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Peeling Wallpaper and Vulnerability

It was a whirlwind thirty-six hours.

My friend, Katie, and I drove from the Pennsylvania mountains to the quaint towns of New England to visit a mutual friend for the day. Typical of most close friendships, we never ran out of words the entire time. We ate pizza and salads and smoothies, giggled at the massage chairs during our pedicures, and shared the deeper struggles of our hearts as mamas and wives late into the night.

We couldn’t visit New Hampshire without experiencing some of the history of our country. We spent several hours exploring Strawbery Banke, an outdoor living museum of centuries-old homes and gardens. It was like stepping back into the 1700’s as we peeked into bedrooms and outhouses. We wondered what it would have been like to cook over an open fire in the kitchen. We were shocked to see a co-sleeping bassinet with very little difference to today’s cribs. We imagined the lives of these first citizens of our nation.

Near the end of our visit we entered a home built in the early 18th century. From the outside it looked like the other refurbished homes we had already explored. On the inside, however, it was completely different. The museum had purposely left it almost completely untouched.

Peeling layers of paint, a half a dozen wallpaper patterns, and exposed beams told a fascinating story. The smell of age made it difficult to fully breathe. We gripped the shaky stair rail and spent only a few moments in the creaky upstairs before we slowly made our descent.

The lack of renovations gave an intriguing narrative of this home. Births and deaths. Laughter and tears. Arguments and harmony. Beautiful upgrades and bad design choices. Hope and fear. The walls had seen it all.

I sensed a vulnerability in this home absent in the other renewed structures around it and yet it was my favorite of all that we explored that day.

I haven’t been able to shake the parallel between that old house and my tendency to shine myself up in order to impress. Even my “vulnerability” can be carefully curated to give the impression of openness, while holding back the ugliest parts of my heart.

Can I say something blunt? I think true openness is virtually impossible online. It is too easy to pick and choose the sins we confess. It is too easy to filter our mess. We love to #keepitreal while downplaying the damaging effects of our brokenness.

Is there someone in your life who regularly sees and shares the ugly, peeling parts of your heart? Is there a safe person who has proven her trustworthiness over time? Do you share your shortcomings to a friend who allows you to vent, but will eventually point your heart back to the truest Friend of all?

The Jesus-following life was not designed to be led in isolation or behind shiny masks. Galatians 6 illustrates the tension and balance between personal accountability and community support.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

We are multifaceted people. We process thousands of emotions each day. We carry dozen of burdens as we navigate this broken world. We are formed by stories and scars. We will each be held accountable for our sins and our response to the gospel of Jesus.
However, community is vital to our growth too! We can truly answer the call to bear each others burdens only when we share the ripped wallpaper and broken beams of our heart. Painting a shiny veneer over our true struggles only looks good for a time.

We fulfill our calling to holiness by returning over and over to the accomplishments of Jesus and pointing our friends in that direction too. Vulnerability for vulnerability’s sake is worthless. Openness without gospel-shaped hope is ineffective and will never bring lasting change.

Transparency allows us to look beyond the ugly and see the beautiful tapestry God is weaving with the thread of His grace and we look forward to the day when His ultimate Restoration is finally complete!

Slow Growing

On the first Saturday of July, our town will host the annual 4th of July celebration. We have a unique advantage because the parade progresses down Main Street – directly in front of our house. Traditionally, we’ll invite our friends and their lawn chairs over to collect candy and clap along with the Rinky-Dink Dancers from the next town over.
Once the parade is finished, we’ll head to the park across the street to sample deep-fried oreos, maple cotton candy, live local music and handmade crafts. The day will finish with fireworks over the Tioga River which we can watch from our front porch.

There is a certain amount of comfort in the repetition of celebratory events. Another year is passed, yet the people, the love, and the home remain the same.

On the other hand, all the years can run together.  Without pictures to see how old the kids were or even how many we currently had, I can’t rehearse specific details of each year.  There was the scorching year that the fire trucks stopped every few feet to spray the kids with their giant hoses. I honestly can’t remember if that was 4 or 5 years ago. Maybe it was even more!

