Moore of Christ, Less of Them

I read the words of Beth Moore Sunday morning, 280 characters splayed across my smartphone. Words I couldn’t put to what I had been feeling and living in the last nine months. A heart conflicted and wondering. A heart struggling to rectify two pieces of life.

Emotions bubble up, along with my hackles. I’d get angry, self-righteous, and then remorseful. Over the last nine months it’s often felt like it was building to something in my life, a turning point…but it’s been more of a birth than anything. A birth of a heart and life that was becoming too dependent upon emotion and hurt feelings.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>I’m just saying you can trust Jesus. Don’t let anybody who failed you confuse you about Jesus. Ain’t nobody Jesus but Jesus. Give the real one a real chance. You’ve missed Him so much. You just did not realize He was the one you were missing.</p>&mdash; Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) <a href=”https://twitter.com/BethMooreLPM/status/1046375475017383936?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>September 30, 2018</a></blockquote>
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I had allowed someone else-several someone elses-be the influencers in my relationship with Christ, be the key reason I’d distanced myself from my faith, my church, and from God. I’d supplanted looking to Jesus to looking at the actions of individuals for nine months.

Reading Beth’s words, I found they applied to me in a different way than she might have intended, but deep within I felt the Spirit stirring me to address what I’d been allowing to grow inside of me. Maybe you needed them too. Maybe you needed a reminder that people aren’t Jesus. Their words aren’t gospel and their actions against you are not serving Him, no matter their Christian status in the church or community. Christ is Christ to you, and for you, and wants to walk with you through the hurt of it all. He wants to speak to your emotions and feelings, that the devil will attempt to manipulate and use against you.

Singled Out in Prayer

Over the month of July I was out of town almost every weekend, traveling for birthdays, weddings and concerts. While it was fun for the summer, it also removed me from my home church most Sundays. If I am honest, it was also a bit of a breather as I have been in some major wrestling on the state of the Baptist church as a whole and specifically the Southern Baptist church which I have been a part of for most of my adult years (and all of my childhood). That’s at least a chapter in my second book for sure-how to wrestle in the Southern Baptist ring.

Last Sunday found my first weekend home in what felt like ages, so part of me was looking forward to being back at church and the other part was really just hoping to sleep in. The wrestling of my inner dialogue that many have on a Sunday morning hit full force but I made myself get my butt to a seat in our church plant service. I glance at the bulletin to see what Scripture we’ll be reading and see it’s the Armor of God in Ephesians…

WOOHOO! I missed the entire chapter plus on marriage!” was my initial thought. But then our pastor does the ole switcharoo. Preaching off script on marriage instead. The weekend prior I was at a wedding. The weekend before I was celebrating another birthday being single. Needless to say, my head and heart wanted to get up and walk out. My emotions were closing off and crossing my arms, thinking “well this won’t apply to me, should’ve stayed in my pajamas with coffee.”

This also fell after a conversation earlier in the week where it felt as though I was being single-shamed because I didn’t have a husband and kids to keep me busy and therefore could take on something. (For transparency’s sake, this wasn’t at my job) It may not have been the intention of the individuals but we all need some self-awareness of our words, even especially me.

So as I sat in the building God built, alongside brothers and sisters, I started having this conversation internally that I have to admit was Spirit influenced. God was being very direct that you know what, His Church isn’t me-centered, it’s Him-Centered. As it should be. And what if me praying for the marriages in that room was what He needed from me today. It wasn’t what I could get from Him but what He was asking of me, obedience in what can seem such a meaningless thing in the work of God but what He wants of me. Not to be me-focused, seeking Jesus-and out of life, but what I can do to serve Him. Giving up more of me so I can be fully who He knows I can be.

What would it look like to pray for every marriage I am around, that I know of? To pray over friends’ and families’ marriages that they would be God-centered, building a covenant relationship around love and respect, Biblical submission and leadership, authority and mutuality. That they would be the relationships I see as God-honoring and desire after the good things in those, rather than the Hallmark-saturated romance we are often using for relationships. How would the church look then? How would our communities and workplaces look?

Having that change of ‘tude made me grateful I had gone to church last week, that I’d been in a sermon on marriage and that even at the end our pastor made it a point to say he knew there were single individuals present and for us to be in fervent prayer for future spouses as well, just as he’d directed the spouses present to pray for one another. It was a reminder that I may not have a future spouse but I can sure pray for each and every one of them I know, and for my single friends as well to have spouses of the same prayerful focus.

Singleness and Community

Visiting new churches is difficult, no matter if you are a married or a single. I have mentioned this a time or two, and I know from friends that have kiddos that it’s especially hard to pull them up from the friend group to search out a new church home.

