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.

I have a black thumb. Not from banging it on something or in a door. No, this is more of a metaphorical black thumb. Anything that is in a pot or needs planting, I tend to kill. I can keep them alive for about three good months, then whoosh something happens and everything dies.

Even the simplest of veggies to grow in an urban environment, I have killed.

This spring I was determined that I would grow something, giving it time and attention. So after several long months I have one big ol dead tomato plant and these beauties.

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Oh they are small, but when you urban garden you get smaller plants from a smaller pot. I had just picked these the night before I read this passage in Mark.

“The kingdom of God is like this,” He said. “A man scatters seed on the ground;  he sleeps and rises—night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows—he doesn’t know how.  The soil produces a crop by itself—first the blade, then the head, and then the ripe grain on the head. But as soon as the crop is ready, he sends for the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29 (HCSB)

As we enter in to a new season of school starting, fall coming in and many harvests coming to bear out their final fruits, I cannot help but look at the life of the church. It’s a season of growing, of planting seeds, of doing the work of the sewing even in this time. We are working night and day with the seeds, unsure of whether something will sprout…

But then months later someone understands a passage, someone hears a Word of Truth and it springs up for their life specifically. They are introduced to Christ in a way they would never have done had we not taken time to seed. To nurture and place time and effort into caring for the ground it was planted in.

Then again we may not see the sprouting, it may not be ours to pull fruit from the vine they produce. But others will see the seed in which is planted today, in the next week or the next month. But we plant anyways. We water regardless of what we will or won’t see. We do it all as a means of the kingdom work we have been called to do. We don’t kill the seed, or choose to hold it only within ourselves. That’s not what seeds were meant to do, and not what we are used for.

So in this new season of fresh perspectives, rest and investing in groups may we support and nourish the work of seed-planting. May we diligently work towards gardens planted across the community that ignite feasting on His Truth. I think that’s a garden I could be fruitfully planted and working in.

 

 

 

A Humble Start

My youngest nephew started Kindergarten last week, at the same elementary his older brother went to until this year. The older one started middle school last week as well. It was quite a different experience for them both. The older one is the one forging a new trail of unknowns and expectations, of nerves and excitement. The younger one, well he’s been there before. He’s gone to the school for pickup, for parties, for meetings and the like. He mosied on down the hallway like he owned the joint, as my sister tells me, full of confidence.

The start of a semester and a new academic year remind me of that…as I see newness and nerves on the first year students while the upperclassmen carry the swagger of “been here, done that, got the t-shirt.” Often I tend to carry myself that same way into situations or experiences, where I don’t check my ego and allow it to run the situation instead of humbling myself. While confidence in yourself is not a bad thing, I think we become deceived by it. Allowing it to drive our motives and turn into selfishness and the inability to serve in humility.

Today is a good day to remind ourselves that we don’t have it all figured out. While we may have been here before, we don’t have to approach it the same way, with the same ego. Being in this same situation again allows us to gain a new perspective on the position, the university, the situation or the person. Look afresh at the opportunities around you to see where you can respond differently, where you can step back and allow others to lead, and most importantly, where you can allow God to shine through you.

After all, we are small in comparison to this great big world. In our smallness we can exact big change, big ideas and big goals with big hearts. However when we carry big intentions and big egos, we find much ado about nothing comes of it.

“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,”-          1 Peter 5:5,6 (NKJV)

Excuse me, God.

I don’t feel well.

I have a busy schedule.

My knee has been hurting.

It’s too hot.

What do these things sound like to you? Those are excuses for me. Ones I have uttered when I really just didn’t want to do something. When I didn’t feel compelled or truly wanted to do something.

It’s that way in life all the time. When we are looking for an excuse, any excuse will do. It will fit the situation so we can stay right where we are, in the comfort of our own self. I know I am guilty of it. I will find any excuse not to get up and run in the morning before work, including being tired from the previous day of not working out as well. I will find that my schedule is far too busy to help out another group or area sometimes, simply because I don’t want to do it.

Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do? The answer is yes–all the time! It must be that way, for God’s glory and kingdom. If we function according to our ability alone, we get the glory; if we function according to the power of the Spirit within us, God gets the glory. He wants to reveal Himself to a watching world,” says Henry Blackaby.

God’s in the business of using the people He calls. Equipping them for the work they are to do, for what situation they find themselves in with His guidance. If you look at Moses for a second, you’ll see from this side of the story of his life God used him in miraculous ways. But when he first began, there at the burning bush, he kept pointing to excuse after excuse. I know I have thought if I give Him enough excuses He will grow tired of me and ask someone else.

Isn’t the awesome realization that He has chosen you for this particular thing such a great reminder? It doesn’t depend on us to do. It’s on Him to do through us. That He foreknew this would happen at His appointed time. He knew that the circumstances would be in His perfect timing and not any other moment.

Lately I have been reminding myself of that. In the midst of some really trying, exhausting times recently I have had to stop and remember that the Sovereign God knew. He purposed the people who are in it to complete the task He set out before them. He positioned them in such a way to bring about His glory in the midst. To me, that’s pointing it all back to Him. So that none of us get the glory as we shouldn’t. That even in the mundane and in the task, we can be laboring for His glory to shine and not our own.

My prayer is that we would focus on the God who called Moses, Noah and Ruth to work in our lives, in each moment He has called us to in life. That we would walk with Him, leaning into and on Him in every moment, knowing it is not us but Him.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NKJV)

Leading in Prayer.

As a believer, I have to admit something to y’all. This is a safe place to do that…so bear with me as I share this today.