The daily monotony in the home can feel very similar. The days run together with another set of PB&J’s made, more teeth brushed, and one more floor swept. The family photos on the wall mark a moment somewhere between the birth of that child and the present. I’m not always sure how much time has passed since that marker in time.

The cycle feels like a hamster wheel or one maybe one of those really bad slow motion dreams. Each day includes a lot of work, but the progress forward is little to none.

My sister recently saw a picture of my youngest and remarked at how old she looked. Until then, I was blinded to the fact that she has indeed grown taller and is losing her toddler features.

A few weeks ago, a friend commented on the polite response of my son when they interacted before church. It blessed my heart and opened my eyes to the slow, barely visible improvements in his behavior.

The most encouraging thought of all – at this time last year, my baby girl was still in diapers!

My own life reflects the growth that can’t be seen on a daily basis. Sanctification is slow, hard, and monotonous. I feel no significant change when I wake up from one day to the next. I struggle with the same besetting sins and am reminded of the same spots of weakness. My spiritual life is more similar to the unhurried growth of an oak tree than the rapid sprouting of our backyard grass. It’s barely visible most days.

“The growth of trees and plants takes place so slowly that it is not easily seen. Daily we notice little change. But, in course of time, we see that a great change has taken place. So it is with grace. Sanctification is a progressive, lifelong work (Prov 4:18). It is an amazing work of God’s grace and it is a work to be prayed for (Rom 8:27).”
(John Owen – The Holy Spirit, 108-109)

As time gradually passes, the Shepherd of my soul stays the same. It is His work, not mine that will ultimately conform me to His Son. I can take comfort in the repetition of habits (confession, prayer, Bible study, etc….) that change me even when I don’t see it immediately. I can change only because He is constant.

We have a little over a month until school starts up again. I plan to use that less structured time for investing in growth in grace even if I can’t see the results until years later. I will be finishing my study of Exodus, taking some unplanned naps, travelling with my family, and enjoying Fourth of July fireworks, of course.


I will also be working behind the scenes on some writing and speaking projects for the Fall. Things may not be extremely active here until those deadlines have passed. But I’d love to keep in contact via Instagram and the Kitchen Table Newsletter.

 

Glory in the Ordinary {a review}

This summer we have instituted a new chores chart in our home. My boys earn “technology” time by completing various activities throughout the morning. They can choose from a variety of jobs such as  vacuuming the living room or collecting the household trash in exchange for minutes of play. They also have to complete time investing in creative activities or outside fun before picking up the Nintendo.

Although it wasn’t my initial purpose, this system has been extremely helpful for me! Even small jobs done by my nine year old, relieve the pressure of running a busy home. Sharing the load of work, has allowed me to take a breather every now and then.

While I am currently a stay-at-home mom to three young children, the jobs I have to complete in a typical week are very surprisingly similar to a big city attorney or third-world shepherd. We all have food to cook and clothes to wash. We are slaves to the cycle of household work that has no end. The monotony of it can be a heavy burden to bear.

That’s why I was so grateful to read the brand new book by Courtney Reissig, entitled Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God. She addresses two misunderstandings about work: it is only valuable when it is rewarded with payment and it is only valuable when it is great or successful. I love how she sums up a feeling that most of us have experienced:

We are living in a time when being ordinary is the worst thing that can happen to a person, and nothing screams ordinary like at-home work.

I know I can relate! She develops a critical point throughout the beginning of the book which lays a foundation for the rest of the chapters. Our work is rooted in our role as image bearers of God. Creating order from disorder not only reflects our Creator but brings glory to Him no matter how small the job may be.

Courtney touches on some very important topics relating to work including rest, the idol of work, and the calling in our work. She emphasizes that our work here in this world is training for the jobs we will have in the new and perfect Earth that is to come when Jesus returns.

