Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Story we Write

It's that time of year when many people seem to get a bit a reflective. Looking back at the year that's drawing to a close, and then looking forward to the year that is to come. The turning of the calendar page to a new year prompts that.

It always prompts a couple of key questions for me:

  • What kind of a story did I write with my life in 2016?
  • What kind of a story do I want to write with my life in 2017?

Obviously, we can't control some of the events that have happened or will happen. We can't control things other people say or do. There's so much that we can't control.

But, we do have one thing we can control, and that is where we determine the story we write with our lives. We can choose how we respond. We can choose what we do with what happens and what we do with what other people say or do.

Our choices are the story we write with our lives. Our choices are the ways we will be remembered by those around us.

When life has knocked us down  - whether an event or something someone else does or says - we have a choice. We can choose to stay face-down and refuse to get up. Or we choose to do the hard work of getting back up - of learning from what has happened and why we reacted the way we did, so we can grow from it and hopefully respond differently the next time.

So, as 2016 comes to a close and we turn the calendar page to 2017, these questions might be good ones to reflect on it:

What kind of a story did I write with my life in 2016?

What kind of a story do I want to write with my life in 2017?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Why a Baby?

I've often had this question in mind as Christmas approaches. 

Why a baby?

Why did the Savior of the world, the Son of God, come to earth as a baby?

Wouldn't it have made more sense for Him to come in such a way that people couldn't miss Who He was?

On Sunday night, I listened to a pastor at my church talk about this same subject, based on the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17-19. Elijah sought a powerful display of God's glory to try to turn people back to God, and it didn't happen. When God revealed Himself to Elijah, it wasn't in the powerful displays, but in a "gentle whisper." (I Kings 19:12). In that quiet moment, in that small way, is where God showed up and changed things. Elijah wouldn't have been the same after that meeting with God.

Not your typical Sunday before Christmas message, but it struck me in how it relates to the reason why our Savior came as a baby, rather than a powerful display. Those powerful displays don't often result in life change. The life change comes from the small, the quiet.

That's why Jesus came as a baby. 

A powerful display of God's glory, wouldn't have made any more of a difference. 

People still would have missed the Savior.

People still wouldn't have seen what God was trying to do.

The Son of God, the Savior of the world, came as a baby because the small, quiet places, is where God most often speaks and we have life-changing encounters.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

One Night that Changed the World

A couple years ago, I wrote a post about Christmas that struck me again when I was re-reading it earlier. The same things I wondered and reflected on then, are still the same things I'm thinking about today. I thought it would be appropriate to share it again.


As I have been reflecting on the Christmas story this year, I've been struck by how life changing the birth of this one baby was for all people - the night it happened and for all eternity.

One baby changed the world forever. 
Nothing has been the same since that night.

We often talk about how a baby changes everything for the family that baby is born into.
 None brought so much change as Jesus when He was born.

God come to earth.


God with us.

The One whose life, death, and resurrection would make a way for mankind to once again have direct access to God.

The ultimate expression of sacrificial love. Of humble service.

I wonder if Mary and Joseph, if the shepherds, if the Magi, really understood the significance of that night. They knew what the angels had told them about this baby, but did they really get it? 

A couple thousand years later, do we really get it? Will we ever really get it?

The birth of a baby, named Jesus. 
A baby Who would change everything through His life and death.

The promised Messiah. The One prophesied about.
The One missed by so many when He came because of the way He came.
The One missed by so many while He walked on earth because He came to serve, not to exert His power.
The One missed by so many because He dies a criminal's death to become the greatest sacrifice and defeat sin and death for good.
The One still missed by many today.

But for those who stop to notice . . .
for those who are searching for something more . . .
for those who are willing to be humble and serve . . .
the chance to meat the One Who changes everything.

The One Who offers hope.
The One Who offers forgiveness and a second chance.
The One Who offers unconditional love.
The One Who never fails.

It was one night . . . 
in a stable . . .
in a small town . . .
with two poor parents . . .
surrounded by animals . . .
where the world changed forever.

God put His plan in motion to redeem a fallen world,
to restore a broken relationship with His people.
A plan still in motion today.
A plan that still offers hope today.

A birth.
A baby.
A life lived.
A death.
And the greatest of all - a victory over death, a resurrection.
All because of God's vast, unmeasurable, unchanging, unfailing love for each of us.
That makes it something worth celebrating!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Helping Others on Their Journey Through the Dark

Last week, I wrote a post called "Journey Through the Dark." This post is Part 2.


She was enjoying her time on the mountain. Soaking up the sunshine. Reveling in how blue the sky was. Running free without a care in the world.

Then, one day, she was told it was time leave. Time to go back down the mountain. The mountain-top time was coming to an end.

She wondered why. It didn't seem to make sense. Until, it was explained that it was now her turn to help others make the journey, to help others keep going when they couldn't see the next step. Just as she had been helped and encouraged along her journey, it was now her time to help another.

Now that she knew the way, she could help others find their way. She could encourage them that the struggle of the climb in the dark was worth the struggle.


When we make our own journey through the dark, we hear the voices of those around us, helping us to keep going. Encouraging us along the journey. We need those people - they help us to get through and see from the perspective that comes from getting through.

We're not just supposed to make it through and just stay on the other side. Sometimes, we're also called to travel back into those places to help the next person. We're called to come alongside those who are in the midst of their own struggles, and help them to keep on going. To encourage them that they will make it through to the other side - that the hard work now is worth it.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Journey Through the Dark

Low clouds hung around her as she walked. It was a damp, grey day. Perfect weather, it seemed, for how she was feeling lately. One of those days you just wanted to stay curled up at home with a good book.

The clouds hid the mountains that rose all around. Their beauty and majesty unseen for now.

As she continued to climb the mountain, the clouds become thick around her. She could hardly see the next step in front of her as she continued on. It seemed it might be easier to just turn around, head back down. At least she could see down there.

But, she continued on, climbing up, pushing through the dark. Taking each step as it came. Seeing nothing more than where to put her foot for the next step. and that not always clear either.

Sometimes, relying on the voices of those she knows who've made it further along than us to guide her, to encourage her to keep going. Reminding her to take the next step, even when the path ahead isn't clear.

It wouldn't go on forever. Eventually she knew she's get through to the clear sky. Just a little longer, a few more steps.

She could feel the clouds starting to clear. Seeing a little more with each step, until she emerged in brilliant sunshine. Under a clear, blue sky.

Turning around, she couldn't see the path from where she had come. It was covered by the clouds - a reminder of the challenging journey to get there.

But, it was worth it now. To see this beauty. To be in this pace. It made the struggle through the dark worthwhile.


Perspective changes everything. When we're trudging through the dark times, feeling as though every step is difficult and unknown, giving up can seem easier. But, if we choose to keep going to get to the other side, we see things differently. We see the value that comes from persevering, we know it's worth it.

When we reach that place of the clear, blue sky, we feel the weight of the journey lift. We're able to see the lessons we learned along the way. The things that God taught us as we walked through the difficult times. The way we learned to trust Him.

