community

 

There use to be a term for this, where you give yourself just five minutes to write on one topic. What was that called? Anyway, i did it. 

I quickly snatch green beans off of the vine just as a chicken begins to announce the arrival of her egg. "Thank you, Mrs. Vader! Thanks for the egg!" I holler back. I know which one it is by the sound of her birthing crows. I need to hurry because I found too many things to pick in the garden and I know my potatoes are starting to burn.

I run back up to the house with my apron pockets full of fresh veggies and I feel blessed. The budget is tight and this garden just keeps giving. 

I realize that at this very moment my friends are also preparing food. I get a photo text of a yet-to-be-baked apple pie and an update on some meatballs and rolls. We don't know who else might come or what they might bring, but there will be coffee and laughter and open Bibles, and anyone is welcome.

The church (little "c" as in my local church not the greater Church) calls it Community Group. I call them my ride-or-die. I don't exactly fit in with the church, although I know that I thrive wonderfully within the Church- a representation of people groups from all over the world- a diverse mashup of culture and language. 

Do you know that there are gonna be people in heaven who spent their lifetime naked in a jungle?! Oh my gosh, I just had that thought! Will they be naked in heaven? Will we care?! 

Anyway.

My ride-or-die. The ones I can cry in front of and say ugly things and know I won't be judged. The ones that check up on me in the middle of the week to remind me to breathe. They accept me just as I am and I love them just the way they are. 

I am so rough around the edges that most days I cannot even believe that Jesus loves me, and this group of people is a tangible expression of that. It's a small group, like literally small. 

I did not pick them, my community. I don't even know if they would say that they picked me! (Probably not!) You just do life and look up and find out who is next to you while you are doing that. Those are your people. Don't be too picky about it either. The most unlikely of people make great... people. 

when life is painful, part 2

I owe you an apology. In this space I try to be raw and unveiled, but also inspiring and hopeful. I had to end yesterday’s post abruptly because of a little one’s needs, and I feel like I left everyone dangling in hopeless pain. Let’s finish the story.

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (Jesus- John 16:32-33)

There you have it. Jesus promises that life is going to be difficult. Hard. Disturbing. Any preacher who tries to sell an abundant life full of riches and comfort is not following the Jesus that walked long miles, dealt with extreme hatred from his own people, forgave freely, and died a painful death.

So let’s all just give up and die, right? But, wait! Jesus has overcome the world. I don’t have to. Whew. Thank you, Jesus.

Rend Collective has a new album out called The Art of Celebration and you need to go buy it as son as you’re done here.

The first song, Joy, says this:

The pain will not define us

Joy will reignite us

You’re the song of our hearts

The dark is just a canvas for your grace and brightness

You’re the song of our hearts!

In the shadows

In the sorrows

In the desert

When the pain hits

You are constant

Ever present

You’re the song of my heart!

You can hear the whole song here.

People, if you ain’t got Jesus I hope you get him soon, because this life is dang hard and unless you have some super powers, you can’t save yourself from it. Being good doesn’t help avoid the pain or save us from it. Thinking happy thoughts is only temporary. Jesus promises life beyond this temporary world and he is the one constant never failing hope.

Jesus is the joy in the pain. Trusting God means that I know that while life is painful, he’s working it out.

My sister-in-law wrote a book. You should also go get it now. It’s called Breaking Old Rhythms: Answering the Call of a Creative God

Oh my heck, you will laugh. You will cry. You will reminisce about Kris Kross and maybe even want to get out your old Michael Jackson albums. I have read and reread it because it’s encouraging. Today I picked it up and read the chapter called The Rhythm of Fighting. She’s just finished describing a period of her life that was particularly painful.

In some cases the change in our rhythm that comes with the beat down breaks us. We’re left puzzled, stuck and sometimes without motivation to begin again. But you don’t get to quit because it’s tough, uncomfortable, or inconvenient. There are some times in life when you need to fight to the finish. Each time you do prepares you for the next time you feel like life is closing in on you and teaches you to trust the One who knows all things. The beat down is, sometimes, a means to breaking rhythm.

Breaking rhythm is about change, about dealing with delay, pause, surprise and all of the moments when life doesn’t unfold the way we want or expect. God always knows and always has a plan. A friend of mine use to pray, “Thank you, God, that nothing occurs to you.”

As I drove Charis, quickly and gently, to the emergency room, having left all my other children at home while their Daddy quickly drove over, Charis was freaking out in the seat next to me. And rightly so. So I prayed out loud and tried not to cry, ” God, you knew that Charis was going to break her arm today. You go before us and behind us, and you knew we would go to this hospital at this time and you have put those doctors there today and whatever is going to happen, we trust You.”

