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.

Advent Joy

It’s the start to the third week of Advent, where we look at JOY. But I have to say I am just not feeling joyful. I’m not.

I anticipate and look forward to this time of year so much and yet I find myself sitting in this time of shear unjoyfulness. There’s just this immense lack of it in my heart and mind. All around me I see it, and I desperately want it, but it’s just not there. It’s as if this overwhelming grief and sadness has just enveloped life for me.

It’s jarring to even admit because I have been trying to cover it up, put on a mask and smile and be joyful when deep within I ache and want to shut off everything and every one. It’s the glimpses of a seeping depression coming through cracks in my life that I have attempted all too poorly to patch up with manufactured things, stuff that doesn’t fill those cracks.

The opposite of joy is fear, it’s the basis and the origination of sin from the very beginning. Fear of missing out, fear of being alone, fear of not being enough, fear of being too much. It compounds and mounts, leading to more of me trying to figure out or patch it up. To overcome the fear with confidence and gusto. But the more I tried in my own might I kept finding the grasp I was holding onto was slipping.

While the world looks at joy as emotion evoked by success or well-being, Biblical joy is a fruit of the Spirit, born out through labor and toiling, by pruning and stripping back. James tell us that we are to count it all joy when we are face to face with trials. It’s hard, it’s difficult and we often feel guilty for not feeling this exuberant joy all the time when it looks as though things are great on the outside.

This morning as I struggled to face the week of Joy in Advent I pulled open His Word to Zephaniah 3. (Yes, it’s a book in the Bible, but I did have to look in my index to find it too) These words cut deep to a heart struggling in fear and searching to make joy on it’s own.

“Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The Lord your God in your midst, the Might One, will save,
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

We’re not to fear, to not resign ourselves to hopelessness. He is with us, the Warrior God fighting for us. He rejoices over us. He quiets our hearts with His unending love. He sings over us. Words of love, beauty, mercy, grace and JOY. He joys in us when we can’t find joy for ourselves. HE is our JOY. He is MY JOY, when fear tries to take hold and pull me under. When fear thinks it has won the battle in my mind and heart. He brings JOY to fight, songs of redemption is His battle cry, His strength in my hands for taking up the fight.

Joy may not look like a smiling, successful, fortunate turn of life. It may be the cries of the heart in battle, with God singing over us as He is with us. But JOY has come for us. To be with us. And for today, for now, we cling to a joy in Christ’s coming that brought hope, peace and love with the joy of today.

 

Battles, Direction and God

If you haven’t noticed, I have been studying the life of David lately. If you don’t know, I am a Paul lady. Like hard-core crushing on him fandom. I have been for years. But the more I dig into David’s life I see why he was the man after God’s own heart. I see not so much the perfection of kingship, the shepherd turned victor.

I see the imperfect. I see the man. I see a man who went hard to be in wait for God’s promise, who was humbled in worship of God because he saw glimpses of the glory of God, promises fulfilled by only Him. I connect to the intimacy David sought with God. But the biggest piece I am learning in David’s life is that he went to inquire of God. Not of others, not of his own mind. He went to God before anyone or anything else early in his life (we aren’t to Bathsheba yet y’all).

Before engaging in a battle, he went to God.

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I mean c’mon y’all. Do you do that? I’ll own that I do not. I let worry, fret and anxiety rule my mind and heart rather than going into intimate time before God to seek His will and direction in it. I either avoid battle or bear down straight into it a la Jon Snow at the Battle of the Bastards in season 6 (you know what I mean). I let emotions rule, or compartmentalize them away into avoidance.

Yet David, the great warrior and king in the Old Testament stops to convene with God, to seek God above all else. Because that’s what God desires of us, to seek Him out and be in intimate relationship with Him. To be the first we run to in times of worry and anxiety, not the very last.

It means instead of running through best and worst case scenarios, we run to His feet. Instead of searching through our friend list to text out for prayers, we search our hearts and minds for the lies that have shaken our foundation in Him. Instead of posting to social media vague diatribes for commentary, we sit in silence with God, listening for Him.