Recently I felt a bit uncomfortable with the comfortable nature I was feeling at my church of three years. The only tension I was finding was in seeing how comfortable the walls and rows had become with being right where they were. It bothered me so deeply that I decided to take a pause from my church and explore other options. Friends who are at other churches that I’d heard about or listened to their podcasts in the area suggested I check out their churches.

But I have to be honest here, I lost every bit of accountability the moment I walked out of my home church. If I didn’t show up that Sunday? Well that’s okay, no one would know but me…and God of course. And so for the past two months I have sort of coasted through this tension of my spiritual walk in finding a church based solely upon my expectations and not what the church is there to do-disciple and minister to the lost.

As I shared with a friend last night when he asked what he could pray for me on, I think I already knew where God was leading on this. Because as a single, we desperately need community rooted in the walls of the church. We need that accountability and that connectedness more than we need the church to live up to some expectation we have set for her.

For me what I didn’t recognize was a season of tension in my selfish expectations and the needs of the church right where I was at. I made it about me rather than about those around me. I directed it all inward rather than outward and upward. I pulled away from friendships and relationships out of a selfish need I discovered was rooted in lies, rooted in doubt and worry, judgement. Instead of taking it to others, I simply pulled up stakes and walked out.

When you are single, whether you are a leader in a ministry or even a pastor, you need that circle of relationships, you need the church and it’s community. You need the care and relationships that can sometimes be difficult and not what you expected, but it’s what God has placed there for you at that exact time. And it can be tense, it can make you want to turn and walk away. But more than anything, that’s when we need to cling even more to Him and His people. To the community. Even when we don’t feel like showing our weaker side, our doubt, our worry, our fears and our hurts. We like the comfortable when it comes to how we do church and community. We like the sheen of fine a bit more than we realize or admit. We worry about what will be said about us, instead of what we are living out of His Word.

It’s a difficult thing to admit you lived into your fears, doubts and anxiety. To admit you were selfish in your expectations. But it’s even more difficult to live it without community. Without the church.

The Legitimacy of Singlehood

I write and delete quite a bit when I am writing on singleness. Because I fear what I say will be misconstrued or even so boldly taken as offensive. But what I struggle with more is the tension I feel within the church more and more for singles. My heart is for them, because I am one of them. It’s something I have grown into wrestling with over the years and now find as I look around the landscape a desperate need for us within the walls of the church and in the community.

You’ve likely heard the statistics that people now-a-days are waiting to get married later in life (27 ain’t that late y’all) and there are more singles than in years past whether from never marrieds, divorce, widowhood.

So we’re prevalent in numbers and also in need. We are a subset based upon our marital status has left us wanting community, wanting a safe haven, a place to be. To walk out lives of faith with others. Sometimes that means with couples guiding the way, other times that’s in similar communities, and invariably it means living life with groups of the same sex because we are often drawn to what we know and do daily.

But when I look at the landscape of churches these days, I don’t see much modeled in the legitimacy of singleness in leadership. Yes, you’ll have a handful in the pre-school or nursery ministries, maybe even in kid’s ministry that are singles. You’ll have a couple of singles leading life groups that are for singles. But what you don’t see are singles in pastoral positions for the most part. (I put a contingent on there because I know of ONE) I don’t see singles in other leadership roles within a church staff.

To me it seems that we aren’t counted worthy in the church until there’s a band attached to our fingers. That we cannot be taken seriously as leaders, servants in the church, unless we have a spouse. I understand the difficulties of leading in ministry, and when you are single, the inherent loneliness that surrounds you in that. I have seen it first hand and heard from others.

It just makes me wonder what the undercurrent culture we are building in the church is saying to those of us who are single. That we aren’t worthy? That we only matter yea far and no further? That we can be responsible for babies and teaching kids, but don’t get us near a group of grown adults? Or that we’ll read Paul’s words in the Bible, learn from words given him by God and then forget that he too was single. Or that frankly Christ Himself was single throughout His ministry here with us. The Son of God brought forth here in earth was never married. In His 30s.

And yet, we can’t be bothered to consider how singles can impact the world with their faith just by pouring a bit more into them? That we’d rather discount their abilities simply out of the lack of a spouse. We’d discount their calling God has given them, their spiritual giftedness, simply due to their marital status.

Maybe this is my soap box currently. That the church has moved corporately in many ways to the family, without realizing the very definition of family was long ago crushed and restructured by Christ-brothers and sisters defined by faith and not blood. That we are all the Bride of Christ.

Legos, Pillars and the Temple

When I was little I often preferred Legos to Barbies. That’s not to say that at some point there wasn’t a large box filled with chopped hair, markered face, scandalously naked dolls in my room (I tended to not like outfits on my Barbies, but did like to cut their hair thinking it’d grow back). But there was a large red bucket of Legos that I would avidly drag out more times than not. The reason being is that I loved to build things. To construct and design what I wanted, just the way I wanted it.

legosMy own community, created and orchestrated by my hand.