My life rhythms have been MESSED UP, y’all. I can’t tell you everything. (I swear I’m not being vague for the sake of drama.) I went to Austin for IF, I read Jesus Feminist and Freefall to Fly, after weeks of asking God to help me surrender so that I could be free.

And that great Deejay in the Sky responded by scratchin my records all up.

No. He scratched them all up and changed the direction and played some hits backwards and now I think He has decided to skip to a new album completely. But He always makes beautiful music, so I’m okay with it.

I hope all of these things inspire you to be hopeful too. I know that everyone has pain. Not everyone is as transparent about it, but we’ve all got it. Everyone is fighting a battle, but Jesus has conquered the world.

So, take heart.

IF we can be free

This is my attempt to regurgitate what I learned at the IF: Gathering a couple weeks ago. I quoted directly when I could, but most of these truths came from the mouths of the likes of Ann Voskamp, Jen Hatmaker, Jennie Allen, Shellie Giglio, etc. I see the same movement, the same call being put out there in many circles. Which was, in fact, the goal of the IF:Gathering- to pull in all people from all denominations and get real.

Can we get real with one another? It feels a bit like asking y’all to get naked with me. But please do keep your clothes on. 

Can I ask you something?

Are you free?

What does that even mean?

Do you cost anything? Does your life cost something?

Or

Are you available? Not tied up?

Or

Are you not enslaved?

Close your eyes and imagine, what does your free self look like? What does a free life look like? If God is real, then what? What does that mean in your life, in my life?

Contrast that with your life now. Really, stop and think about it.

Are you free? Or are you weighted down, in bondage, your life isn’t costing anything, tied up, unavailable, enslaved.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galations 5:1

It’s possible to be delivered, and not free. It’s possible to continually go back to what previously enslaved us.

It’s possible to continue sticking our feet back in the mire that God pulled us from. It’s possible to shackle ourselves back up. After all, didn’t the Israelites beg to go back into captivity? We do the same.

I want to be free. Weightless, aware of what my life costs- a payment I did not have to make, available, untied, unbound.

Christine Cain said, “If hurt people hurt people, free people free people.” I couldn’t help but think about the movie, The Matrix. And I see that in the church. Like fish that don’t know we are wet, we are walking around bound because we are still.not.free. We don’t live like we’re free. We get stuck, tied down by the same sins continually, when the victory has been won. We trifle through silly debates, we defend the gospel like its a sweet little kitten and we are bound in fear like we don’t know that we belong to an indestructible kingdom. We don’t live like we believe God is real, that heaven is real.

“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” Hebrew 12:12-13

Rebekah Lyons pointed out that we struggle to be free because we struggle with healing, and we struggle with healing because we struggle with confession.

On this path to freedom in Christ, what do you need to confess? What strongholds in your life need to be brought into submission to Christ Jesus? (Is it an addiction? Is it pure unadulterated selfishness? Is it loving this world more than you love Him? Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it refusal to fully surrender? Is it not believing the truth of who you are in Christ? Is it unbelief? What is holding you back from peace with God? From living in total joy and peace through Him, despite your circumstances? )

Ps 84 describes the life of those who are free, who have peace with God:

- they are dwelling in the presence of God, and enjoying the heck out of it. (V 1-2)

- they are being useful and doing their work in His presence. And Mammas, how precious is verse three? “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.” Build your nest in His presence. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, we are all free to be in His presence.

- their strength is in God (v5)

- they go through dry places (there is no promise of an easy life here), and they make it a place of fresh springs (v6) {How do they do that? I want to know!}

- they are doorkeepers to God’s presence (v 10)

What does your life invite people to? Are you a free person freeing people?

Are you broken by sin or are you being broken and poured out for others? Do you want to be free? Are you ready to love God and be loved by God? Like really, for real? In a way that liberates you to freely love and serve others. Is this world your home? Is it all you’ve got? Then what?

I don’t have all the answers. But I have tasted and seen. I know there is freedom to be had. I know that overcoming is a possibility.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

I know that this overcoming is possible, because it is not by my hand or through anything I can do.

Come with me on this journey?

resources

I’m a pretty resourceful person. Half the time, I can’t answer the question of “What’s for dinner?” because I don’t know what to call what I just threw together. I just call it “dinner”. (And most of the time it tastes pretty good, too.)

I haven’t blogged much lately because I am out.of.resources. Not so much the food resources, as my waste line would indicate, but most of the others. And yet God continues to squeeze and press more out of me.