We see the people God used along our path to help us keep going when it just seemed like too much to continue on. The voices that guided us when we couldn't see, and encouraged us when we wanted to give up.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Single for the Holidays

I've always been one to do my best to limit Christmas things to the month of December as much as possible. Obviously, that doesn't work with everything, but as much as I can I do. It's just the way I've always done it. So, it seems a little strange to me that the post coming to mind right now relates to a topic that seems to come up often around Christmas.

In this time of Christmas parties, and New Year's parties, and other gatherings it often seems people feel compelled to bring up the topic of my singleness. I don't know why I'll get more questions in the next month and a half than I will the rest of the year, but if this year follows the pattern of every other year, I will.

Most of the time, the question is asked innocently enough. And the person asking doesn't realize how many people have asked. But, that doesn't stop it from getting tiring to be constantly asked and have to answer it.

The hardest part of all of it is that this is the time of year I seem to be more aware of my singleness than other times. Always RSVPing to my work Christmas party for just one. Going to other holiday functions alone.

I think that's what can make continually being asked about it more difficult. It's just another reminder that my life doesn't look like I hoped it would, in a season full of them.

I've debated about posting this, because I don't want to come across as negative, or make it sound like my life is all hard. But, there are times when I run into situations where some extra understanding from both sides is needed. From me when I get asked again - and from the person asking, who might now even know how many times I've been asked recently.

I think at the core of this is really understanding and living from the understanding that our identity goes far beyond their marital status. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it - we can't define people by their marital status. Yes, it's a part of who they are, but it's definitely not all.

Every person is so much more than that, and we need to operate from that belief. When we do, it changes how interact with one another - regardless of the situation.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Church Family is a Must

Yes, you need a church you belong to.

These days, that's a controversial statement. I probably upset a few of you reading this to state it that way. But, right now, I'm okay with that, because I believe it's true. I hope you'll keep reading and see why I state this so emphatically.

If you've read my posts for any length of time you know I write regularly about our need for community, about our need for people we can share life with. As I was writing my last post on this topic, I was struck by how needing each other goes beyond those we naturally choose to create community with.

Those amazing sisters in Christ I was surrounded by in the situations I referenced in that post went beyond just those I intentionally built community with. And they were there in those moments because they are part of the larger church family I belong to. When those I don't normally rely on in those moments weren't there, my church family was still able to be there for me.

It's not just because of that I think we need to be a part of a church somewhere. When I read Scripture, I see the church as something instituted by God. The common arguement that the church is just something created by man doesn't stand. Some of our structures and the way we do church when we're together may be man-made, but the idea of church is not.

All through the letters in the New Testament and all through the book of Acts, there is discussion of the church and of the importance of meeting together. In the face of everything the church of the day faced, they needed each other and they needed the encouragement of meeting together. In our world today, it's just as important.

When I talk about church, I'm not talking about just a group of people we know, and like, and choose to be around. That's a small picture of what the church is.

Church is also about learning from others in the body of Christ who we would not be normally drawn to spend time with.We need the diversity that comes from different life experiences. And that requires us to be a part of a church body that is larger than just our friends and those we are naturally drawn to.

Yes, I would say that it's important to be a part of one of the local expressions of the body of Christ we call the church. Part of the larger group of people who make up the congregations in one of the church buildings we drive by in our communities.

I can't tell you which one you should be a part of. I won't tell you the size it needs to be. I won't tell you the theological distinctives it has to have (I will say that it should be a Gospel-centered, Bible-living church). Those are things you have  to figure out for yourself.

I can't tell you that you won't be hurt at some point by the people who make up that church. In fact, I can probably safely say you will be hurt by some of them at some point. But, even when that happens, it's not an excuse to stay away from the church.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says:
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on 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."
We need to be part of a local church body. One that goes beyond just our friends and those we're naturally drawn to.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

We Need Each Other

We weren't meant to journey through this life alone. We need each other. God created us this way.

I was a retreat with my church last weekend and the theme was about celebrating our place in God's family. Talking about how we all belong. And about our need for one another.

Then we spent Monday night at the women's Bible study I lead talking about the people in our lives. The people we need and the people who need us. Both of these types of people are important in our lives.

In the last couple week this has been more than a topic I heard people talk about or that I discussed in a study with other people. It's something I lived. I was reminded in some very real ways of my need for others in the family of God. And it was confirmed to me the amazing sisters in Christ I'm surrounded by.

People who were there in ways I needed, but couldn't always express.

People who were patient enough to just sit with me.

People who didn't just come in to try to fix things for me, but who really cared about me in the moment.

The more I reflect on this, the more I realize that having this kind of family around us doesn't just happen by accident. Being a part of God's family and having people around that you need and who need you only happens when we do the work to make it happen. We have to be intentional about it.

We have to do the work of finding those people in our lives, of finding a local gathering of believers that we will be a part of, and that we're not going to leave just because we don't like something.

We need to seek out those people we need in our lives and who need us. And we need to build relationships full of grace and forgiveness with them. It's messy to build these relationships with others. But, it's what we need. We need people in the good times and bad times to walk with us, and it won't happen by accident.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says:
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on 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."
The writer of Hebrews knew the importance of being a part of the family of God - of having people around to walk through life with you. And he was reminding his readers to keep pursuing it - as they had in the past.

We weren't made to do this alone. We need each other.

Are you a part of a gathering of believers that you're committed to sticking with?

Who are the people in your life that you need? Who needs you? Are you intentionally building these relationships?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Maybe Healing Looks Different Sometimes

I read an article recently that made me think. It related to a very personal experience for me. One I haven't spoken about directly in this format before . . . or really spoken about much to more than a small group of people in my life.

When you live with anxiety, it's not usually a topic of regular discussion. There really seems to be some deep misunderstandings about what it actually means for the person living with it. And, like the article I read says, some of the things that are said by others or suggestions of how to solve the problem are far from helpful. And they assume things that aren't true.

For a while, I've been thinking about what it might actually mean for God to heal someone, and I've been wondering if our definition of healing might be too narrow. We tend to see healing as only having happened if we're completely free of whatever it was we asked God to heal us or another person of. But, what if that's not all it is?

What if healing sometimes means being able to live what most would call a "normal life" while still living with something such as anxiety? What if healing means learning how to live the life God has for you while still having the struggle?

I think that sometimes, it's when we live with the ongoing struggle, but still live life to the full that we're actually living more of the life God created us to live. It makes us more dependent on God to get through each day.

And we need to learn to see this as God healing, as much as being permanently freed from something. Yes, that is what healing can be. But, what if healing also looks like learning to live a life where you're not held back by something like anxiety? It doesn't mean we never have moments of battling with it, but it means we learn to manage it and to deal with it properly in the moments when it begins to rise again.

