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.

Rings, Babies and a Steadfast Spirit

Ever have one of those times where you know you are being utterly ridiculous and yet you find that you just dive head first into it? Just me? Oh good.

9fdc122dc2de2dd09e55c2c0b7f97beb--funny-engagement-quotes-engagement-announcement-funnyI have a multitude of friends who are currently pregnant right now, like it’s crazy how many women I know expecting in the next three months. It’s that stage of my life where the weddings have subsided and the pregnancies have come flooding in. And I am so overjoyed for each one, to see God use my friends to raise up the next generation. Unfortunately I found that feelings and emotions of being left out, a reminder of the lie that I am alone kept bubbling up at times.

When I saw a woman I was distant friends with post that she was now engaged it caused all the emotions of being left out and doubting God to just flood out of nowhere. I am truly happy for her, but in that moment, I made it about me. I made it about the lies that are fed to us over and over again, to doubt God and to step outside of His promise for our lives. I was shocked at how suddenly it felt like a tide of just utter bitterness, jealousy and outright frustration with God Himself came pouring out of me. Y’all, it wasn’t pretty and it definitely wasn’t the marker of a  friend or a guarded heart.

It was a flashing warning light that an area of my heart had been breached and was undergoing attack. That I had allowed it to go unmaintained and unchecked because so easily I slip into this comfort zone of life and put myself on autopilot. For a bit I sat in that mood, in that temperament of just irritation and doubt. As I turned to the consoling nature that social media likes to tell us it is, a verse was at the very top of a post and it dug right into the real issue-a clean heart and a steadfast spirit.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 

Jealousy and doubt had wormed in and shaken my spirit. I had allowed them in because I wasn’t resting in the steadfast spirit God establishes. Nope, I was resting in the comfort of my own strength (which is just weakness with an ego in the flesh) and my own way. I was deliberately choosing to doubt instead of trust in what I know to be true. To trust in WHO I know to be true.

And it’s hard y’all. It’s hard not to live in that jealousy and doubt, to not just walk away and do it in my own way, but He’s shown again and again He is faithful to what He has promised-which is my good. Not what I define as my good, but the very best that He knows there is for me. But I have to make the choice, over and over again, to seek Him to create that clean heart in me and to renew that spirit of steadfastness. I have to be dutifully firm in the spirit He has created in me. Unwavering when so many things seek to buffet me about.

It doesn’t mean I don’t get excited when friends share their news of an engagement or an expected arrival of a baby, or the purchase of a new car or a thousand other things. Because that is God’s goodness for them in their lives, and He’s got some pretty amazing things planned for me as well if I but remain steadfast in spirit. It means I deliberately choose to not doubt in those moments, but take them to Him with an honest heart.

Believing in Yourself

“He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He also was able to perform.” (Romans 4:20-21, NKJV) 
If I’m honest here, right now, I often live in unbelief that God will do as He’s promised. I’m not talking about these “false promises” we like to put God’s name on and call it a day (for traffic to be light, our day to go well, marriage, children, prosperity). I’m talking about those in Scripture, the ones He has given us to remind us in the daily that we cling to faith when those moments of doubt come and not to our own strength. 

But Paul is showing us in Romans back to the start, where Abraham could have wavered, scoffed at God’s promise to multiply his family. But he didn’t. His faith was firmly rooted and steadfast in God, a God who gave him the strength and the faith in which he believed. 

You see, He is a gifted…of faith, salvation, promises, strength, goodness. Yet I find myself doubting those gifts and relying instead on my own faulty and very unstable ways to put faith in.  Doubt will try, in all of its crafty ways to get us to believe in ourselves instead of God. It’s a cunning way for the devil to sneak into our thoughts and get us off-track and away from God. And boy do I fall for it. 

I can look back and see God’s faithfulness in every area of my life as I’m faced with the choice to stand fast or to waver. To be strengthened in faith in Him or take a step away into faith in my disobedient self. 

Maybe like me you’ve made yourself a god in your own life when faced with the lies of doubt.  Choosing belief in self over Him who is faithful and true. Maybe today you needed that reminder of His character and the lies you’ve believed that led to doubt and self-sufficiency. Maybe today your faith needs strengthening in the only One who can give it to you…God. 

Wrestling with Rest

Do you ever pray for rest and then when it comes despise it?

No? Just me then?

For a few years I felt the overwhelming sense of busy and hurried in my life. It felt like I was sprinting for an entire marathon, and my entire being was just slap out of energy. I felt drained, emptied out fully in every part of my life. It as so bad that my emotions couldn’t be kept in check on anything and I was at a point of no longer caring if they were in check. I poured out to God that I just needed rest, I needed the breath that could only come in Him. I needed carrying and I needed the quiet of Him.

What I didn’t bargain for was an equal amount of wrestling with having rest over a particular season. The resting season He gave me and that I have found myself in for longer than I had drawn up, was turning into a bit of a wrestling match with Jesus. That I was done with the rest, the seeming quiet and the landscape that felt more like a desert than a dream.

We plead for rest and then when it’s given to us, it’s not how we expected it to be. We start wondering if God’s forgotten us, we doubt He has any good in this time for us, we question whether He is even with us in the quiet, the seeming silence of life. And so we start doing, start filling life with busy again because we have become people who cannot be still and know. We can’t revel in the rest He gives us, that He beckons us to with Him. We would rather carry the burdens than take on His yoke of of easy, His burden that is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Learning about rest in Him means that I am not in control, and let’s be honest, I never have been, but I like to lie to myself that I do have control. Learning from Him in a time of rest means I am taking on a gentle and humble heart, just as He spoke in Matthew, one that doesn’t continue in the fretting, one that knows that I am the star nor am I in any control. What we find in rest is waiting. A silent waiting where security, our security, isn’t dependent upon us but fully in Him.

