Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Community’ Category

I Can Stay Really Late But I Can’t Spend The Night

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something,when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Galatians 6:2-5)

Bear one another’s burdens… for each will have to bear his own load? Paul seems to be contradicting himself in this passage, but, John Stott explains, “The Greek word in verse 2 means weight or heavy load, while the Greek in verse 5 is a common term for a person’s pack. So there is no contradiction. We are to bear one another’s burdens, which are too heavy for each of us to bear alone; but we cannot share the burden of our responsibility to God.”

Sometimes I have trouble getting the two straight, do you?

Bear One Another’s Burden

Often, I want to skip the heavy burdens that take time, patience and endurance and throw a couple of solutions, scriptures or meals in the direction of friends or family. Bearing a burden is usually not that quick, and it is with little reward, glamour and attention.  Stott even refers to burden-bearing as “mundane” and “unspectacular ministry.” Tending to physical needs is important, but more times than not, we will be walking alongside those with heavy burdens of the heart and mind. Are you tired just from reading these words? Think you don’t have what it takes? You do. Burden-carrier is the mark of a believer. God gives the strength to do what he’s called us to. The good news is you have someone to carry your load, too; we must be humble enough to let others share our burden.

For Each Will Have To Bear His Own Load

As I’m about to write this, I’m realizing how embarrassing it is to say:  When my friend’s/family’s burdens are great, I do not pray near as hard as when they are in sin. But, boy, when they are in sin, I pray HARD for conviction!!! Oh, God, please break their hearts! Please open their eyes! Please work conviction! Please don’t let them stay on this path!…Oh, and, help my friend who’s having a hard time. 

I want to throw the solutions, scripture and meal at the burden, but I am more than willing to work conviction, forgiveness, healing and identity into hearts and bitterness, lies, bondage and pain out of hearts.

The problem with this is two things:

 it is not my job — Each will have to bear his own load; we cannot share the burden of our responsibility to God.  

nor am I capable — God is the changer of hearts. Jesus is the lover of souls. It is his kindness that leads to repentance. God’s grace is greater than all sin. Christ’s blood is sufficient for the vilest sinner. I am [wo]man. He is God. I am mother. He is God.

God is gracious in his provision of others. He has allowed us to take a great part in walking with one another so we are not alone, but it is good to recognize the difference between heavy load and a person’s pack. God is gracious to continually work in our hearts. When we know our responsibility with another person’s pack, we are trusting the Holy Spirit to work in hearts. We can drive each other home. We may even be able to stay really late, but we can’t spend the night.

What burdens of your own do you need to share with others?

Whose burdens can you help carry today?

Southerners in Scripture

Chances are, you have offended a Southerner by saying something to the tune of

You can’t treat people that way…

You shouldn’t talk to your husband/wife like that…

You can’t run in here…

And, the defensive response you received may have sounded something like

I wasn’t…

I didn’t…

It wasn’t me

As Southerners, we often forget that “you” is both singular and plural because in our dialect, we have traded plural “you” for

Ya’ll and Y’all.  We can’t even agree on its contracted form!

My 10-year-old is sensitive to this cultural norm.  She recently expressed she uses “y’all” so as not to offend and make her friends think she is pinpointing one of them in conversation.  Such a polite, Southern girl!

Unfortunately, we often operate by the same standards in The Church.  Our teaching pastor, Greg Gibson, recently pointed out the plurality of you in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you [y’all] are the branches.”  It’s not that Christ is the vine, and I am the branch.  We are the branches.  This is a life to be lived in community.

In recent weeks, I have been able to apply this same principle to another verse I often consume for myself —  2 Timothy 1:7 “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  Spirit is my OneWord focus for the year, but the “us” in this scripture came to life in my surrounding community last week.

Four weeks ago, I had a baseline mammogram, and two weeks ago, I received a call letting me know they found a dense spot that was benign-appearing.  Last week, I had a follow-up ultrasound to confirm the mass was benign, and it was.

