Tag Archives: community

Bravery in Community

We weren’t meant to struggle alone, and we weren’t meant to be brave alone. It’s taken me years to work that out in my head. It’s hard to be brave or to be vulnerable when your trust has been betrayed. I’ll be covering who to be brave with in more detail tomorrow, but let’s just say that time and God’s love have worked on my heart enough where I feel ready to be brave again.

Why do we need to be brave with each other and not just by ourselves? Number one–God calls us to. Hebrews 10:24-25 says this, “And let us consider how we may spur one another toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I used to read these verses and think they were talking about the early church, but I don’t anymore. They have become rooted deep in my heart and have a more personal meaning to me now.

The second reason is that if we tell someone what we’re thinking or feeling, we have a tendency to be more committed and follow through with whatever we’ve said. In other words, we’ve shown commitment to the people around us. Because of our bravery or our vulnerability, there will be people who will ask how it’s going or whether we’ve accomplished that thing we set out to do. These are things that will help us stay accountable and were what God meant, I think, when He created us to live in community with one another.

This is a hard thing for those of us in the western church. We have such an individualistic mind-set that we think we can’t or shouldn’t depend on anyone else. Church is a box to be checked off, and we think our relationship with God is something that is just between us and Him with no one else involved. I’ve learned that this is not true. It is so not true, but it takes all of us being brave and vulnerable to be the church God wants us to be in His world. To be God’s community to our hurting world.

Our news is filled with shootings, sickness, selfish people, and evil. Can we who are believers be brave enough to be different? Can we be Jesus to those who are hurting? Can we be brave in our communities of believers? I don’t know about you, but my heart wants to try. I’m praying we will all have the desire to have a heart like His!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

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It’s Okay to Mourn

Specifically, today’s topic deals with mourning dreams that have died. At least, that’s what the devotion topic is about. I want to expand it though. I want to say it’s okay to mourn the bad things that have happened in your life.

For those of us who are believers, I think this message has gotten lost in the translation. When we become Christians, we think we should be filled with the joy of Jesus and that nothing should ever be wrong again because we are filled with that joy. Don’t get me wrong. The fruits of the Spirit are a thing, :-), and our lives should be filled with them. Galatians 5:22-23 says this, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” These are all things God has given us.

At the same time, God realizes we still live in a broken world with its hurts and disappointments. He knows we will mourn, and that’s okay. In Biblical times, they called it lamenting. Here are some examples. Psalm 5:1 says, “Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.” Here is another one from Jeremiah 4:8. “So put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned from us.” Jeremiah 7:29 and 9:20 are also good examples. “Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the Lord has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath.” “Now, you women, hear the word of the Lord; open your ears to the words of his mouth. Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament.” Finally, the entire book of Job is a lament of everything that had happened to him.

So, with all of these examples in Scripture, one might think that the present-day church would have its act together regarding mourning. I’m sad to say it doesn’t, at least not in the western church. There is a prescribed time of mourning for someone who has died, and if there are personal problems to be mourned, well, that’s not really accepted inside the church. We are expected to be buttoned up, zipped up, and to only show the good parts of being a Christian. If we’re hurting or we’ve done something bad, we don’t think we should show it, and if we do, we feel ashamed. At least, I do. Your mileage may differ.

We even feel shame when we’re invited to share our burdens and our hurts. One of the speakers at my church on Sunday invited people to stand if they had been affected by a laundry list of hurts and burdens. The object was to show that we are all affected by hurts and burdens and that we need to support each other. Many people stood, but it was an uncomfortable standing, a standing that felt obligated instead of wanted.

There are a number of things that are good about living in the west, but the overemphasis on individuality to the exclusion of community is not one of them. We think we have to handle everything by ourselves, but that is the furthest thing from the truth and even further from God’s truth. God meant for us to have community. He meant for us to laugh together and to mourn together. He meant for us to encourage one another as we lean into God’s love and grace and for us to be the church to our hurting world. Because, the church is not just a building. It is a group of us who are living out God’s perfect grace to an imperfect world. May we all lean into that truth today as we love together, laugh together, and mourn together!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Never Alone–How Does that Work in Community?

At the beginning of my fourth week in writing these reactions to the devotions in 100 Days to Brave, I come to a topic that brings up an unresolved tension in me. It’s a question many of you may have. Let me explain. Scripture says we are never alone, and yes, I firmly believe that. In what has become known at the Great Commission among Protestant Christians, Jesus states this in the final verse of the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew 28:20, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The author of the devotional also defined one of God’s names in this entry. Immanuel. God with us. He is always with us through every trial and through every praise. He is with us when we have people in our lives and when we are living in a new town and know no one. It is such a comfort to know I am never alone.

But, what about the other part of my title? What about the community God wants us to form with other believers? It was important to the believers in the first century. Shouldn’t it be important to us? Then another voice asks, ‘No, no, we should be able to survive on our own in this world, right? God is always with us. We don’t need anyone else as we navigate this world.’ As you can see, an unresolved tension, at least in Western culture with its heavy promotion of individualism.

