Community, James, and Doubts

For the last six weeks I have spent Monday nights with a group of women, talking and getting to really know one another. Let’s just end any similarities to the Bachelor/ette viewing parties right there. Because I was in fact, not at one of those, but spending much needed time in community with women in the Word of God.

Y’all. Can I confess here? I was apprehensive about going. It was a study of James (I had just finished studying it on my own with SheReadsTruth) and it meant adjusting my calendar on Mondays. This is coming from a woman who used to lead a small group, reads multiple faith-based books a month, and writes a devotion for her church. CMON. This should have been right up my basic, white Christian girl alley.

I have been hurt in female groups before and will be again, especially within the church because we. are. human. We are post-fall, culture living, sin-struggling humans. Every single one of us. Including me. But that lie that community will only harm was what had me questioning stepping into the room full of women. Who love Jesus. Who want to study God’s Word.

Just like me.

Little did any of those women know that for the prior eight to ten months my heart and prayer had been for women who yearned for the word of God. To study and be present with one another digging into what God was speaking in His Word to them and through them. The reminders that He still works and moves. He is active among those who seek Him.

19732017_10154738616990963_1382455788602163614_nSo last Monday night, as we wrapped up five weeks of gut-checking study, of sharing and being open with women I held in deep respect and those I never met before, I stood and shared that exact thing. I pointed back to the very first chapter of James where he urges us beyond just hearing the Word, but doing the Word. Doing means stepping out when it might cost me something, when it will cost me something. My self. That pride. That ego. That self that tends to lead me in the opposite way of His Word and into doubt and fear. That leads me into less community and more separation.

It was community right there in that room that showed me exactly what the prayers answered can look like. Prayers of months, of a heart desiring women to gather and dig in to His Word, for them to desire it and step into it, when I was skeptical myself. When I doubted He’d be able to do a thing. It was Him at work, when I felt it wasn’t possible. It wasn’t wanted.

Sometimes your answer to prayer means you are the doer…facing the doubt and lies on something so insignificant in many ways, but something so eternally impactful when stepped into. Because when we are only hearing the word for ourselves, we live in that deception of our own voice, our ego, our sin-soaked selves telling us no one else wants it so why desire it, pursue it, mention it? Why choose to change your schedule and pick a bit of discomfort in order to gain so much more?

Because He is so much more.

Living Your Dream

Y’all know, if you’ve been a follower of this blog for long, that I have a Bible crush on Paul. I think he and I would roll well together and frankly a large part of me is really looking forward to meeting him in heaven.

Lately I have been enamored with Joseph. His entire story, from beginning to end, has just enraptured me in some ridiculous way. Over the last six weeks or so, we’ve been studying him in church. We’ve looked at what most would deem a mess of his life and ultimately God’s message throughout.

I think about Joseph talking about his dreams, there in the beginning as a young teenager with his brothers and dad. I cannot help but think if he’d only kept his mouth shut, if he’d just not been so transparent with what his head was speaking then maybe he wouldn’t have ended up almost killed, in prison…but then he wouldn’t have been advisor to Pharaoh. Would the grain have been stockpiled? Would the famine have claimed the entire land?

So I look at Joseph’s story, the entire thing, and think that in the moment say year four of prison, his dreams were looking awfully foolish and mocking to him I am willing to bet. Or maybe he’s dwelling on the fact he was a man of faith and rebuffed the advances of a woman seducing him and wondering where God was in that mess. For thirteen years Joseph was a slave or a prisoner, a life that looked like a mess. He was in it every single day, living it, and choosing faith over and over.

So we come to the backside of his story, where he gets reunited with family. He gives out forgiveness because that is what his faith tells him to do. He sees that what his brothers meant as harm, God wove into beauty. A mess turned into a message. But we don’t see that when he’s thrown in the pit. We don’t see how God can use him in prison. Or even in the famine. No, it’s a continual working of God in His sovereignty to weave a story that is threaded through with faith. One side we see a mess of threads for years, but on the other a beautiful tapestry from beginning to end.