The process was relatively quick, and I could have kept it close to the chest.  Haha!  But, much would have been lost if the unfolding events terminated on my family and me.  Because we shared our lives with those in our lives, we were able to hear

words that in other respects would not have been heard

wisdom that would have otherwise been missed

truth that would have been left unspoken

prayers that would have been left unsaid

scripture that would have been left unsent

compassion that would have been left unshown

This walk is not just about us.  When we recoil in isolation, we not only miss the opportunities of being served, but we also take away the opportunities of allowing our brothers and sisters in Christ to serve.  We remove the possibility for their faith to increase through our situation and experience true community themselves.

I was allowed to see that my OneWord does not fall solely on me:  For the Lord has not given Us a Spirit of Fear — He has given Y’all a Spirit of Power and of Love and of Self-Control.

“Good relationships are gonna cost you and hurt you; but not as much as alienation and isolation.”  Scotty Smith

Obedience is Expansive

Most of us can think of a time we have been affected by someone’s disobedience.

This season, I have been reminded of the beauty of obedience.

When our brothers and sisters in Christ are obedient to his call, it doesn’t just affect them.  

It affects all of us.

Our friends, The Goforths, stepped out in obedience, moving into an area of discomfort, for them and their kids.  Because they live among need, they have been able to intercede on their neighbors’ behalf and express to our church body where we can help.

Our joy, because of their obedience, is being able to serve the people they love.  And, their joy, comes in seeing provision for their neighbors.

When I think of times I have chosen disobedience, I recall the grief, anger and sadness I brought to others. My decisions didn’t just burden me.  They were far-reaching.  They will continue to be when I choose disobedience in the future.

Now, I look at my friends and see joy, encouragement, opportunity, vision, challenge and laughter.

Obedience is expansive.  

Their decision didn’t just fall on them.

It was made for all of us.

And, we’re grateful.

 

Can you think of someone whose obedience you have benefited from?

In A Bad Place With A Good Friend

I called a friend this week and started the conversation this way:  If I were you, and this were me calling, I wouldn’t have answered the phone!

I am in a bad place, and I have a good friend.  

I’ve been in this bad spot before where life seems hard and overwhelming.  My words are negative, and my feelings are wounded.  I’m paranoid.  Spiritually, I’m on a roller-coaster, wrestling with God.  I feel it would be better to stay home because the ugliness of my life will just rub off on everyone.  The more I try to hold it in, the more it breaks through.  Struggling is where I am, and it can’t be wrapped with a pretty Christian bow that most would like to see.

What makes my friend good is her love for me and my struggle.  She’s not trying to make it right.  My rants do not frighten her or change her opinion of me.  She’s fine with knowing me, the one who is overwhelmed, negative, wounded.  It’s humbling to have a friend see the ugliness of your life and not walk away.

My friend and I were discussing isolation and the hows and whys of our withdrawing, and she pointed out something that has really caught my attention:

Sometimes we isolate ourselves, but sometimes, we push others into isolation.  When Christians are in a “bad place,” we don’t always want to deal with them, so we push them away.  We push them to isolation to work through their own “too hard, too negative, too draining” to deal with issues.

Transparency is what we ask for in the Church, but we have to decide if that’s what we really want.  Do you really want to know someone, and are you prepared to love them no matter what comes out?  We must be more careful in asking those around us to be transparent.  If not handled responsibly, we risk shutting them down, sending them into isolation.

Walking alongside someone in a bad place is what we have to be about — Seeing them through a tough time and not rejecting them just because their bad time doesn’t make us feel good.  I’m pretty sure I’m one step higher out of the pit because a good friend answered her phone in my bad place.

Isolation: Enemy of the Believer

Isolation is an enemy of the believer.  We were meant to be in fellowship with one another, so when we’re not, our lives are out of balance.  If you’re like me, isolation is one of those things that slips up on you — like realizing you’re out of shape after 6 months of not exercising.