It goes back to what I termed as messy. Many years ago, my husband and I left the church because of a messy situation. I’ve spoken of this before. We got to the point where we couldn’t take it anymore, and we stepped out on our own. We said we were still Christians, and I believe we were. I also believe God was still with us. But, we didn’t talk to Him as much, and we definitely didn’t have fellowship with other believers or let ourselves be vulnerable with other believers. Why should we have? Isn’t that how we had gotten in trouble before?

God still spoke to us in the quiet places during our time away from the church though. He spoke to us through our decision to homeschool our sons, through the homeschoolers I met online especially one who would lead us to a place several years later where we would meet God again in a more personal way, and through our decision to move back to South Carolina to care for my mother-in-law. God spoke to us through it all–sometimes so softly that I didn’t realize it was Him, but still, He spoke.

I look back over what I just wrote and think that just having God as a constant companion and not having a community of other believers during this time seemed to work out pretty well for me. It did, to a point, but before I go any further, I do want to mention a realization I just had. No, we weren’t attending a brick and mortar church during this time, and no, we didn’t have a community of other believers around us through said brick and mortar church. But, I did have believers around me–through my homeschool website. It was not the same as having them in person, but I did have them.

Anyway, back to my point. Between our time away from the church, the moves we made, and the losses we experienced, I started to realize something was missing from my go-it-alone approach. Something I wasn’t even aware of until my older son asked his faithful question almost six years ago. And that was what brought us back to a brick and mortar church and to a bigger community of believers and friends than I possibly could have imagined. God had always been with me, of that I had no doubt, but, for the last almost six years, the practice of my faith has been fuller and richer than it ever was before, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

I spoke in my first paragraph of this post of the tension between going it alone with just God (since He is always with us) and having a community of believers to live life with. Even though I have had a richer and fuller experience of practicing my faith with a community over the past few years, I believe there will always be tension. Why? Because community is messy, and it can cause hurt and pain. We are human, and we are fallen, and sometimes, we don’t know how to navigate this hurt and pain. I find myself not wanting to be vulnerable in front of my community because I’m afraid of being hurt again, of letting my walls down. I will probably be working on this fear until the day I die, but it is worth it for me to keep trying because I know practicing my faith with God and my community in my corner is in God’s best plan for me. May we all want God’s best plan for us as we practice our faith!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

God Can Use Anything or Anyone

I came up with this title yesterday when I was writing in my journal and thought I’d see what I could do with it today. The elements of my post may seem disparate, but they are tied together by this title–God can use anything or anyone!

You might be aware of a movie which premiered last weekend–The Shack–based on the book of the same name. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did read the book last year. It was a good read, and I enjoyed it. Some Christians have problems with it because of how God is portrayed or because of theological questions. I don’t, and here’s why. I believe God can use anything as we make our journeys in this life. He created us with an imagination, with creative spirits, and with the ability to ask questions and to express doubts. We don’t know what He looks like, and we won’t know until we get to heaven. So, if this new movie gets people to ask about God and wonder about their relationship with Him, that’s a good thing. Therefore, we, as committed Christians, need to be willing to talk about God and show people what He says in His Scriptures about a relationship with Him. Christians need to be willing to show the love of Jesus to those who are asking questions and not give long speeches on why they think the movie is wrong. Many people already think of Christianity as the religion of “no” so we need to consider any questions non-believers have with an open heart and an open mind.

My thoughts about this movie started forming the idea for this blog post. I truly believe God can use anything. It doesn’t have to be overtly Christian. In fact, it might be better if it wasn’t. Why, you ask? Let me explain. Many of the Christian movies being made today are being made with the health and wealth gospel in mind. This says that everything in our lives will be just fine if we love God enough, pray hard enough, and do everything He tells us to. Life doesn’t work that way, and I think it’s a huge shame there are so many Christian leaders in the west who promote this way of thinking. Bad things are gonna happen. They’ve happened to me plenty so that’s how I know.

The way Christian movies portray it though,  lives are supposed to be fixed by the end of the movie. So, my life should be fixed, but it’s not. According to the people who ascribe to this philosophy, my life and faith should be a failure, but it’s not. Jesus is still in my heart even though its broken and even though my life is broken. Praise God!

I think we forget sometimes who God used in the Bible. They weren’t perfect, not by a long shot. People like Abraham, Moses, Rahab, David, Bathsheba, Job, Jonah, Peter, and Paul. I know there are many more. They all did things that were wrong, that are sins, but God used them anyway. I think I would rather be in this class of people than in a group of modern-day Christians who insist you put up shields and never admit to doubts, questions, or wrong-doing. I’m pretty sure Jesus would have been in the first group anyway. 🙂

As I conclude this post, my prayer for all of us is that we remember God wants us to build relationships with Him and with each other based on His love and grace and to remember that He can use anything or anyone to accomplish this!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Christian Lessons from the Ballpark

Yesterday began the sixth time I’ve taken this journey since we’ve moved here. The beginning of baseball season. This time means so much to me. I’ve watched both of my sons grow up on the ball field. It’s how we learned our way around our new city. It’s how our city became home and how we became receptive to finding a new church. A time of growth for our family. So, for the next few weeks, I will be writing about some of the lessons to be learned from baseball and how they relate to Christianity.