So I am drawn to Joseph’s story, his life, because He wrote it. He crafted it. He spoke into his story over and over. Just as He does mine. Though I struggle at times (okay, most of the time) to see it in the moment, I see how He works when I take stock and look back over my story, a faith journey of 17 years now…a little longer than Joseph was in bondage but living in faith. So often I want to choose bondage over faith because my story isn’t looking how I thought it should. I am sure Joseph’s wasn’t either, but God’s pen wasn’t finished with His story being written for Joseph. And He’s sure not done with mine either.

So I live the dream, in faith, knowing the Author of my story has a far greater ending that looks an awful lot like an eternal beginning.

Relationally Engaged

Today we kick off a new series at my church called “Healthy Relationships” and it has me thinking (shocking I know!).

We are relational beings. We need people. We need community.

Since God created Adam in the Garden, He established a want for relationship-with Him and with one another. How we do those relationships looks so vastly different across the globe, and even within our own home.

My relationship to my family is different than yours, just as your friendships look alot different than mine. For me, I have a wide group of friendships but only a handful of people I keep really close to me for what I affectionately call “real talk.” We keep each other accountable, we encourage, we vent, and we do life together and not all of them are friends with each other.

A growing weariness has spawned in me over relationships over the last several years. Most of it having to do with social media. This weariness comes from being a deep level friend to alot more people felt like it was required. To keep up with everyone I had to constantly be scanning my feeds, liking posts and looking at a thousand pictures of new babies or spouses.

What I have found though is that social media is good at connecting, but not good at sustaining. It’s a convenience to know that friends I made while building houses together in high school from other states are now pursuing adoption (yay for the Bells!) and gives me an avenue to extend encouragement and prayer. But it is no substitute for time spent in relationships in real time, connecting over dinner or on a couch as a friend struggles through a season of singleness.

What social media isn’t good at is sustaining healthy relationships, engaging in actual life with one another, as you don’t see many posting about their marital issues or work-related struggles. We get funny quips about the toddler not sleeping through the night, but we don’t get the parents struggling to parent or battling the day-in day-out pressures of raising a kid in this century.

Healthy relationships don’t have to be perfect, nor do they need to be glossed up for show. But I do believe the first step to a healthy relationship with your family, your friends, your boss or coworkers, your neighbors starts by being present in their lives, engaging beyond a “thumbs up” on a status or a Snapchat message.

Take a step away from the computer, phone, tablet and engage in a relationship today and this week. Ask someone to coffee or dinner. Grab lunch with a coworker. Seek out relationships you want to be a part of this week that are truly in real life and in need of your time. Community is vital for our lives, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. We aren’t meant to do it alone, much less from behind a screen.

It’s Time That We Start Again…

I sat on my back porch this afternoon, fully engulfed in a book I have found hard to engage the last couple of weeks. The sun was shining, birds were doing their chirp song and life in that moment was fully being lived. There’s even a growing sun burn on my legs as proof.

That’s when this song came flooding my thoughts as I gazed up into the very blue sky…

“Open your heart, it’s time that we start again.”

I could not turn off that refrain as I sat there. It just kept repeating. Those words, hit home and dug deep. They reinforced this same nudging I have carried around the last few days. Nudgings I kept trying to pass off as my own selfish thoughts, desires that I truly believed I had left nine weeks ago as passing fancies for a time.

Then there’s this morning…unassumingly in worship when God calls yet again to say He put that longing on my heart and wants to know if I will follow Him obediently into it. No guarantees of ease, giving up the comfort for work. But work that is in obedience to Him. That is a heart’s cry and answer all wrapped into one.

But I have to lay down that net. That net I have let ensnare and capture me with distractions and excuses. A net of my own making, to provide my very own way. A way I know He is with me on, but not one that I am following Him obediently in. One that I allow Him into the journey on, but asking to stay in the boat rather than step out courageously and confident in Him.

So here I am again, hitting publish on this site and back to sharing what God puts in my heart and at my fingertips to write. Unashamedly for Him, not for myself or for the numbers.

Want a glimpse at the sermon that caught in my throat today? Check out the audio later this week here.

And want to know the song I cannot get out of my head, check out Hawk Nelson’s Drops in the Ocean.