Five Minute Friday | Safe

safe

I’m joining the ranks of some other lovely ladies who choose to free write for five minutes on a one-word prompt. No editing, no over-thinking, no analyzing grammar and style. Just writing. Today’s word: safe.

Setting my timer and starting in 3…2…1…NOW.

Safe. To be safe. To not be dangerous. This is what I think at the mention of the word safe. The antithesis of danger – playing it safe, avoiding risk, running away from harm’s way. It brings to mind this Jim Elliot quote:

We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the twentieth century does not reckon with. But we are “harmless,” and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are “sideliners” — coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!

I am so guilty of sidelining. That’s surprising when I think about how one of my highest spiritual gifts is prophecy. But, you see…I’ve lost my prophetic voice. I so long for others’ approval, or I fear the danger of disapproval, that I play it safe. I want to be respected, admired, considered an equal. And I sacrifice my voice in exchange for it. I stay safe.

I don’t want to be safe. I don’t want to be a sideliner. I don’t want to be harmless. I want to be dangerous for good. I want to take risks so others can know goodness, and mercy, and grace, and compassion, and unfailing love. Oh that God would make me unsafe.

What about you? Are you dangerous, or are you safe?

A poem for Throwback Thursday

throwback-thursday-poetry

Earlier today I saw a tweet from BigMama about how poetry from middle school girls are the great treasures of the universe. While I don’t have any poetry from those days anymore, that tweet led me on a quest through some old hard drives from 8-10 years ago. I basically fell into a wormhole from 2006, filled with pictures and writings from my college days. I’m not sure it did any good because now I regret everything.  We all thought we had it figured out back then, didn’t we? Anyway, in the spirit of throwback Thursday, I thought I’d share a poem from those days of early adulthood angst.

Carry My Yoke

How oft I have longed, for the one who would see
A heart so delicate, dwelling in me.
I chase after my lovers, fallen to my curse.
And no matter my indulgence, I am still slain with thirst.
No love satisfies the depth of this yearning
The vessel is parched, the desert’s heat burning.
Broken by my adultery, exposed in my shame,
Marred by my vanity am I when You call out my name.
“I am gentle, I am humble” were the words that you spoke,
“Seek and you will find Me, let Me carry your yoke.”
What is this selflessness, unabashed by my crime,
Tender and patient, whilst strong and sublime?
Once emptied by hedonism, I gain fullness in You.
A heart scorched by wild wandering is wet with Love’s dew.
“I am gentle, I am humble” were the words that You spoke,
“Seek and you will find Me, let Me carry your yoke.”

 

Loneliness, friendship and faith

Loneliness, friendship, and faith

In case you didn’t know, we recently uprooted our lives and moved to a new town. (Again.) (For the 7th time in 5 years.) (You can read more about that here.) Since we’ve moved so many times, we often find ourselves displaced from our network of friends and having to start over in a new place. With these many transitions, I’ve observed that, in my adult life, it’s much harder to start over in a new place and establish quality friendships.

Now don’t get me wrong, acquaintances are easy to come by. But, real friendships, the kind that span the years and traverse the miles between you, are difficult to grow and maintain as adults. I’ve been trying to figure out why that is. What is about adulthood that makes nurturing relationships with others so challenging?

I find this struggle all the more troubling because I’m a Christian. The church is supposed to be synonymous with community. Especially in the Southern Baptist world, we hold fellowship meals and talk about the importance of “not forsaking the fellowship of believers,” and yet church can be the loneliest place for many, myself included.

For example, since moving here last August, we’ve visited most of the churches within our denomination in town. We found ourselves gravitating to one in particular – it’s doctrine matches ours, the pastor preaches through the Bible expositionally (which is our preferred preaching method), and our daughter enjoys the children’s ministry activities on Wednesday nights. We have grown increasingly involved in the life of the church – we’ve joined the choir, and I’m playing bass for the worship team.

Yet, we can go through several Sunday and Wednesday services and nobody talks to us. This isn’t a large church, either – there are maybe 100 people there on a Sunday morning. You may think, perhaps the problem is that we haven’t connected to a small group. That isn’t the case. We’ve been regularly attending the small group class for our age/season of life since we started attending in September. People do talk to us in small group – but, if we are absent for several weeks in a row, nobody reaches out to us – not even the small group leader. 

You may also think this is an isolated incident – that this particular church might need to grow in their biblical understanding of community. However, in our many moves, we have found this situation occurring more often than not. I have often wondered if maybe there is something wrong with me/us because it happens so often. Yet,  the more I talk to other believers inside and outside of my denominational affiliation, I keep hearing this same story of loneliness and isolation among the people of God.

The weight of this problem struck me last week. I was at the gym with an old friend – someone I’ve known for over 15 years. We’ve known each other since high school, and though our lives have gone different ways at different times in adulthood, we have reconnected recently since I moved back to our hometown.

During our time at the gym (we call it “treadmill therapy”), she confided to me that she and her husband are starting marriage counseling. As she shared this deeply intimate struggle in her life, she said to me, “I’ve felt like I can’t talk to anyone about this. I can’t tell my parents, and I can’t talk to anyone at church about it.” She’s felt isolated and alone – navigating the murky waters of the sea of marital conflict on her own.

Her experience is just one of many similar to it. Bible-believing, faithful, church-going men and women who sit in pews every single week are battling unseen conflicts on their own, without a community to circle up around them and go to war with them.