If I am honest, I haven’t changed much in that mentality from those days of playing with those Legos. I like community on my terms, even when it comes to those in the Christian faith, my very brothers and sisters in Christ. Yep, I’m admitting that frankly it’s alot easier to be with and listen to people who I choose. To not be challenged to love harder and think deeper, to sit in judgement rather than in the hurt and compassion of others. I like community on my times and in my orchestration.

And yet, that’s not how the body of faith is built. And it most certainly isn’t how I am called to be a part of it either.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Ephesians 2:19-21 (ESV)

I am being fit into the building of His very holy temple. The imagery here points back to when the pillars were built on structures, and no seams were seen on how rocks were smoothed and sanded to fit, to mold into one specific structure with complete unity.

That means I am being fit in to the very structure that has laid the likes of Paul, John, and Esther alongside the ones I find difficult in the church, brothers and sisters I would “rather not” with. It means I am being sanded and smoothed down to fit in complete unity with them too. My roughness and scratchiness smoothed out to be in community in order to build a seamless temple for the Lord. His holy Church, the Bride He awaits.

And I really don’t like that idea because it butts up against my selfish nature, my comfort and my idea of control in what community is for me, for the church. And y’all it’s just plain ugly. To live in the comfort and security I have created and ordained as “good and right” rather than what He has defined as the Church. It humbles me to think of the selfish nature and my personal preference has taken the prime spot of life instead of listening intently for where I am supposed to be in the community of God.

It means disagreeing in love, it looks like uncomfortable silences and awkward reintroductions. It means giving forgiveness when I really just want to be self-righteous in my pride. Most of all, it looks like a seamless temple being built not out of my design but out of His.

The Beauty of Easter

Originally appeared on this site in 2016.

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The whispers of that morning.

They echo throughout eternity.

Their voice launches from trees, from the ground.

Shouts of adoration, praise and glory.

The birds give harmony to the shouts of joyful discovery.

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I stand with no words. I bow with nothing but myself.

Desiring to only be an echo of that same refrain.

Risen.

Alive.

With us.

Born out of love, handed over to suffer.

All for me.

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The morning after the rejoicing and exultation.

I carry the shouts still within me.

The Resurrected King is resurrecting me.

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All photos taken by and property of Sara Stacy. Permission to be used elsewhere is not allowed.

Women, Worship and My Comfort

I waited in the parking lot until the last possible minute before being late. I walked in and realized I did not look anything like the other people there.

Here’s the thing, looks are deceiving. They lie to us and give us false perceptions, assumptions based purely on what our eyes are confronted with, and not the truth of a heart and mind.

This past Sunday I had the absolute privilege to sit among a body of fellow believers in a small country church just south of where I live, mere minutes from my front door. I was greeted and welcomed with the most loving smiles and sentiments, handshakes and hugs (and y’all know I’m not a hugger). It was an outpouring of gladness to see someone there to worship the same God they do on that Sunday. The only difference to be seen? The color of skin. (and the fact I had chosen not to put panty hose on…a fact I am sure my grandmother in heaven had a fit about).

But what wasn’t seen was the heart. Can I tell you that my heart needed to be there Sunday? In a house of worship where people weren’t worried what it would look like to praise Him, to shout and lift hands high as the Spirit was felt among us. The word brought from a female on the platform was truly challenging and affirming, reminding me to look and discern with not only a Christ-centered mind but also the female perspective.

Because y’all, the woman at the well? That story we hear so often in the church…the script was flipped and put from her point of view, from the dangers of gossip to the Stranger who became the Changer of her heart and life. I mean, c’mon…that was a good Word given to her to then give to all of us. I appreciated so much the recognition of women in the congregation (me and my friend included) for their Women’s Day. As the service ended, person after person came up to greet us, talk with us, invite us to coffee in the fellowship hall right then.

It struck me as I left that my worries over the stares or whispers, were purely driven by  my own ego, my own self and the comfort I like to live in. What I was met with was the hands and feet of God’s children, my brothers and sisters in Christ happily asking me to join them in giving back praise to our God. When our eyes and hearts are on God, they aren’t on our environment, or our surroundings. They aren’t concerned with how we’ll look to others but how we are bringing the glory to God as is due.

It comes down to focusing on the state of our hearts than the state of how little others are thinking about us. When we right our heart and mind in Christ, we find that the opinions (or lack thereof) of others and ourselves seem to matter a whole lot less. And we find when we take our eyes off of others, we too draw nearer to God in worship, giving Him the attention and praise He deserves and not ourselves.