Rest isn’t thrashing about, pointing fingers and accusing God of leaving us. It’s joy and gladness in being with Him in the waiting, in the giving of this time He has graciously bestowed. It is the very words of David that we can see as rest, what we are capable of in rest instead of wrestling with Him.

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will You let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your Presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand. “

Psalm 16:9-11 (NIV)

It takes learning to be in rest with Him, and not wrestling with the feelings of abandonment or aloneness. It takes choosing to rest firmly and securely in Him rather than attempts at a hostile takeover of my life. It means waiting in silence instead of lobbing doubts of His character at Him. The irony is that we were built to rest, and yet when He gives it to us we wrestle so hard against it because the world tells us we shouldn’t be waiting, shouldn’t be silent, shouldn’t be still. But stillness is where we know that He is God…where He is our security…where are filled with joy….where we are in His Presence.

That Post-Resurrection Life

Last week I posted alot about Holy Week, culminating in Resurrection Sunday. We make much of this day in Christianity as it’s the day Christ arose from the grave to pronounce victory for all over death and sin. We no longer have to worry about the bondage of sin, but instead we live lives of freedom found in Christ.

Easter is a celebratory time, and rightfully so.  We celebrate and live into that which we could not do, ever, knowing He is our Redeemer.

But here’s the thing, as I walked through this week and all the post-Holy Week living. I dug into Acts a bit, even as Christ ascended and the disciples are now left with much-including the Holy Spirit with them and in them.

I looked at Peter, Silas, and the others who were witness to Christ’s workings. As Pentecost came, so did God’s Presence in the Holy Spirit upon them. Not preaching the gospel, but speaking praises of His wondrous works. They weren’t witnessing to all those who had gathered around as the rushing wind drew them in, nope. They were giving praise, speaking it from words they had never spoken before thanks to the gifting of the Holy Spirit.

So that got me thinking, as I walked through this week post-Resurrection Sunday, when all the candy went on sale, the joyous nature of what’s coming had ebbed, and the very felt Presence may be waning for you. Maybe it doesn’t feel like much of a celebration now, in the week after. That praises continue to pour forth out of mouths which now face death, doubts, frustrations, worries and this post-Resurrection life in the day to day.

Do we grow used to the Resurrection the other 364 days a year?

That was the question posed on Sunday by David Hannah. One that has struck me over and over again this week, as I live out life in Christ and through Him. Am I living a “used to the Resurrection” life every other day but Easter Sunday? What does it even look like to live a Resurrected Life?

Well it means we aren’t beholden to the death that sin promises anymore. We aren’t buried under the weight of the world’s stresses, cries and defeats. We are alive in Him who defeated the grave and gave us life abundant. We aren’t bound to identities in anything but in Him.

But yet we choose the mourning cloths and embalmed rags of a life we once knew instead of the resurrected one in which we have with Christ, in His redemption. So maybe we need that reminder that praises come forth even when we may still be wondering, when we may still doubt and have fears…when Christ has told us explicitly of things to come and yet He also gave us life anew.

Getting Taught

My first year of college I was a double major in history and math, with a secondary education emphasis. I wanted to teach. In my high school years I was heavily influenced by math teachers and an English teacher. I fell in love with history thanks to my dad and AP History class. Even at 18 I saw how impactful teachers could be on the life of a bratty teen like myself and felt I owed them more than just an A in class, but to turn and give back myself.

On Tuesday of Holy Week, the Great Teacher went in the temple to teach. Christ, during His time here on earth, often taught through the lens of parables, illustrating an idea through story in order to bring about revelation on the hearts of those who hear. He took the harder lessons to be learned and brought them to the people who most needed to hear them.

But here we sit looking at Mark 11-13, and the hard words of Christ teaching and the Pharisees interrupting, to try to trap Him or ensnare Him. They bring lofty legalistic views, with religion carried on their shoulders rather than trusting in Christ, the God-man Himself right before them, teaching and preaching, pointing to the time of redemption.

They doubt His authority, seeking to be their own authority. I have to say, we all are alike in that vein. We prefer to use ourselves more often to rule than allowing Christ to rule in and through us. As one writer states, “We are not really interested in surrendering that rule to anyone else.” We see further on that they fear others more than they fear God, when they make decisions based upon the crowd’s opinion instead of the words of Christ before them. They chose the safe route, the expedient one rather than what was true, right.

Sounds a bit like me some days, alot of days. Choosing for myself based upon the opinion of others often instead of what Christ commands of me. When I look at this text I cannot help but ask myself, “Does what others will think of me hinder me from moving more towards Jesus?” Do the lessons He teaches me alter me in a way that moves me more towards His likeness or more towards the crowd’s opinion?

In many ways I am just as they were, questioning whether this Teacher has authority and influence in my life, whether I would allow the opinions of others to bare weight over His command. So on this Tuesday as I sit and look at the Teacher and His teachings that day thousands of years ago, I have to seek to know how much of all this is a reason to mask my own fear of what faith might cost me socially, relationally, and culturally. Whether I will be taught or continue to think I am the teacher.