This doesn't mean we don't pray for complete healing of something. It doesn't mean we don't desire to be completely freed from it. But, sometimes on this side of eternity, we're not going to see things completely made right because we live in a broken world.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Walking into Some Difficult Topics of Discussion

It seems that these weeks on my blog are for taking on the subjects that can be controversial, but that seems to be what comes to mind when I sit down to write these days. And when it's not a post I'm going to write and leave to sit for a couple weeks before it goes live, that means they get written and they actually get shared.

In the last few days, I've seen the same meme coming up on Facebook - posted or liked by multiple people. In the past it wouldn't have bothered me much because I agreed with what it said without question. But, I've been bothered by it these last few days. I'm not sure it's always as cut and dry as this meme makes it out to be anymore.

The meme talks about how if you don't take divorce off the table when you get married you'll end up divorced rather than working things out. That it is as simple as just deciding it's not an option in every situation.

Now, before we go any further, I want to be clear that I'm not saying divorce is something God means to happen in marriage. I believe He created marriage to last. It should be something that is worked on, rather than divorce being the easy way out of problems. Divorce is not God's plan for marriage.

For a long time, I used to think exactly the way that is talked about in the meme from Facebook - that if you just take divorce off the table, you'll end up staying married and working things out instead. I had no question about it. Despite never being married myself I was sure that it was just as simple as deciding divorce was never an option.

Some things that have happened in the lives of others around me have made me think that's not always so cut and dry when it comes to this. Going into marriage thinking it will end isn't the right idea. That's not going to help you to create a marriage that is even beginning to look like God intended for it to look.

But, I also wonder if stating it's never an option, can, in same cases, actually do more harm than good. I'm beginning to wonder if sometimes making it out to be as simple as just deciding it's not an option can put undue pressure on someone to stay when it's not safe - to stay in a situation that's not actually going to get better or be worked on to deal with the problems in it because the one person is unwilling to do the work.

I would say that divorce is never God's plan. And it shouldn't be our first choice. But, I wonder if there are times when we need to remove some of the shame of ending up in the place of it being what is happening, by not declaring that it's as simple as deciding it's not an option. Sometimes, even when you go in to marriage thinking it's not an option, you end up in that place for a variety of reasons.

It's not our place to judge the reasons why someone ended up there. We don't usually know the whole story. We don't know what has gone on that we can't see before something ended up there.

Regardless of our views on this, our job is to love people. And to care about them in their need and their brokenness. It's what we are called to. And I'm wondering if part of doing that is refusing to declare a simple solution to what can be a much more complicated problem.

Since I wrote this post, I've realized that this post is actually being posted 9 years to the day from the first post I ever wrote for here. When I started this blog, I never thought I'd get to this day. But here I am, posting something I'm not sure I ever would have posted when I started writing.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Words we Use Talking about Mental Illness

I've been watching some discussions about mental illness take place on Facebook recently. I've been encouraged by the courage of many in talking about their own struggles with mental illness. And I've been shocked at some of the responses they've received - many of them the very reason why this isn't talked about in the church often enough.

As someone who has been there myself and has walked alongside others in their struggle, I know it's difficult to talk about openly. For all the ground we've gained, there is still a lot of stigma around mental illness. And, sadly, that stigma often seems greater in the church.

To some degree I understand. If you've never dealt with mental illness yourself, it can be hard to understand. I didn't really understand it until I faced it myself. Then I was able to more easily alongside others who were struggling, with the love and grace they needed.

I think the part of the online discussions I've been struggling with the most is the implication that a person with mental illness would be cured if they just had more faith and prayed more. Can those things help someone struggling with mental illness? Absolutely. But to imply (and sometimes, out-right state) that's all they need is destructive.

Some of the people I know who had the greatest faith and the most intimate prayer lives are also those who are in the midst of the some of the deepest battles with mental illness. Telling someone they need to have more faith and pray more to be cured does nothing more than make light of a legitimate struggle.

In the case of any other kind of illness we would definitely pray for God to heal the person, but we would also encourage the person to see appropriate medical help. Why do we treat mental illness any differently?

I guess the thing I'm looking for in all of these discussions I've seen, that often seems to be missing, is the love and care for one another that Scripture teaches. Yes, there are times when we need to speak some hard truth to each other, but that should never come at the expense of loving and caring for one another. It should be part of it.

I would say that even when we're participating in discussions on social media of any kind, maybe even especially there, we need to be careful not to use our words in the destructive way I've been seeing them used lately. When someone admits to a struggle with mental illness, we need to respond with care and love. Being supportive of their struggle and their journey back to health.

What if, instead of telling people what they should do when they admit a struggle with mental illness, we listened? And we cared? And we offered love and support?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

God's Hands

Cold, dark, unresponsive
A lifeless heart weighed down
By life’s burdens crushed beneath
The heaviness of struggle
Waiting for rescue and release
Waiting to be set free

How long must I wait?
How long will this go on?
Will this weight be lifted?
Will I walk again?
Or, is this my new home,
My new way of living life?

Warmth, light, a hand reaching
Taking my lifeless heart
In gentle, loving hands
Hands that lift the crushing weight
Hands that gather the pieces
To tenderly rebuild, bring life

A beautiful, new creation
Shining in His glorious light
His brilliant Masterpiece
Restored to the fullness of it all
The joy of all He designed me for
And He delights to gift to me

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Topics we Don't Often Discuss

There are things in life that we don't often discuss with others. Topics that we just don't see as being something we talk about with others.

I've realized recently that when you're single, the list of these topics seems to be longer. Most decisions you make as a single person, only have input from others if you intentionally ask for it, as there is no one else living in the direct results of those decisions. And it's easy to get in the habit of just making them yourself.

I experienced this recently in picking a topic for a Bible study. I can't say what the rest of the group thought, but I know I was quite indifferent to the topic. I wasn't opposed to it, but it didn't really catch my interest either.

It took me a while to figure out why. It was a topic that I don't generally talk about with others. My decisions in this area have little to no impact on other people and its been that way for almost 10 years. As a single person, I've just made the decisions as best I can in line with God's Word and moved on. So, the idea of studying it and discussing it with a group just didn't connect and seemed a bit strange to me.

But, I've also realized that this can easily become a dangerous thing. If there's an area of life that's always kept completely private from other people, it becomes an area where the enemy can easily get us off track. We have no one challenging us on it and helping us see when we're getting off track.

There are other areas where I've been far more intentional about building in accountability and community. But this was an area where I'd never before considered the need for it and that's probably more dangerous than anything.

No matter our life circumstances, we weren't made to walk the Christian life alone. We need each other. And in same areas, especially those we don't normally talk about, we need to be intentional about creating that community where we can talk about them.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

God's Love & Care for Us

I've often wrestled with the question of why God cares so much about my life. I mean, in all of history and all that is yet to come, it can seem a little strange to think that I'm important enough for God to care about the details of my life.

But Scripture makes it pretty clear. Psalm 139 tells us that God knows our thoughts and our words before we speak them. And that there is no where we can escape from His presence. Matthew 6:25-34 tells us that we have no need to worry because God will look after our needs if we're seeking Him.