Why? That’s the question I’ve not been able to answer, yet. I don’t understand why it’s been so hard for us to find a community of gospel friendships. I don’t understand why it’s easier to find camaraderie among coworkers than among co-laborers in the church. I think familiarity has something to do with it – the more you’re around someone, the more the relationship grows. Yet, if the gospel is anything, it should be the ultimate source of familiarity – our mutual need for grace in light of our shared weakness.

As you can see, I have more questions than answers. Have you had this struggle in your adult life? Have you ever had to start over and build new friendships? What was your experience like?

5 Free Digital Discipleship Tools to Connect You to God’s Word in 2017

5-free-digital-discipleship-tools-to-connect-you-to-gods-word

As we approach New Year’s Eve, now is the time to make New Year’s resolutions for lifestyle changes in 2017. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve resolved to spend more time in God’s Word next year. Whether you want to read the Bible more consistently or work on scripture memory, here are five digital discipleship tools that are free and effective for connecting you to God’s Word.

1. The Marketplace Ambassador Advancement System (advance.cbmc.com): Discipleship is not only an individual experience, it’s meant to be experienced in community, just like Jesus shared his life with his twelve disciples. The Advancement System is an excellent platform for diving into God’s Word with another person in an authentic life-on-life, discipling relationship. This resource contains bible studies, audio files, videos and more to encourage men and women in the marketplace to be ambassadors for Christ in their workplaces, churches, homes and communities. It’s constantly updated with new and improved resources, and it also comes in app form. The Advancement System is your Great Commission tool-belt for discipling another person to spiritual maturity who can then make disciples as well.

2. First5 (first5.org): If God is first in our lives, shouldn’t we give him the first 5 minutes of each day? That is the premise behind the First 5 app. Developed by Proverbs 31 Ministries, the mission of First 5 is to connect a woman’s heart to God in the first 5 minutes of her day. You can set an alarm in the app to notify you each morning, so you can wake up with a short teaching from God’s Word in order to “exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world” (Lysa TerKeurst).

3. She Reads Truth & He Reads Truth (Shereadstruth.com/Hereadstruth.com): Whether you’re a man or a woman, getting in God’s Word is essential for spiritual growth. These websites (and apps) provide bible studies with stunning visuals to engage your mind with scripture.

4. Got Questions (GotQuestions.org): Sometimes, we encounter Scripture and it leaves us with more questions than answers. This website, and app, is an excellent tool for finding answers to many commonly asked questions about the Bible, doctrine, Church history, and more. You can also submit questions if you can’t find what you’re looking for in their database.

5. YouVersion (youversion.com): This app has been downloaded over 200 million times, so you may already be familiar with this resource. YouVersion is an excellent tool because it offers a variety of translations, whether you want to read the Bible or hear it. It provides options for accountability and keeping track of your progress. Plus, there are constantly new features added, including an option to create scripture images to share with others through social media or via text.

Whatever your spiritual goals are for 2017, these five digital discipleship tools will help you stay consistent and track your progress throughout the year.

signoff

To the working mom at church

to the working mom at church

Dear Working Mom,

I see you waking in the early fringe hours of the morning for self care – claiming a few precious moments of solitude for bible study and prayer, or for exercising and meditation. I know how tired you feel throughout the day because of the lack of sleep, but those wee hours of the morning are the only time you feel you can spend on just you.

I see you swallow back tears when your toddler looks in your eyes over breakfast and says, “But mama, I don’t want to go to school. I want to stay home with you.” I know how hard it is to hear those words, to try to make your little one understand how you wish you could stay home with her too and why you have to work.

I see you running errands on your lunch break, so as not to consume precious evening time. I see you grabbing a quick bite to eat in your car in the midst of grocery shopping or paying bills, or munching on a snack at your desk because you used your lunch hour to get a haircut or go to the doctor.

I see you missing group bible studies and/or moms groups, because they’re all in the mornings and you have to work. Or, when there is an evening option, the guilt you feel from sacrificing more time with your kids prohibits you from feeling the freedom to join. I know you wish there was another way, because you miss the fellowship with other women, and you know you need it.

I see you talking with other moms before and after service on Sunday, feeling out of place as they talk about homeschool curriculum or play dates. I know you feel like it’s hard for you to have friends. Most of the other church women are SAHMs, which is fine but you live in an opposite world. I know it’s lonely there.

I see you downcast during Mother’s Day sermons, when your well-meaning pastor extols the virtuous wife and mother who keeps the tidy home, raises the well-mannered children and serves her family joyfully. I know you feel less than. I know you feel like your brothers and sisters around you turn their nose up at you because you choose to work, as if your decision was made without regard for your children’s well-being or the good of your marriage.

I see all of these things because I’m a working mom, too. I know how hard it is to find a kindred spirit, to feel out of place among the family of God, to wish there were more bible studies or blogs written from the working mom’s perspective or to us.

I pray you can find friendships with fellow Christian sisters who encourage you, edify you, and empower you.

I pray you can find church family who support you and love you.

I pray your husband appreciates you and strengthens you.

I pray you know that your sacrifice is not in vain. I pray that you can have confidence that, though you work outside the home, you are motivated by what’s best for your children and family at this time.

I pray you can find rest for your weariness in Jesus. I pray you can believe him when he says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I pray you know that, no matter who cares for your child during the day, there is no replacement or substitute for you. There is no one like you in your child’s life.

I know you’re lonely, but you’re not alone. I know you’re weary, and though you can’t see it, I know you’re strong, because Jesus has you. Jesus is with you. He is with your children when you can’t be with them.

With you in Him,

Rachel