You might say our family is in transition. That phase right before new birth, when you want to vomit and you are exhausted and really ready to be done and get your prize already. It’s a wonderful place to be, right there at the mercy of God. You are working hard, yet you have a feeling of excitement and expectation. Sometimes you don’t know what is about to come out of you, because you stubbornly chose not to find out the gender of your baby. Although, I would almost compare our current situation to one of those moms on “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant”. One day you are just minding your own business, and BAM! labor pains. Is this a kidney stone? Is my appendix bursting?? Oooohhh…. I’m in labor.

So there we were just muddling through survival with a newborn, tired, half awake, majorly caffeinated. And it’s almost like God sort of crept up our blind side and BAM! Labor Pains. You could say this “child” was not planed.

Are you wondering what in the heck I am talking about?

Yeah. Me too.

Anyway, church today was about the feeding of the 5,000. That throng of people pressed in hard and demanded to be fed. The disciples had no resources. Jesus looked at them and said, “YOU feed them.” (Charis laughed out loud at this point in the story, which is pretty much my reaction when Jesus tells me to reach deep into my own emptiness to give.) And of course Jesus generously provided the resources to feed the crowd. And what was left over? 12 basket fulls. And how many disciples were there? 12.

Howa bout that. So, the general message was: Trust Jesus, Give all you’ve got, He will provide and even some grace left over for you too. And when our pastor asked if we had people in our lives that were hurting or had deep needs, I could honestly say, “YES!” And really, once we remove our heads from our rear ends, we should ALL be able to answer that question with a resounding “YES!”

I already wrote about how we tried to start a small group in our area from scratch. And well… it didn’t work out. We never found other families interested in a family-integrated small group. So we tossed around ideas…how do we find community? How do we find a place to serve?

Well. How about right where we are?

Brent came up with the idea to host a Dave Ramsey course in our home for our neighbors. (We are only acquainted with two of the households in our neighborhood. And if I’m being perfectly honest, there are a couple that I didn’t really wish to be acquainted with at all. Okay. Not a couple. A bunch. I suck.) Brent’s heart is so bent towards shepherding others. He does not look down on other people. Me? I mostly want to be comfortable and do my own thing. (God’s working on that, trust me.) But I knew enough to be supportive. So we baked cookies and Brent and the big kids took them door to door while I kept the little people at home. Each and every household got cookies and an invitation to come over for some good ol’ Dave Ramsey stuff (including a free book! He bought books for them all!). That Friday night we waited to see who would show up.

You know who showed up?

One. little. old. lady. And I don’t think she cared anything at all about finances.

But she sure was lonely.

The next week Brent and the big kids went around again and invited the whole neighborhood over.And while they were out, they made it a point to stop by that old lady’s house and give her some company.

You know who showed up?

One. single. mamma. And boy did she need some encouragement.

The next week I was out of town for a funeral, but Brent went around again and invited the whole neighborhood. This time making it a point to stop and chat with both the single mom who needed encouragement and the little old lonely lady.

And…Just one guy showed up. And that’s exactly how God planned it to be.

Last week no one showed up. But guess what?

When they were going door to door, Brent found out that just a few houses down there was a family with the wife on bed rest because she is pregnant with triplets.

T.R.I.P.L.E.T.S.

If there is one thing we know how to do,it’s taking care of new mammas and new babies.

So, I was making dinner and my casserole just wouldn’t fit in my dish. I had just enough to put in another dish.  The next afternoon Brent nudged my poor tired aching body down the street to that family with that casserole.

Y’all. It was just squash casserole. Poor man’s food, you know?Not EVER what I would intentionally take to share.

“They probably don’t even like squash.” I said.

“Maybe they already have dinner planned.” I excused.

“I really don’t have time. I need to get in there and cook dinner for my family. I’m already running behind.”

See what I mean about the head in the rear?

So I grabbed the baby sling and another kid and we trotted down the street.

It was awkward.

These people did not know me and here I was showing up with food unannounced. And my hair looked stupid because I had just taken a quick shower and not fixed it. And I probably said something weird like “well, we just love pregnant women!” (Seriously? That’s the best I could come up with?) The dude was totally taken aback. And to this day I still have no idea how the Lord chose to use my silly little casserole to bless them. I mean, hopefully it was a blessing. 

But it’s not my resources that will minister to hungry souls. It’s Jesus’s. And I can only be the earthen vessel he uses to do it with.

Even though our attempts at the whole Dave Ramsey thing seem like a huge failure, Brent and I both knew in our hearts that something bigger was happening. By His grace, we are being changed. And the Lord brought along people with such big needs. And we never would have known.

It doesn’t have to be something huge and grand. It might be something as simple as getting out and meeting the neighbors. Finding out that there are people right around you that are broken and hurting and need Jesus’s love.

And this could be the beginning of something more. Dare I say… big?

I do tend to have big babies.