I don’t pray as I should. Yesterday I talked about how I verbally vomit on God. But that often comes from days, weeks, and maybe even a month of not really praying as I should. Lately I have been focusing on growing in my prayer life more. Sure, there are plenty of books but I believe the best way to grow in prayer is to do it. And do it again, and again.

My grandfather, from what I recall as he passed away when I was a kid, would pray these beautiful prayers every year as the entire family gathered at Christmas. One year a cousin audio taped it so that we could have it should something happen to him. Thankfully we have that since the following year he passed just before Christmas day. When I think about prayer, I often think about his….and some other influential spiritual powerhouses in my life.

My prayer life though doesn’t mimic any of theirs as of late. As I grow in faith I must also work to grow my prayer life. Something I kept thinking on over the last few days is how I pray for my leaders, the people in my life who lead me. So I wanted to pose that question to you all as well today.

Do you pray for your leaders? Your boss, your CEO, your supervisor? Do you pray for the people who lead your business, your company, your work?

I have to say for so long I neglected that responsibility. And it is a responsibility we carry as believers in the world, to pray for those we report to and who lead us. No matter the issues we are facing at work, our greatest opportunity is be the intercessor for those who lead. As this blog began to form, I started to chase the rabbit of this further and ask, “Who else should I be praying for daily?” I started to think on the people within job who need prayer, without me knowing what is going on. (Because let’s be honest, we like to wield prayer as gossip too much in the church these days.)

Who in your job needs you to stop and pray for them today? Do you need to pray for yourself as well in your work? Today when it gets overwhelming, when it seems like you just cannot take one more thing, remember the opportunity you have to pray. To talk to God and let Him know. While He may know it all already, prayer allows us to recognize what we may not have realized before about ourselves and about our God.

 

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 5:16 (NIV)

Leading with a No.

Recently I have been thinking alot on leadership, and what leaving a legacy means. (Thanks to David Landrith for that six week series by the way!) There’s been talk of leadership changing, leadership growing, the direction of leadership…and ultimately what my leadership leaves behind. David has reiterated over the last six weeks that the life we are leading now is our very own funeral sermon, our obituary.

If you are like me, I hadn’t really given that much thought. At 32 I don’t really contemplate death and what my funeral will be like. (In my early twenties I did dwell on that far too much…and the journals from that time detail what I wanted should I pass) I have been more conscience of what my life is saying about me though over the last year, whether I realized it or not. For a time it said I was too wrapped up in a relationship to notice red flags about the situation. It said I was too focused on a person instead of on God. It read like a anthem that busy was the way life should be led.

Photo courtesy of nursinguniforms.net
Photo courtesy of nursinguniforms.net

There were things I said no to this last year that I can be proud of. I took a volunteer position that ultimately was not in line with what I felt God was doing in my life. I respectfully stepped down, with no guilt, no shame, and no regret. It is a great opportunity, but not for my legacy. I struggled with the decision to change churches. Not for someone, but for my own spiritual growth and development. I had felt the call to this church, even before I moved to Nashville (long and awesome story later…). I don’t regret leaving CP because I know it is doing amazing things for the kingdom, but it wasn’t where I was called at this time in my life. While it was difficult to step away from the college ministry there, I know God’s got something even grander in store in my journey.

So often these days we feel called to say yes to everything, then complain when we are worn out, overbooked, and stressed. I control my schedule for the most part and I allow in what I feel I am passionate and called to do. But the bragging of busy is overrated and inexcusable in everyone’s life.

In saying no, it doesn’t make me a lesser person or weaker leader. In giving a no, I am fervently deepening the yeses I say. That is the most powerful thing as a person, as a believer I have, is the power of a yes. The yes to God in my life, the yes to where He is leading, and the yes of obedience. Those are the yeses I value. Sometimes does it hurt to say no? Absolutely. Is there a struggle to decide? Most definitely. But when I say no, even to something incredibly good, I make space to say yes to the audaciously great.

Knowing that, I can live with a few more “no”s in my life.

High Impact

Live out who you were designed to be.

Too often I live out what the fears, the doubts, and the inadequacies tell me to be. I live out what the lies would have me to believe about myself. When I live this way, I live out in such a small insignificant way that impacts no one.

Until two weeks ago.

That Friday changed things for me. Friday was an entire hinge moment spanning 24 hours. It came with me missing an opportunity that God had been working on my heart about for months. I’d committed myself to it, then circumstances shifted and I wasn’t able to fulfill something I had been planning to be a part of.

Then an email came. This email blew the hinges off a rather heavy door I’d used to compartmentalize alot of my life into for the last while. I was humbled in many ways by this email. Why you may ask? Because it came from a student that in reality I did not feel I had much interaction with. This individual told me how much I had impacted them over the last few months. I was a complete mess upon reading the email, internalizing the knowledge of how my seemingly small time commitment to this student had such an impact on them above others that they had chosen me to say these words to via email.

Then I started to reflect on why this was throwing me for a loop (still kind of is as I stop to reflect)…why did this student being honest with me about my work with them unhinge me? Over the last few weeks I have attempted intentional living. Living out who God designed me to be, in all facets of my life. Living out a life that emptied me daily of who I am and filled me instead with Who God desires me to be, the reflection of His Son. There are days I utterly fail at this, and am so filled with my own self that my stubbornness won’t allow God to empty me. But I have noticed the heart change in me, and no longer just behavior management that had been going on for a while. It’s been a transformation of the heart and manifestations of Him in me.

I would truly rather fail at living out who God designed me to be and something that matters, than succeed at a false self and things that do not matter. I would rather impact one, because it’s not about quantity it’s about quality.