The book is a perfect length – long enough for thought provoking content, yet short enough for a busy mom to read in between her responsibilities throughout the day. Courtney leaves the reader with hope that there is a deeper purpose in our work. She closes the book with this encouragement,

Your work might be ordinary, but it’s filled with glory. Your work might be mundane, but it’s taking you somewhere. Your work might be born out of blood, sweat, and tears (literally), but it’s producing life in others for people who have eternity in front of them. It’s good work. It’s meaningful work. And it matters to God.

I highly recommend this book to those struggling with the never-ending cycle of work that is required of you each day. If you feel swamped and dismayed at the jobs that never seem complete, this book is for you. I was refreshed after reading Courtney’s words and now have a renewed perspective of the importance of the work I am called to do in my home.

You can purchase your own copy at Amazon.

Motherhood is the Reason, Not the Excuse…

I can vividly remember sitting on the floor of the newly decorated nursery surrounded by Pampers and pacifiers. The tears flowed as I asked my husband, “What do we do with him now?” The thought of taking care of this little person, my son, seemed absolutely overwhelming. He didn’t wait long before announcing exactly what I needed to do next and as I changed his diaper, I knew that life would be different – forever.

As a somewhat wiser mom of three now, I can confidently say that caring for children is one of the uniquely hardest jobs a woman will ever have. Kids demand our attention at all hours of the day draining us emotionally and physically. Add to the chaos a job to help the family stay afloat financially and a ministry or two to further the gospel and we find ourselves over committed and drained. We are busy women.

Unfortunately, Satan uses that busyness as a foothold in our lives. When our schedule is packed to capacity something needs to give and the neglected item often becomes Bible study.

We use our motherhood as an excuse to skip our time in God’s Word.

Read more at my friend Whitney’s online home….

When the Hard Road is the Best Road

The book is closed on another school year. Actually half of the pages are thrown away and the other half is saved carefully in a gigantic notebook to present to our homeschool evaluator. We have to prove that we did indeed complete third grade during the last nine months!

I don’t write about homeschooling often. There are hundreds of articles and entire websites devoted to the art of education and curriculum choices. I don’t have much insight to add to the conversation.

Like most other families, we wrestled with our schooling decision when our oldest was still a toddler. Because we live in a small community, our options are limited. We chose the public school initially as a way to get to know others outside of the church context. My son did well, learned to read quickly, and loved his teachers. During that time, my husband became the only pastor at our church. This brought with it a new complexity with our schedules. Between late-night meetings and hospital visits, he and my son were virtually two ships passing in the night. So we became a homeschooling family.

Homeschooling offers a flexibility to our family calendar that we cherish and it scratches the teaching itch that I have had since leaving the classroom ten years ago. Overall, we have found it to be a good fit for our situation.

So, here I am reflecting on two years of educating my children within the walls of our home (and on family vacations, of course) and I have to say, it is the hardest thing I have ever done. I had visions of my sons sitting with their hands folded, eagerly awaiting the next pearl of wisdom I would offer. I imagined memorizing entire chapters of Scripture to recite as a family. I hoped we would spend our afternoons cuddled on the couch reading the classics.

While there have been some special bonding moments, most of my days are filled with sibling squabbles, a toddler who finds her joy in tearing pages out of library books, and complaints about math worksheets. The laundry pile doesn’t take care of itself and the monotonous cycle of household chores seems to scream at me from every corner of every room! I researched other schooling options at various points throughout the year. Surely there must be an easier road!

It is the hardest, most repetitious, most beautiful, most rewarding thing I have ever done. Homeschooling has knocked me to my knees like nothing else ever has. I have come face to face with my weaknesses and sin on a daily basis. The waves of failure and anger have driven me to my Strong Tower over and over again.

Homeschooling (like motherhood in general) has been both refining and sanctifying in my life. It is more than countries and capitals or multiplication tables. It is an opportunity for the Spirit to reveal areas of self-dependence and pride that I have covered with the illusion of having it all together. Homeschooling makes it obvious that I don’t.

Maybe you have made a different educational choice for your children. Maybe you don’t have any kids yet. Maybe you’re facing waves much higher than third grade spelling lists. Could it be that the hardest thing in your life right now is actually the best thing? The thing that makes you wake up with dread or fills you with fear can leave you weak and vulnerable to depression or can move you closer to the Rock of your salvation.