When I reflect on Scriptures like these, and many others, I'm often overwhelmed by the truth of it. It changes everything. My worth doesn't come from doing significant things for God, it comes from seeking Him.

God knows me.
Sees me.
Loves me.
Cares about what's going on in my life.
That changes everything for me.

It's worth reflecting on for each of our lives.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

When you Don't Know what to Write

What happens when you don't know what to write?

That's the question I've been pondering for the last few weeks as I've slowly run out of things I've written to share here. I usually write a few weeks ahead of when I'm actually going to post something. It takes the pressure off if a week is suddenly really busy and I don't have time to write. It also gives me time to make sure my writing is clear. But, these last few weeks I've watched as the things I have ready to post have gone up and haven't replaced with more writing.

Every time I've sat down to write lately, one of two things has happened: I've either drawn a blank on anything I could write about - and just stared at a blank page for a long time. Or, what I've written is far more personal than is appropriate to share here. That's led me to my current dilemma . . .

What happens when you don't know what to write?

. . . especially when you feel called to write . . .

. . . especially when you usually can't stop yourself from writing . . .

Maybe the question is more accurately, what happens when you have a blog that you feel like God has called you to use and you don't know what to write?

I've started to wonder if writing has seasons of sort. When I look at my post history, I can see times when I wrote lots and times when I wrote very little. Maybe there are seasons to writing, just like there are to life.

Truth be told, I'm starting to wonder if the season of writing line up with the seasons of life in a way. Some seasons of life it's easier to write about for others to read than it is for others. Not that you're learning more in one season or another, but sometimes there's not the same freedom to share those lessons in some seasons - at least not yet.

So, what do you do when you have a blog and you don't know what to write?

Any person who has used any online platform will tell you that if you don't keep adding new content you'll lose what ever audience you have for your content. But, that's never been my motivation for posting anything here. I'll be honest, seeing the number of page views and comments on  my post is nice, but if I was doing this for that reason, I would have quit a long time ago.

When I started this blog, I didn't see myself as a writer. I was the one in school who struggled with English classes, and got easily frustrated with writing assignments.

I started this blog because I felt like God was telling me I was supposed to. I wasn't sure why, and I wasn't sure anyone would read it. But, as I did, I realized God was showing me something He had put in me that I wasn't aware of, and I needed to be using it for His glory. That's always been my goal, and I know I haven't always done it well.

And now, I have no idea what to write, but I don't feel released from this yet. I don't what it means, or what the future of this, seemingly small, part of my life looks like. All I have is questions about this right now. And that's okay. I'm continually learning that obeying God in the little and the big things is about trusting Him with the details when I don't have any idea.

Back to my question: What do you do when you have a blog that you feel like God has called you to use and you don't know what to write?

I guess the answer is to give it back to God. To let Him have the control again.To trust Him.

We learn to do this with those things in life that seem small, because then we're ready to trust Him with the big things when He asks us to.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


I've been preparing for a study I'm leading at my church this fall. The session I just finished watching the teaching on was about our need for people. How we need people in our lives, and we need to commit to them and fight for those relationships.

It's a topic I've written a lot about over the years I've had this blog. It's such an important thing in our lives as believers. It took me back to some of the early posts I wrote - specifically a post I wrote about community in November 2007. As I re-read it tonight, I was struck by the thoughts I wrote then.

Today is a re-post of an old one, but one that I think is incredibly important.

Honestly, I think that the only way we can begin to remove that masks that we so often wear is to begin with small groups of people - whether this is a group of close friends, a Bible study group, an accountability group, or whatever. We need to have those groups of people in our lives who we can go to and be honest with . . . and who will be honest with us as well. Without these kind of people in our lives, what hope do we really have of moving beyond the "image management" that we have gotten caught up in? I honestly don't believe we have much . . . not that I want to be depressing, but I think it's true.

I know for myself, I've grown up in the church and often believed that what other people thought was important. So, the morning getting ready for church could have everything go completely wrong, but the moment we turned into the parking lot . . . smiles on everyone's faces and the answer to how things were going was "great" . . . even if that wasn't the truth. Not exactly honest . . . but I've talked to others who had the same experience growing up.

But, I've also experienced the opposite . . . I had the privilege of living with some incredible girls for the two years that I was at Bible college. And I saw how . . . at least most of the time . . . to move beyond this "image management" metality. First of all, when you have 40 girls, two to a room, with one big bathroom at the end of the hall you see more and hear more about people just due to the living situation. But, I also never knew one of them to ask how you were doing and allow the answer to just be "fine" or "good" or "ok". The standard answers were not enough . . . and usually the questions asked were more specific than just asking "how's it going?" as you passed someone.

That was a learning experience for me . . . but it was good!

I think we need to start having those people in our lives who will ask us how we are and want a real answer. I think we need to start having people in our lives who we give permission to for them to ask us the hard questions. I think we need to start having people in our lives who are not afraid to say something when we're headed for trouble.

And if this is going to happen, we have to be these kind of people for others in our lives as well. We need to be willing to speak up when we're concerned about a friend or ask the tough questions. This isn't a one way thing . . . it has to go both ways.

Right now, we each need to find people who we can be completely honest with in our lives.

Who is this in your life?

If there isn't anyone who you could trust in this way, what is the next thing you can do to move towards having these kind of people in your life?

I asked myself these questions recently. I count myself lucky to be able to say that I do have people who ask me the tough questions or speak up when I'm headed for trouble in my life now. But, I haven't always . . . because it takes a risk to do this . . . to trust some people enough to be this open and honest with them. But the rewards of doing so are huge . . . and far outwiegh the benefits.

So, I challenge you . . . find these people in your life and develop these kinds of relationships. They won't happen overnight . . . so get started! Or if you have these people in your life already . . . continue to develop those relationships.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Choosing not to Hide

Stepping into the light, she blinked as her eyes adjusted from the darkness. She's spent so much time in the darkness she wasn't used to all this light.

Everyone had told her it would be good, but right now, she just felt vulnerable and exposed. Like all her flaws and scars were on display for everyone to see if they looked her way.

What she didn't realize was that those things she saw as flaws and scars were part of what made her beautiful. They had been healed and forgiven. They were still a part of her; they would always be. But, they were no longer something to be hidden in shame. They had become stories of God's grace, mercy, and love in her life.

The choice was now hers about what she would do with them. She could continue to hide them and never fully realize what God had done. Staying in the dark, where she felt safe . . . but was also lonely.

Or, she could step into the light and let them be seen by others. Let others hear her story of God's redemption in her life. Finding community and experiencing the full power of God's healing of her wounds and brokenness.

I wonder how often we find ourselves in this place. This place where we have a choice to make. We can either take our scars and brokenness and go back into hiding with them. Or, we can choose to let others see them and we allow God to transform our stories of brokenness into stories of redemption and restoration.

The choice is always ours. What choice will you make?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Problem with Using Shame

Do not let me be put to shame

This phrase, or a variation of it, is repeated over and over in the Psalms.