I tend to isolate myself.  It’s a weakness.  Because it’s a weakness, I don’t always know I’m doing it, and because it’s a weakness, I’m pretty good at covering it up.

I’ve tried to pinpoint the reasons I isolate myself, and I’ve realized a couple.  One is because I don’t mind being alone.  I need my alone time, and when life is overwhelming, I need my space.  I don’t really see any harm in that.  But the other is far more harmful; I withdraw when someone has hurt me.  When I’ve been hurt, I isolate myself, and I will let one person keep me from hundreds.  Unfortunately, 6 months can pass before I recognize what I’m doing.

Are you isolated?  What causes you to withdraw?  Are you sitting in your home alone, at your desk, in the coffee shop assuming things in your mind that may not be true?

The gospel is the truth that opens our eyes, and other believers must have a door into our lives to listen and speak that truth.  Our isolation has to be shattered.  If we continue to live our lives withdrawn, believing lies, we will sit stagnant, living as orphans without hope, and that is not who we are.

But, if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. 1 John 1:7

The Tools To Open Up

I do not claim to be a decorator.  I do not claim to be full of ideas when it comes to DIY projects.  But, there is one thing, Chris and I have done in our home in the past year that I want to share just in case it sparks an idea in your home.  It has changed the way we live and the way we do community, which was the majority of the goal.

Look beyond my girls in this picture to the wall behind them.  You can see there is just a doorway and a wall with a desk.  There is a hallway to the left where people enter our house through the garage.  (I’m standing in the kitchen taking the picture).  Used to, when people came in our home, they “bottle-necked” in the spot where the girls are standing.  Everyone wants to be in the kitchen.

Earlier this year, we decided to get rid of this wall, leaving about a 7 1/2 foot opening.  We did it all for around $240!  We paid our HVAC company around $180 to move a return, and my dad and Chris cut out the wall themselves.  The materials were about $60.  Our friend Cody, helped fix the tile, (the same one who helped in our 1/2 bath).

 

 

These second two pictures were taken from the other side of the wall looking into the kitchen.

This is the result…

 

And, this is what it looks like in use…

on a regular day…                                                                       and a small group day…

 

Everyone was still crammed in the kitchen, but trust me, there was really good Mexican food in there!

Is there a wall you can cut out in your house?  Wait!  Let’s start over before your spouse sends me hate mail. Is there something you can do in your home to “open up?”  Maybe you need to open up a wall.  Maybe you need to open up your life.  Maybe you could just start by opening your front door. Sometimes fostering community starts by restructuring our homes physically, and sometimes it starts emotionally.  We all have to start in different places, but with Christ living in us, we have all the tools we need to start.

Run for The Body

I have a friend who is always running.  She literally runs.  She is very fit.  But, she emotionally runs as well. She tucks her head low and swerves through crowds, avoiding deep conversation, smiling and waving, but pretending her life is always hurried.

I asked her one day what she was running from.  I asked if she had been hurt by someone.  She nodded and shared that women have hurt her many times over the years, possibly because of jealousy.  Sometimes, when we’ve been hurt, we put the face of that person/people on everyone we see.  

Have you been betrayed?

Has someone broken your confidence?

Did you confess sin to someone who used it against you?

Would you be willing to take a chance on others once again?  Although people cause pain, people are also the ones, who through Christian community, bring the greatest healing into our lives (outside of Christ Himself).

We cannot function alone.  We need one another to grow, heal, serve, and testify, so that the Body can build itself up in love.

…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 15b & 16)

We can’t afford not to have you, even the broken-down, wounded you, especially the broken-down, wounded you.  If you’ve been hurt, please take a chance on the Body, again.


It’s A Good Thing To Do

Mom, are we moving? Cooper asked.
No.  Why?  I answered.
I heard you and dad talking about where Isaiah lives.  What’s it called?
Vollentine-Evergreen,  I answered.
Yea,  Cooper responded.
We’ve talked and prayed about it a lot, but we believe God wants us to stay in Germantown.  You know they moved there (VE) for a reason, right?  To live among the less-fortunate, to share Jesus, to plant a church? I reminded.
It’s a good thing to do, said the 5 year old.