Someday, I won’t be a homeschooling mom anymore. It could be in the middle of next year or when all of my children are in college. Until then, God has seen fit to conform me to the image of his Son through my own sons. He has proven Himself faithful in my unfaithfulness and offered His power in the most fatiguing of days. As I reflect and rejoice in another completed school year, I give Him all the glory for my survival!
My heart sings with David,

The Lord is my rock,
my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock where I seek refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold.
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I was saved from my enemies…………
God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord is pure.
He is a shield to all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is a rock? Only our God.
God—he clothes me with strength
and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer
and sets me securely on the heights.
He trains my hands for war;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation;
your right hand upholds me,
and your humility exalts me.
You make a spacious place beneath me for my steps,
and my ankles do not give way.

Losing My Mind to Save My Body

“If you lost 5 more pounds, you’d look perfect.”

It’s funny how a string of words said in passing, can be remembered so clearly almost twenty years later. I was standing outside with my circle of friends before another day of 11th grade classes began. I had been bemoaning the fact that I still wasn’t at my goal weight after months of dieting when Jack decided to insert himself into the conversation. He actually meant to encourage me, but his comment left me defeated. Obviously, I still wasn’t quite skinny enough. So I determined in my heart that I would lose that weight even if it meant starving myself.

I had become slightly overweight in my early high school years. Dr. Pepper, pizza, and peanut butter cups have that effect on the body. I was definitely healthier after losing thirty-five pounds, but the number on the scale began to consume me. I savored comments about how great I looked, and I was filled with pride when I could easily wear my best friend’s size 4 skirt on our senior trip.

My weight had become my identity.

I find myself struggling with this same identity crisis even now as a 33-year-old mom of three. I obsess over eating plans and cleanses on Pinterest. I have attempted low carb, high fat, and restricted calorie diets. I focus on difficult workout programs promising to change my “problem zones.” I research the benefits of exotic super foods that can still be readily purchased at my local Aldi store, of course. I feel unstoppable when I lose a couple pounds and devastated when the scale creeps back up to where I began.

Ironically, all that energy spent on myself doesn’t do much on the outside. I don’t look extremely fit or grossly overweight. I simply appear average.

The truth is, I’m losing my mind while trying to save my body.

My theology tells me that I’m not alone. In fact, I have all creation on my side. All of us – plants, animals, humans – are groaning together for the day when this unattainable struggle for perfection is over. In fact, each time I look in the mirror or step on the scale, I am reminded of the “already, not yet” tension that exists until Christ’s second coming.

This past week was a hard health week for me. I am battling exhaustion, headaches, and of course, weight gain. At this point my blood work shows no warning signs. While this should be a good thing, I’m left with symptoms with no answers.

During this time, I came across Paul’s words in II Corinthians 5…..

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight.

The annoyance and anxiety we have over undiagnosed diseases and stubborn weight are more than symptoms of the curse. They are also a reminder of what is to come.

My body now is currently a product of the dirt. God miraculously formed Adam from the dust of the ground and each of us returns to that ground when our body dies. The cycle of life points to the effects of sin upon us all. But, that’s not the whole story.

Jesus broke sin’s curse when he conquered death. His triumph was the start of a brand new creation. Paul tells us that those who have put their trust in Christ’s rescue share in that new start. The old burden of sin is gone and the new has come. Just like we have received forgiveness and grace for our sins, we have been guaranteed a brand new, perfectly working physical body. The Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers, is a seal of that promise.

I’ve still been wrestling with what to do in the meantime.

It is important to fuel my body with healthy food and strengthen it with regular exercise, but my health isn’t meant to be my god.

It’s nice to fit into my favorite jeans, but can I still effectively fulfill my calling at one size larger?

Fitness and nutrition motivation from others is great, but comparison usually follows close behind.

How can I take care of this temporary dwelling while waiting for my new one?

I know that my identity rests in Jesus not the scale and my acceptance is not in my workout regimen, but in His finished work at the cross.