     "I trust in You;
          do not let be put to shame." (Psalm 25:2)

     "Guard my life and rescue me;
          do not let me be put to shame." (Psalm 25:20)

     "In You, Lord, I have taken refuge;
          let me never be put to shame;
          deliver me in Your righteousness." (Psalm 31:1)

     "Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
          for I have cried out to You." (Psalm 31:17)

Those are just a few of the uses of it, I've noticed. The more times I've read it recently, the more I've been thinking about it.

Why this constant cry? What is the importance of it?

It starts with defining shame. We have to know what it is to know why it's so important. The best definition of shame I've found comes from Brene Brown:
"I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging - something we've experienced, done, or failed to do that makes us unworthy of connection." (

We live in a society where shame too often keeps us quiet, and where it is used as a way to attempt to change someone's behaviour.

When we're ashamed of something, we feel isolated, alone, disconnected, fearful of someone finding out. Shame is our enemy, Satan's, specialty.

Shame isn't something God uses. The psalmist could confidently pray for God not to let him be put to shame because he knew it wasn't from God. The psalmist was praying for protection against the schemes of our enemy.

I've been thinking about why God never uses shame and I've realized it's because shame attacks our identity. Shame attempts to label us based on "something we've experienced, done, or failed to do," to use Brene Brown's definition. It tells us we are wrong as people, puts down who God created us to be.

God doesn't label us by our past. He doesn't label us by our sin. He's made us His children and He wants us to identify ourselves this way. God sees us the way we were meant to be - the way can be because of Jesus' victory through the cross. He desires for us to live that, so He's not going to use shame to label us and attack our identity.

When the psalmist prays to not be put to shame, he's seeking protection from the attacks of the enemy. In the psalms where these words are used, the psalmist also talks about trusting God and finding refuge in Him. That's our best defense against the shaming tactics of the enemy.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What should Waiting for God look Like?

     "In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice;
          in the morning I lay my requests before You
          and wait expectantly."
                                                -Psalm 5:3

When I read this verse recently I was struck by two words put together that I don't know if we put together often enough:


The psalmist is talking about waiting for God's answer to requests brought before Him in prayer.

But, it doesn't strike me as waiting in the way we often think of waiting. Waiting for God often seem to mean praying about something and then doing nothing until we hear an answer. We get so afraid of not hearing the answer that we just sit there.

Sometimes that may be the kind of waiting we have to do, the kind of waiting God asks for that time. But, I think far too often we engage in this passive type of waiting, rather than waiting expectantly. And in doing so, we actually miss God's answer and all that He wants to teach us in the waiting.

So, what does it look like to wait expectantly for God's answer?

Think about what waiting for guest to arrive looks like, or waiting for an event. Unless we've finished all the preparations we're not sitting around doing nothing. We're doing the things we need to do to be prepared.

How strange would it be if we had invited someone over and we sat, waiting until they arrived to do any of the preparations? Instead of being ready when they arrived, we began running around getting everything ready once they arrive? I think we can all agree this doesn't seem logical. Except, we do exactly that all the time.

But, what would happen if we prepared for God's answer to our prayers, rather than sitting around doing nothing? What would it look like if in our waiting expectantly, we did what we already knew to do in the situation? Even just continuing to walk forward, seeking God, and doing all He has already given us to do. To make sure we're in the position where we can hear the answer God has to our request and learn what He has for us to learn in the waiting.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Honest Prayers

What do your prayers usually look like?

Are they filled with the "right" words and phrases? Talking about only part of what is going on and how you're feeling - the acceptable part?

Or are they honest about everything? Thoughts, feelings? Cries of your heart in the midst of the good and the bad in life?

For a lot of my life I would say my prayers were very much along the lines of trying to make them sound right. Somewhere along the way, I got it in my head that only some things were acceptable to pray about. I have no idea where that came from, but it made my prayers feel inauthentic and I didn't really have much use for it sometimes.

It also made the Scripture passages that talk about praying continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17) seem pretty much impossible. If I can only pray about certain things or in a certain way, then a lot of the time I have nothing to pray about.

But, the truth is we can pray about anything. We can pray about everything. Nothing going on in our lives or that we're thinking or feeling is hidden from God anyways (Hebrews 4:13), so not praying about it doesn't make any sense. If God knows about it anyways, why would I think it's off limits for prayer?

As I've realized that there isn't a list of what's "right" for prayer and what's not, I've realized that praying continually isn't impossible after all. I can talk to God about all of what goes on in my day or what I think about. It easily becomes a daily thing when everything is acceptable.

And living that way changes things. In the middle of a situation that is hard, it keeps me from taking on things that aren't mine to carry in the first place. It gives hope, even when from an earthly perspective, it seems like there is none. I've been living this reality lately.

What do your prayers usually look like?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Question about Church Ministries

Should churches have something for singles beyond the usual college-age groups?

I've been pondering this question off and on for a while now. Usually after a conversation about it with someone.

It's a tough question to answer. On one hand, if church is a family, then segregating according to marital status and using it to define where people fit seems unnecessarily divisive. On the other hand, the older you get as a single person in the church, the more difficult it often becomes to meet other people who are also single.

So, how should we answer this question? How do we move forward as a church family on this?

As a single person in the church, who is beyond the age for the typical college-age ministries, I wonder if the answer to this question is both yes and no at the same time.

Yes, because there is less opportunity to meet other Christian singles the older you get. Sometimes it would be nice to meet with other people whose life circumstances in this regard are similar to yours. Being a single adult in the church, trying to follow Jesus, has some different challenges than others face. Or, at the very least, those challenges faced are handled in a much different way than for others.

It's natural for us to look for people similar to us in some ways to connect with. Singleness is on area of life where that can be difficult to find. Even if it's not the only area you look for common ground, it is one of the things that comes up.

But, my answer to this question is also no, because a God honouring community should be a place where everyone belongs regardless of marital status or age. One aspect of a person's life circumstances shouldn't be used to define people, no matter what it is.

There is a danger in creating groups or ministries like this that we begin to draw dividing lines that dictate where we've decided people belong based on their marital status. This limits and excludes people from using their God-given gifts and abilities in the church. There is a danger that we can use the existence of a ministry for singles to keep them out of other ministries. That's why my answer is also no to this question.

I don't know that this is a question with a clear answer. Or with the same answer for every church, or for every single adult in a church. If it was that easy, it wouldn't have taken me this length to try to answer the question. It would have just been a one word answer.

Should churches have something for singles beyond the usual college-age groups?



It depends on the church.

It depends on the single adults in a church - if they're asking for and looking for something like this.

But, whether a church does it or not, marital status shouldn't be the only determining factor for participation in most ministries within the church.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Unhelpful Advice we Sometimes Give

Sometimes in Christian circles we offer advice that we mean to be encouraging, but is anything but to the one we speak it to. I'd even say the majority of times it's actually hurtful to the one we're offering it to. And it's usually a generalized statement made off the experiences of a few, but is ultimately not true for most of us.