The first of these lessons relates to community. Baseball is a team sport more so, I think, than basketball or football. Sure, baseball can have its superstars. I’m thinking of such names as Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, or Hank Aaron. And yes, there are plenty of individual baseball players who have established records in the sport. To win games though, the whole team needs to work together. A pitcher can throw a no-hitter, but if his team doesn’t get at least one run, they won’t win the game. It can go the other way too. A team can have a superstar hitter, but if they don’t have good defense in the outfield, they won’t get enough runs to win the game either. In other words, a baseball team needs to work together to win the game.

It’s the same way with our churches and our faith. We need to work together as we live in community and share the love of Jesus with the world around us. Sure, we can go it alone. My family tried to do that for a number of years. But, we missed out on deep relationships with our Christian brothers and sisters, and we missed seeing God in action through a community.

There isn’t one person better than another in our churches either. Satan tries to put us at odds with one another by making us think so, but what counts with God is that we are all working together to solve our problems and to model what Jesus’ love looks like by loving one another in community.

This is demonstrated in Acts 2:42-47. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

These were people of faith who lived and worked together in community just like baseball players need to work together as a team. Modern day Christians also need to live and work together in community. This is a hard thing because our society has become so individually minded. Satan whispers that each of us should be recognized for our contributions and that we should always have our way.

Jesus directly contradicts this in Matthew 20:25-28. “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'”

Today, I pray that we who believe will all have servants’ hearts and that we will be able to live and work together in community!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Reconciling Our Relationships with People with Our Relationship with God

In my last post, I talked about how I had trouble finding value in God and in God alone. Refer to this link, http://wp.me/p4LK9Q-4N, if you missed the post. Today, I’m going to talk about how God still wants us to have relationships with people even though we are all messed up and broken.

This one is a real struggle for me. I could easily spend an hour or two or more praying, reading Scripture, singing worship songs out-loud (much to the chagrin of my kids), or just meditating on God’s goodness. Then, I would be happy and satisfied in how I was practicing my faith and wouldn’t feel like I needed to do anymore. Why should I worship with other people when all we do is mess each other up?

But, that’s not what God calls us to do. He calls us to find value in each other as well as finding value in Him and in Him alone. A dichotomy, right? A dichotomy that I have so much trouble understanding. And because I have trouble understanding it, I have trouble fulfilling it. I have trouble being vulnerable and real with people because of the fear of rejection. I have gone to the cross by myself more often than not because I knew I would not be rejected by God where I might be rejected by other people. Silly, right? But, fear is one of my big issues too. Fear of not being valued and supported by other people.

Once more though, there are examples in Scripture that state we are to worship in community. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Another example would be from Acts 2:46 – 47. “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

And finally, from Hebrews 10:25. “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit  of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Some of you would say that these examples are from the first century and not really relevant to today. I would disagree. God calls the people who are believers to worship in community and be vulnerable with each other in community. We don’t want to be vulnerable though. We want to come to church, put in our time, and leave.  We put up our shields and won’t let them down. I don’t want to be like that. I want to be in a community where I feel comfortable being vulnerable and where others feel comfortable being vulnerable with me.

One of my prayers in 2016 will be that I get to a point where I understand this dichotomy of finding my value in God and in God alone while deepening my relationships with other people.

God’s blessings on you today!

Four Years

It sneaked up on me this year. On this day four years ago, we drove into Birmingham. I didn’t imagine then when we drove down 280 at 7 PM that this place would become home and that I would meet people who would become family. People who are so dear to me that I can barely breathe when I think of how much they mean to me. We came here to take advantage of an employment opportunity for my husband and though he is no longer at that company, I am grateful we were able to move here for the opportunity.

Yes, this year has been a struggle. We have dealt with sad and happy occasions. First, the happiest one. My older son graduated from high school and started college. When we moved here, one of my utmost desires was that we could stay in one place for both of my children’s high school years. We’ve managed that for the older one. He has made lifelong friends and put down roots getting to know other people–teens and adults who love and care about him. I wasn’t able to stay in one place for my high school years, and I wanted to do that for both of my children.

We have also dealt with difficult situations. With unemployment. With sickness. With going from a household of four to a household of three. There have been many adjustments. Sometimes the rope I was holding onto would fray and almost fall apart, especially over the last couple of weeks.

But, I would not change a minute of it. These last four years have been precious to me for two reasons. The first is because of the church home, the family we have found. I have learned about truly being a part of a community and about being loved as part of that community. Yes, it is imperfect. It won’t be perfect until we all get to heaven. But, knowing even that kind of imperfect love has meant the world to me. The other reason, the most important reason is that God has come back to my heart and to my home, and I understand what grace truly means. So very grateful to my Lord and Savior!

God’s blessings on you all today!