My life, my heart, could do with more of God and less with worry. Could yours? When the worries come, and they will, can we cling to God alone, taking them to Him and then listening for Him? Can we still our anxious hearts in the firm foundation of Christ, and allow our sense of control to be relinquished to God?  Can we turn to songs of praise in the midst because the Lord of all has given us a place of refuge and is in control of it all?


Psalm 34 is not only a song of David but a battle cry of facing anxiety and worry. It’s one that I have found to bring me back to intimacy to God instead of running after the fear misplaced in this world and circumstances. Recently I stumbled upon the Psalms album from Shane and Shane with their version of Psalm 34 as well.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!

 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
(Psalm 34: 1-8 (ESV))

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.

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.

Dry Ground and a River

We are in a bit of a drought here in middle Tennessee, and across the South in general, this year. We are close to four inches below where we typically are for this time of year, and you can see the markers of it. Dry, cracked ground…hard soil…plants succumbing to the changing season with sighs of thirst.

I was thinking on this as I read a portion of Joshua recently. The children of Israel were again to cross a river to get to the Promised Land. They were the children of the ones who did the initial crossing out of Egypt with Moses as their leader. Now they listen to Joshua, the main ordained as the leader of Israel into the Promised Land. They didn’t cross by boat, or shear might.

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No, God led them through, with specific plans. It wasn’t on dry land that He showed up, proving once more that He was with them in this journey. While we don’t see much hesitancy here from the people as we do the first go ’round with Moses, I cannot help but think they are calling to mind the stories they’d heard from the prior crossing.

Even when we recall past faithfulness on God’s part, it’s hard to not desire the dry ground to walk on. It’s easier to walk on dry ground, what we believe to be sure footing and stability. We are able to see it for ourselves and know the path before us. But here God is, calling us to the river once more, to walk through the physical representation of Living Water for our lives to reach the Promised Land. He calls us to obediently walk through that water with Him, knowing His strength in it is far more than anything we can accomplish on dry ground.

Because let’s be honest, dry ground is good for nothing. You can’t till it, it doesn’t bear fruit, it’s not fertile and it most definitely will not take seed. But we go after dry ground, we long for it rather than the trust of the river…crossing the unknown with our only surety being that the Living Water is with us, flowing around us.

The more I am called to cross over waters the more I am seeing He is taking me through them to the land He promised. While dry ground may bring stability for a season, the damage of the drought will far outweigh the fears silenced in obedience.

Fear, Webs and Moses

Never let fear keep you from pursuing hard after a God promise, a calling to your heart by God.

Y’all I say those words. I roll them over in my head and my heart. And then I find any excuse not to pursue a calling.

I meddle in distractions, search out ways to run, and call it “good for me in the moment.” I wonder out and climb down, I hide behind a camera lens and even a blank screen just to not live out what God is pushing me wholeheartedly into, simply out of fear.

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It’s the whispers of a failed friendship after seven years, the residue of single life, the doubt of comparison and screams of “it’s already been done, better.” Fear can grip us in the dead of night or the middle of the day. It can creep in or shout at us. It catches us in a web that sprung up overnight, unawares. It cocoons us, as we lay silent, dormant, giving over who we are to fear.

I let it. I choose it. I camp out in pajamas, full of stubbornness and turn to someone else’s writing to say “I’m not enough,” in a vapid attempt to shirk off this responsibility. I point to my voice, my experiences, my history and my present to say “Someone else please” to God. Just like with Moses, He says “No, it’s you I am seeking for this.”

Funny how I have been here before, but I don’t mark this place. I don’t set out a memoriam to the war I have with fear and with God. I don’t want to remember the removal of shoes because the holy ground He meets me at, finding me in the fear and pulling it all away. Instead I point to past stories, of my inadequacies…all excuses. He listens with such patience, only to say once more “You are who I have called for such a time as this, for such a journey.” It wells up inside of me, until fear is no longer present. It’s not marked by my story, but His. It’s not reminding me of who I am, but Who He is. It’s not about where I find myself now, but where He has already been.

So fear greets me, but God envelops me. He says no more to the excuses, no more to the disobedient heart, and no more to the distraction of life. He says “You are designed for this” and in my weakness, He is my strength. To open my heart, to speak words He gives and to be what He has called me to be.

Obedient.