We mean the words with the best of intentions. We're usually really trying to be encouraging and helpful. But, when we fall back on these words, they have the opposite of the intended effect on the one hearing them. They cause pain and doubt and questions, rather than encouraging.

I've been on the receiving end of these words frequently. Almost always in conversation about my singleness and desire to get married one day. I've lost count of the number of times. the response I've received from well-meaning people has been something along the lines of:
"You just need to stop looking and start enjoying your life as it is, and then God will bring you a husband."
I used to just quickly change the subject or look for a way to get out of the conversation when I heard that sentiment. These days, I'll question you on why you said that. Yes, politely, but for a few reasons I can't just leave that statement unchallenged anymore. I makes some clearly untrue assumptions about me and declares as a promise something God never promised:

1) These words assume my life is revolving around finding someone to get married to.

But, if you were to take just a moment to look at what fills my time and the relationships I have, it would become clear that my life is not all about one thing. I've filled my life with many things that I believe God has given me for this time in my life.

2) These words assume I'm not enjoying my life as it is and that I can't as long as I still desire to get married one day. 

Yet again, if you paid just a bit of attention to my life you would see that I have a life I enjoy, all while still holding onto this desire. I'm not sitting back and waiting. I'm living life to the full as it is right now, but should the opportunity to get married come, I'd gladly change things in my life.

3) These words declare a promise God never made and makes it conditional on what I do.

They basically tell me that once I get my life to the point God wants it, He will give me a husband.
Where in Scripture does God promise us everyone will get married? Where in Scripture does it say that once we're doing life the right way, God will give us certain things for reaching that point?

The theology in this "advice" is wrong and kind of scary. There is not support in Scripture for these words.

Whatever the heart is behind these words, and many others we regularly use, they aren't helpful and can actually cause more hurt.

The people who I've appreciated the most in conversations, are the ones who just listen and don't offer me their advice for what I should or shouldn't do. They listen. They care. And they don't feel like they have to have the answer.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

God is Gracious!

Recently some of my posts have been talking about the dangers of building our life on lies, of refusing to listen to the truth, and of going our own way. If that's the only part of the picture we see, then it would be easy to get depressed and lose hope. But, as we continue to look at Isaiah 30, we see the hope and the way to grab hold of it again.

"People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you. Although, the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying: This is the way; walk in it."
                                                                                  -Isaiah 30:19-21 (emphasis mine)

These verses begin to outline how God responds when Israel turned from their disobedience and cried out to Him. In the verses following these ones, some of the specific ways God would bless Israel's repentance and obedience are outlined.

I was struck by the words: "As soon as He hears, He will answer you." God's response to a cry to Him of true repentance is immediate. All we have to do is say the words.

He doesn't wait for us to start changing things to prove it, he responds immediately. He will help us change our actions as soon as we acknowledge we turned away and that we want to go back to His way.

God will become our Guide again. He will help us to walk according to His plan for us. Then we can life His life for us.

It all begins with simply calling out to God.

Is there a place in your life where you've gone your own way and you need to get back on God's path?

Are you will to confess it?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Challenge that Comes with Summer

It's that time of year again - the time where I often sturggle with a very empty calendar. School's out for kids and most other activities at church stop as well.

I get it. When kids aren't in school that changes a lot for people. And the weather is nicer, so people want more flexibility in their schedules to enjoy it.

But, it's also a hard time of year for some of us. The end of June doesn't mean much for me. I still get up and go to work each day. The difference being, I spend most of my evenings and weekends at home alone. The things that filled that time during the school year aren't happening and the people I would have seen during that time are busy with their own families then.

I get it. This is time you have for all the things that are filling your time.

But, it's also hard and lonely for some of us. Even though I like time for myself, five nights a week for two months get to be too much of it - especially when you add the weekends to that time as well.

If I had my way, all the Bible studies and other groups would continue all summer, so the changing of seasons wasn't signified by too much time alone. But, I know that doesn't work for many people, so I try to be flexible and understanding. I will deal with the changes that come with the end of June.

I'll spend more time alone and won't complain about it. I'll enjoy a lot of it. But, I need some help from other people too. I need you to still be available sometimes for coffee, or supper, or some sort of activity. Or an invitation to join your family for something once in a while.

Whatever it looks like, I still need people in my life and things to do. My hours outside of work still need to have something in some of them - the same as yours do. The difference is that I need you to be a part of that, because it's not something that automatically happens with other people being at home.

When I ask about planning something to be a bit more consistent over the summer, I'm not asking because I'm trying to tie you down to something. I'm asking because I need to have some things planned to get through the much more significant time alone that I have. I understand you have other things planned with family, or might be away on a vacation, and I'll work with that, but I'm also asking for some help in having things to do when I ask those things.

And when I'm disappointed that something won't work or gets cancelled, know I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. I'm disappointed that a change in my summer evenings and weekends isn't going to happen now. I'm realizing it's another night alone now because there's nothing on my calendar now. I'm not blaming you for it or trying to make you feel bad, but I'm struggling with what this means for me now. And I need the freedom to be disappointed for those moments, because it's hard.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Going our Own Way

"This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says:
In repentance and rest is your salvation,
          in quietness and trust is your strength,
          but you would have none of it.
You said: No, we will flee on horses.
          Therefore, you will flee!
You said: We will ride off on swift horses.
          Therefore, your pursuers will be swift!
A thousand will flee
          at the threat of one;
at the threat of five,
          you will all flee away,
till you are left
          like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
          like a banner on a hill.
Yet, the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
          therefore, He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
          Blessed are all who wait for Him!"
                                                   -Isaiah 30:15-18

God told Israel what to do - how to live their lives under His blessing. They chose to do something else. God was laying out for them the consequences of their behaviour. But, even then, God hasn't given up on them.

As I read these verses, I'm struck by how much this same scenario can play out in my own life. I think it's common in the lives of many - sometimes in big ways, but more often in little ways.

God tells us what He has for us to do in this time. He gives us the way to find the salvation and strength for everyday life that we are looking for. We might have even asked Him for it. But, we don't want it that way, so we refuse. We rebel and choose disobedience to God.

Our rebellion and disobedience has consequences in our lives. God doesn't just let it slide. He will let us live with the consequences of our choices.

But, there is still good news for us. Even when we refuse to obey and our dealing with the consequences of our sine, God still longs to show us compassion. If we turn back to Him and His ways, He will be gracious and we will experience His compassion.

Is there an area in your life where God has shown you what to do and you've decided to go you own way instead?

Are you living in the consequences of your disobedience?

Will you confess it to God and turn from it?

Once we have done that, we are able to walk forward in the life God has planned for us.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Refusing to Listen to Truth

I've been studying the prophet Isaiah recently and I've been struck by some thing in Isaiah 30. The words in this chapter relate quite well to our lives as Christians today.

Isaiah 30 is titled "Woe to the Obstinate Nation" in my Bible. And it's a chapter detailing some hard lessons Israel would learn for their turning away from God.

