek out people or gatherings where  God  is free to move in the full  measure of His Spirit. Learn the  ways of the  Spirit from being around those who are pursuing and  functioning in them.

Giving your heart  to  the  Lord Jesus doesn’t mean that  you are exempt from pain and struggles. In fact, the Word clearly says that  we will  have  them.  Consider it pure  joy,  my  brothers, whenever you  face  trials of many  kinds.  —James 1:2.   In His great  love,  the Lord allows us to face difficulties.  However, when  Jesus is Lord of our life, we  have  a constant  companion beside us,  guiding and strengthening us through it.

John  16:33—I have  told you  these things, so that in me  you may have  peace. In this world  you  will have  trouble. But take heart! I have  overcome the world.

Romans 8:28—And we  know  that all things work  together for the good to them that love  God  and  are called  according to His purpose.

Nuggets of Truth:

I had  no idea  Jesus desired to have  friendship with me.

Greater love  has no one  than this; that he lay down  his life for his friends.  You  are my friends  if you  do  what I command, I no longer call you  servants, because a servant does not know  his  masters business. Instead, I have  called  you  friends,  for every-  thing that I learned from my Father I have  made known  to you.—John  15: 13-15

 That revelation changed everything for me. Before long I became comfortable with Him, and  began having  intimate conversations with Him day and  night. The more  our relationship grew, the more  I fell in love  with Him. My heart  awakened to  His kindness. Time and  time again  He showed me  His unconditional acceptance and  how He didn’t measure me according to my past but according to who I am in Him.

After I learned that,  I would  spend hours  just enjoying His pres- ence. Even though I couldn’t  see  Him, I felt Him next to me. It was like I was soaking in the  rays of sun on a warm afternoon. Before that  time, I had no idea  I was so loved. His love radically changed me. As I surrendered myself and opened my heart  to Him, He filled me with His Spirit. Then He began to teach me His ways and reveal His thoughts to me.

He who forms  the mountains, creates the wind,  and  reveals  his thoughts to man,  he who turns dawn  to darkness, and  treads the high places  of the earth— the LORD God  Almighty is his name.  —Amos  4:13

I began to  realize  since  the  Lord was speaking to  me,  He also speaks  to  every  one  else  who listens  to  Him. Every Christian  can hear  the  voice of the  Lord. The  LORD confides in those who  fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. —Psalm  25:14

My sheep hear My voice,  and  I know  them, and  they follow Me.  —John  10:27

Listening  to  the  Lord  requires exercising your  “spiritual  ears.” Linger in quietness to hear  Him speak.  Listen with your Spirit, not with your mind.   At some point, stop  your flow of words and listen. Let Him speak  with words  of love  and  encouragement, wisdom  and  knowledge, instruction and  direction. We will never hear  Him if our mouth is constantly moving.   It’s like any other conversation. In order  to listen, it is necessary to stop  talking.

 In times  of waiting  on Him, I don’t  pray,  sing  or study.  I simply wait in  silence. If you don’t  hear  anything the  first time,  try again  and  again. Don’t give up.  Your spiritual  ears  have  to be  trained to hear.  God  speaks Spirit to spirit. He also speaks through His Word or through other people. But I believe He always speaks directly to those who have  been trained to listen to His voice.

He is waiting to commune  with us.  Here  I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears  my voice  and  opens the door, I will come  in and  eat with him, and  he with me.—Revelation  3:20

The more we wait on Him, the better we know Him and the more  finely tuned we become to His voice.  Give God  space in your life and  He will come and  respond to you.  Deuteronomy  4:29— But if from  there you seek  the  LORD your God,  you  will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

As you learn  to  discern  His voice,  remember that  the  Lord will never say anything that contradicts His Word. If you’re not sure that  you heard Him correctly,  ask Him for confirmation of what He said. Or, ask mature and  trusted Christian  leaders to  help  you discern  His voice.   If it was His voice speaking to you, He will confirm it.

Later, the Lord sent this message to King Ahaz: “Ask the Lord your God  for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz.  Make  it as difficult as you want—as high  as heaven or as deep as the place  of the dead.” —Isaiah  7:10-12.6

He understands the process of learning and will help you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. —John  14:26

Meditation Questions

Take time to examine your heart and answer the following questions.

1. What does having a close  friend mean to you? And in what stage of friendship is that  relationship to you. (Refer to Content Point for friendship stages on page 9.)

2. Is God a friend to you? What kind of friend?  Is your relationship growing deeper with Him?

3. Do you hear  an “inner” voice and  do you know it is the voice of the Lord speaking to you? For example, when you are making  a decision about what to do or say, is the voice faithful to, and  consistent with, the scriptures? What are some things that He has said to you?

4. Do you want to cultivate  a better friendship with God?  If so, what are you going to do to pursue that  friendship?

Prayer

As you read  this prayer,  make  it your own.

Dear Lord,

You  have  been  a part of my life but not as much  as You could be or as much  as I want You  to be.  You  are so much  more  than a friend…You have  supreme authority and  are also Lord of the universe.  Now  that I understand You  long for a deeper relationship with me,  I come  in agreement with Your desire. I want to get to know  You  and  for You  to become real to me  on a daily basis.

Please  fill me  with Your Spirit.  Teach  me  Your ways and lead  me  in the paths of understanding. Deepen my passion  for You so I can mature in wisdom.

Give me  grace  and  strength to pursue You.  Draw me  close to your side  for I desire  to walk and  talk with You  through- out the day and  be  called  Your friend.  Help  me  be  a good friend  to You.

Thank  you  for making our relationship possible through

Your Son.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 Additional Scripture References

I believe these scriptures will help  you build  a deeper friendship with the Lord:

Romans  5:18—Yes, Adams one  sin brings  condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one  act of righteousness brings  a right relationship with God  and  new  life for everyone. 7

Luke  5:20—When Jesus  saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

James 2:23—And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God,  and  God  counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called  the friend  of God.

1 John  4:7—Let us love  one  another, for love  comes  from God. Everyone who loves  has been  born  of God  and  knows God.

James 4:4— Dont you  know  that if you  love  the world,  you  are God’s enemies? And  if you  decide to be  a friend  of the world, you make yourself  an enemy of God.

Exodus  34:14—You  must worship  no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God  who is jealous about his relationship with you.

Luke  12:21— Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have  a rich relationship with God.”  

Romans  4:13—Clearly,  God’s promise  to give  the whole  earth to Abraham and  his descendants was based not on his obedi- ence to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God  that comes  by faith.

2 John  1:9—Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God.  But anyone who remains  in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.

Revelation  21:3— And  I heard  a loud  voice  from the throne saying, “Now  the dwelling of God  is with men,  and  he will live with them. They  will be  his people, and  God  himself  will be with them and be  their God.

 Scripture to Memorize

Romans  5:11—So  now  we  can rejoice  in our wonderful new relationship with God  because our Lord Jesus  Christ has made us friends  of God.

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To read more about my life’s journey in the other 10 chapters, buy the book online.

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