Cooper is a wise and contemplative soul.  He may not understand the details and difficulty of it all, but he’s clear about the importance of what several of our friends have done over the past months — change their lives and step out of their comfort zones for the gospel of Christ.

As our conversation continued, I explained that hearts are broken where we live and where Isaiah lives and that God has called us here.  We will share Jesus here.  I told him there were needs in both places.  Cooper listened and didn’t argue but followed-up with something along the lines of I just think what they’re doing is better.  I may never know how Cooper drew his conclusion, but I’ve wondered if it’s about visibility.  I wonder if needs are only based on sight for him.  I wonder if he sees homes that need repair, refrigerators that are empty, children who have less and believes those are the only needs that exist.  Just yet, he can’t see homes that are broken inside, tables with no family circled around and children empty inside.  At the same time, I wonder if he’s the one who really sees — it’s a good thing to do.  

Unless God moves us, we stay and pray and support those of you who have been moved.  To the Mays and Coxs and Goforths, know that a 5 year old little boy believes in what you are doing.

Preach to Yourself

One morning when I woke up, Chris was on the couch with his Bible.  It was obvious he had not been for his morning run, and when I asked how he was, he muttered something like, I’m an idiot.  He told me he couldn’t get it together, kept dozing off and was frustrated with the way his day was starting.  Later, on the same day, I was battling thoughts of one of my children being overlooked for something I thought she should have gotten attention for; while I knew I had to shake the feelings, they were a constant attack.

Have you had someone tell you to “preach the gospel to yourself?”  Did you think that sounds great, and I would if I knew what you meant?  Preaching the gospel to yourself means pointing yourself to the truth, but we have to know what’s true to be able to speak what’s true.  Truth is found in Christ.

What does it look like specifically?  I can tell you what we did on this particular day: This is what Chris said to himself.  (I know because I asked him).  There is no condemnation in Christ.  My value is not determined by what I do or do not do.  My identity is based on what Christ has already done for me.  For myself, I continued to say, I am not of this world.  I don’t belong here.  In the grand scheme of eternity, this does not matter. God knows better than what I think she needs.  We have to dispel lies with the truth.  Preach. Gospel.

What if that doesn’t work?  Some days, I’ll be honest — it’s not enough.  That’s why we were never meant to go it alone.  We have to be in community.  We have to have others speaking the gospel into our lives.  When the lies are too strong, I call others and have them remind me of what is true.

This is not an exhaustive explanation of speaking the gospel to yourself.  I do not want to over-simplify something as magnificent as the gospel of Christ.  I merely want to give an example of how we handled one day of replacing lies with truth.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phil. 4:8

Thoughts?  Do you have others resources/links/books, etc. that help explain what it means to preach the gospel to yourself?

Seek the Forgotten

Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you observe the calving of the does? Job 39:1

There is not one who is forgotten in the sight of the Lord.  He sees all.  He knows our needs, but sometimes we feel forgotten.  Sometimes, we are forgotten.  Not by God, but by others.

Many are homebound and staring at an apartment wall daily.  There are the homeless, forgotten. overlooked.  Some are in our lives daily, but we don’t notice.  lonely.  Maybe it’s you.  isolated.  How can we know?  Open our eyes.  look.  ask.  seek.  pray for compassion.  step out of our comfort zone.

I have a new friend.  He sits in his apartment most hours of the day while his wife works. He’s been on a transplant list for a very long time.  Forgotten.  A friend with great compassion in his heart found him.  He encouraged many of us to step out in love.  Out of comfort.  God’s eyes were never removed.  He was always watching.  Never forgetting.

Do you need to seek out the forgotten?  God sees them.  When we are about His work, we’ll see them, too.