As I've read and studied this chapter, I've realized there are some important lessons we can learn through it.

 Isaiah 30:10-11 says,
"They say to the seers,
          'See no more visions!'
and to the prophets,
          'Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things
          prophesy illusions.
Leave this way,
          get off this path,
and stop confronting us
          with the Holy One of Israel'."
How often do we say these things?

How often do we refuse to really hear the truth because it's not what we want to hear?

I think we do this more often that we would admit. If not with our words, than with our actions. If it's hard or unpleasant, we want nothing to do with it. We push it away - often at great personal cost, because it's what we really do need to hear.

It is the truth that comes from God that is the only thing that can set us free. Sometimes the truth will be hard to hear or it won't be what we wish it was. But, even then, maybe especially then, we need to listen to the truth being spoken and work through it to see how it needs to change us.

We don't want to get to the point Israel had in this chapter of Isaiah. They were trying to silence those who spoke the truth because they didn't like the message. We don't want to become so opposed to the truth that we try to silence those who are speaking the truth.

Is there some truth God has been trying to tell you that you don't want to hear?

Are you willing to listen - even if it's hard?

When you hear a hard truth, take the time to ask God about it. Ask Him to help you understand it. Talk to another mature believer about it. Don't assume just because it's hard, it must be from God.

But, let's not be people who run from the truth when it is hard.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Where is Your Refuge?

"You boast: We have entered into a covenant with death,
          with the realm of the dead we have made an agreement.
When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
          it cannot touch us,
for we have made a lie our refuge
          and falsehood our hiding place."
                                              -Isaiah 28:15

A covenant with death?
An agreement with the realm of the dead?
A lie our refuge?
Falsehood our hiding place?

Those words seem ridiculous to read. It doesn't seem like something most people do and then boast about.

Except, I think we do exactly this all the time. We build what we think is a safe place for ourselves on a lie we're believing about God, or ourselves, or our world.

We don't always know that's what we're doing at the start. But that doesn't change how ridiculous what we've done is.

The good news is, we don't have to stay in this place. We can get free from our covenant with death, our refuge in a lie, and our hiding place in falsehood.

"So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
          a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
          will never be stricken with panic.
I will make justice the measuring line
          and righteousness the plumb line;
hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie,
          and water will overflow your hiding place.
Your covenant with death will be annulled;
          your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand."
                                                                    -Isaiah 28:16-18

Building our lives on lies and falsehood will always bring destruction for us. They won't stand.

But, God has provided us a place we can build a refuge and hiding place that will stand no matter what. We can build our lives on the foundation that is Him and then it won't matter what comes our way. We will never be "stricken with panic," because we'll know we can continue to stand on our sure foundation.

A life built on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, will stand in the middle of storms. When our lives are built on Christ, we experience a peace that comes from Him - a peace that we can't explain any other way.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Avoid the Danger of Forgetting God

"You have forgotten God your Savior;
         you have not remembered the Rock, your Fortress."
                                             Isaiah 17:10

It seems this is a common refrain from God's prophets to Israel and Judah. "You have forgotten your God."

It was the cause of many of their issues. The forgot God and began to worship other gods. The result was judgement and destruction.

I think we have the same danger. We are in danger of forgetting God too.

We get caught up in life and we turn from God. Sometimes intentionally. But oftentimes, it's not intentional.

So, what is the solution?

How do we prevent ourselves from forgetting God?

God told Israel how to prevent this. He spelled out for them what it would take for them not to forget God.

Deuteronomy 4:9 says:
"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen and let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them."
Did you catch what it says?

The way we prevent ourselves from forgetting God is to share the stories of what He has done. Tell others the stories of God and His work among us and in our lives.

When we share the stories we have a reason to remember. We keep God present in our minds. It prevents us from forgetting God.

We avoid the danger of forgetting God by sharing the testimonies of what He has done with others.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

How to Stop the Constant Running

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." (Mark 1:35)

"When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then He took them with Him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida." (Luke 9:10)

These are just two of the many examples we can find of Jesus withdrawing from the busy-ness of ministry to rest and meet with God. It's a model of something very necessary for the life God has called us to live as His followers.

In our society, I believe this is even more important for us to learn. We prize being busy - even in the church. And we feel guilty for taking a break.

Yet, if we were to follow Jesus' example, as recorded in the gospels, we would regularly carve out time away from the busy-ness to be with God. We would make the time away a priority rather than an after-thought.

Because, the truth is that we can't live out what God has for us the best if we're constantly running from one thing to the next. We got too tired.

When we're constantly running, we also risk missing what God is leading us to next. We can get so focused on what we need to do next that we miss out on God trying to move us in a different direction. Or we just get so tired that even the thought of doing something new or different becomes too much for us.

What would it look like for us to regularly take time away for refreshing and the hear from God? What would change if we became intentional about not allowing busy-ness to take over our lives?

It seems I go in seasons with this. Sometimes I do this much better than others. It's easy for my calendar to just get filled up again - especially when it's with good things. But, even those good things may not be the best things.

So, how do we protect ourselves from falling into the trap of prizing our busy-ness? How do we make sure we're not so busy we don't have room for time to hear from God?

There's a few things I've learned that help me to do this better.

1) Be intentional and schedule it.

If I'm not paying attention it can be really easy to overload my calendar. All the empty places in my days get filled. But, if I regularly block off time in my calendar, I'm more likely to leave the space I need in my life. Often I sit down and block out the time on my calendar at the beginning of the month for the entire month - so it's just done and I don't have to try to remember all the time.

2) Lean to say no - even when it's something good.

This has probably been one of the most difficult things for me to learn and I don't do it well all the time. Lots of good opportunities to be involved in something come my way, but, realistically, I can't say yes to them all. Sometimes the way to manage our schedules and not become too busy is to say no to some of the good opportunities that come our way.

I've learned not to say a quick yes or be too hasty in my no. But, instead, to take each good opportunity to prayer and give myself time to look at the impact a yes would have on me, my family, my friends, my other commitments, and, most importantly, my relationship with God. Sometimes it won't fit, sometimes it will, and sometimes I realize it's time for something to change because this needs to fit and something else doesn't anymore.

3) Show grace to yourself.

In many ways, this is the most important one. We don't always do this well. We'll fill our calendars and get so busy we don't have time for what should be most important. When we realize that, it's not time to beat ourselves up. It's time to make the decisions we need to make to get our schedules beack under control and start again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My Least Favourite Part of Church Services

I've often wondered if I'm the only one who feels this way, or if there's more who feel the same way sitting in church pews each week. I love church. I love my church.

But there's a moment in almost every church service that I don't really look forward to. Some weeks, I would say it's the moment I dread.

What is it?

That moment, usually after the first song, when someone tells you to greet the people around you before you sit down.

Writing it down, it doesn't sound like something that's a big deal. And compared to so many things in life, it probably isn't a big deal at all.

But, it's a moment when I'm often tempted to just slip out of the service just to avoid the awkwardness I feel doing that.

It's not that I don't want to talk to people, or I want to just ignore the people around me. But, I do find it awkward to just shake hand sand say hi to people I may or may not know. I would much rather take a few minutes for a conversation with someone, than say nothing more than hi to a dozen people in the next minute.

I've always been like this. When I arrive at a party and there's a crowd of people there already, I'm not going to be the one who says hi to everybody. I'll find a couple of people to start a conversation with. Over the course of an evening, I'll talk to more people, but large groups of people can be draining for me, so I'll look for the smaller groups within that through-out the time I'm there.

It may only be a minute or two in church, but that time can be draining for someone like me. With ever person I turn to, I'm draining to social energy I have to spend for the evening. And some weeks, I don't have very much to begin with, so it's really tempting to avoid this time of spending what I have to spend that night.

But, I also don't want to come across as rude to anyone around me, so I'll turn and shake hands with people around me. I'll do my best to engage in this part of the church service as well, but more weeks than not, it's a challenging time for me.

I've had this post sitting as a draft for a few months because I've been trying to figure out a way to wrap it up. A way to bring it to some kind of a conclusion. But, that is proving to be elusive. However much I want a tidy ending to this post, I'm beginning to think there isn't one for this post.

It's not something where I can say "this is what we should do about this." It's something where all I can say is we need grace for each other. I know some people who like this part of a church service. And I know I'm not the only one who could do without it.

So, what do we do? 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Vulnerable Community


They all stared out the window across the room.

No one dared to break the silence. No one knew what to say.

The longer they say, the more awkward the silence became.

Eventually someone would have to speak. Someone would have to break the silence.

But, what does someone say?

The best responses would require vulnerability. Do any of them want to take that chance? Can they trust the others in the room?

Finally, someone broke the silence. Took the risk of being vulnerable.

That's all it took for others to share. For a safe place to be vulnerable with each other. A place where they could really love each other. A place where they could celebrate together and mourn together.

I've been reflecting a lot recently on the importance of having safe people in our lives where we can be vulnerable. Places where we can turn at our best and at our worst and find love, support, encouragement, and challenge when we need it.

It's become a bit over-used and lost of some of its impact, but that doesn't reduce the need for us to have real community with other believers. We were made for it and we can't live the full life God created us for without it.

The importance of community has been something I've become more accutely aware of in my own life recently. In the last year and a bit, I have relied on the community I've built in my life in a way I haven't in the past. And I've never been more grateful for them than I am now.

I'm talking about the type of community that comes from just doing life together. From sharing the good and the bad of life together. Those people you can laugh with and cry with.

Do you have the community in your life?

Are you investing in it?

Are you willing to seek it?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Exposing what Hides in Darkness

"This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sine, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
                                                                                                            1 John 1:5-9

Fear hides in darkness.

Fear causes us to hide in darkness.

We don't want what we've tried to keep hidden in darkness to be brought into the Light.

This means we don't let God in, because He is Light.

Because God is Light, He exposes what we try to keep hidden in darkness.

Sometimes we only allow Light into part of the space. We'll allow the Light to shine on the places we feel we've had time to clean up a bit.

We think by doing so we're walking in the Light, but there is still a darkness beyond the entryway. We've been confused by the enemy to think that doesn't matter, and the he uses it to gain back ground in the areas we've begun to let the Light into.

In these times, we think we're walking in the Light as long as we're facing the door so we can't see the darkness behind us. We're lying about walking in the Light, because the enemy has confused us.

We have to make the choice to let the Light go beyond the door and the immediate area we feel like we can keep somewhat in order in our own strength.

We live with a fear of what will be exposed if we allow the Light to come completely in and dispel the darkness. What we see in the shadows of the Light we've allowed in only so far scares us and we feel like it would be better if we just leave those places untouched and in the dark. But, Jesus wants to expose those places to the Light so the good work He has begun in us can be finished.

These verses in 1 John speak of exactly that. Our need to admit our darkness and let the Light in. The process of taking that first step may be full of fear and anxiety, but once we actually let the Light in, we'll never regret it.

That first step is confessing our sin, our darkness. God gives us forgiveness and purifies us from our sin. He removes the darkness by flooding that place with His Light. Darkness cannot continue to exist when the Light comes.

As much as we might wish this was a one time thing, it's something we must do continually, as we easily forget and turn out the Light in areas of our lives. We also have an enemy who is diligently looking for any way he can get in and turn out the Light on us.

We need to continually invite God's Light in to expose what's been hidden in darkness. And then be willing to confess what is exposed. That is the only way we can walk in the Light that brings fellowship with God.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

When Prayers Don't Seem Like They're Being Answered

How many times have you prayed for something only to feel it wasn't answered the way you wanted and were praying for?

If you're like me or others I've asked that question to, the answer is probably more than once.

When this happens, it can shake our belief in the power of prayer. We can begin to wonder if the time and energy we invested in the prayer was worth it.

I've been in this place a few times and I've had to wrestle with the questions that came, trying to make sense of it. In some of those instances it has seemed like it would be easiest to just give up. But, then I'm reminded of all the times I've seen prayers answered and it reminds me of who I keep praying.

During these times of questioning, I've come to realize a few things about prayer and what seems to happen in response to our prayers.

God made us with the ability to choose in every situation and He doesn't remove that just because someone is praying. God will provide the opportunity and He will use people and circumstances to point people to Him and the plan He has. But, those we pray for still have a choice to make that will decide what the situation looks like as it plays out.

Our prayers still play an important part. There is a spiritual battle we can't see, but is always going on. Even if we don't see the outcome we were praying for in a situation, our prayers were important because they are fighting that spiritual battle. They were a part of the removal of obstacles to the people we were praying for being able to hear God. Yes, that person still had a choice to make, but our prayers helped to remove the obstacles to hearing.

I don't know about you, but that reminds me that my prayers are important no matter the outcome of a situation.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Power of Really Caring

I was watching a rerun of a favourite TV show, and was reminded of the power of taking a minute to really listen to someone. Of stopping, asking, and really listening to what they have to say. That moment can change everything for someone.

This is something I've seen over and over as I've been reading through the Gospel of Mark. Jesus continually stopped to talk to people. To hear their stories. To discover their needs. To really care about them as a person.

In our busy lives it can be easy to just run on to the next thing we need to do. To just make assumptions about someone based on what we see at a glance or hear in passing. Or to decide we know best, even if we have no idea what the real story is.

But, when we take the time we need to really listen to other people, it can change everything for them and for us. It can change our entire perspective on the person. We discover things that make the person who they, that explain why they're acting a certain way.

It slows our lives down to do this. We have to be willing to be interrupted by God, even when it seems inconvenient. We have to be okay with being stopped in our plans, with having them changed.

But, it leads to a much fuller life when we do this. Both for us, and for the people we take the time to really listen to.

A life that Jesus modeled for us when He was on earth.

A life that matters beyond us.

A life that we were created for.