The tension between what is and what is to come is infuriating at times, but it must point my eyes to the Eternal One who holds all things together (including my imperfect body.) I must cling to the certain hope that this broken tent will be gone very soon.

Until then I live by faith, not sight.

Facing A Task Unfinished – a night with the Getty’s {including pics and videos}

Most of my posts here are devotional in nature. I love processing thoughts about the gospel and its daily impact on our lives. Recently, though, I had one of the most fun experiences of my life, and I just had to share it!

As you may know, we live in a very small town. We have beautiful mountains and relatively safe streets, but often miss out on fun things like Chick-fil-a and Target. That all changed when the famous modern hymn writers, Keith and Kristyn Getty decided to add our little community  as a stop on their current tour. If that wasn’t exciting enough, they needed some volunteers to sing in a backup choir. I signed up immediately!

Our choir of thirty-five practiced twice a week for several weeks leading up to the event. It was so fun to make new friends as we rehearsed.

Whenever the Gettys travel, Keith hosts a conversation with pastors and leaders from around the area. It was so encouraging to hear his heart behind hymn writing and corporate singing. One of my favorite thoughts was this, “We sing because we are commanded, but also compelled by the love of Christ.”

Later that afternoon, the choir joined the soundcheck for the concert. This was not a full rehearsal, but a quick 30 minute run-through of trouble spots. Good thing we had practiced so many hours in advance AND had such an amazing choir director.

Here’s a short (and low quality) video I took at the beginning of the rehearsal.

 

The concert itself was great and fulfilled all my expectations of a fantastic time! The musicians were out of this world good! It was so special to be just a small part of the musical celebration that evening.

Afterwards, the band headed outside for an impromptu “jam” session. Sorry for the guy blocking my view, but this might give you a little taste of the fantastic talent of these musicians.

 

Thank you to the Getty’s and their band for blessing our small community with their Christ focused music. If they ever head back to the rural mountains of Pennsylvania, I’ll be the first to sign up for the choir!!

Rainy Day Reflections

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It was one of those kind of mornings.

Actually, it’s been one of those kinds of months.

All five of us woke up on the wrong side of the bed. The noise level was deafening from the moment the boys’ feet hit the floor. My husband and I argued about something trivial related to the homemade donuts I had attempted for breakfast. Our littlest had so many meltdowns that I had no other option but to put her back to bed for a few hours. I didn’t get any coffee until at least 10 am.

The mood in our house imitated the cloudy day outside our windows.

Lately, our home has felt more like a prison than a haven.

It could be the winter weather that has trapped us inside for the last 5 months.

It could be the middle of the school year blues.

It could be the fact that we spend almost every waking hour with one another.

It could be the germs that won’t leave our health alone.

As I was lying on the hardwood floor next to my daughter’s bed trying to coax her to sleep, it hit me.

The emptiness I felt in our family was because we had once again forgotten the gospel. 

Chaos and stress cause us to default to our natural tendencies. Mine is perfectionism and law (for others, of course). My training lately has turned something similar to that of a military officer. Do this! Clean this! Stop that!
The harder I try, the more our weaknesses as a family are revealed. I demand certain behaviours without reminding them of the Person who can enable those actions.

A friend once told me that she felt she was failing at what our family must be doing perfectly and consistently. The truth is that it has been weeks since we’ve had a family worship time. My instruction to the kids to read the Bible gets almost as many eye rolls as when they’re asked to clear the table after dinner. I could name at least a dozen things off the top of my head that need desperate improvement in our home.

The sun peaked through the low-hanging clouds outside. The bright rays cut through the dimness of the house and pierced my heart with hope. I embraced a rare quiet moment to preach to myself.

My standing before a holy God does not depend on the standard of my living, but on the sacrifice of my Savior.

Gentleness can replace my short fuse because His kindness brings me to repentance.

Grace and forgiveness can be given freely (parent to child, child to parent, and sibling to sibling) because of the great debt that was paid at the cross.

Paul Tripp in his book Parenting offers this necessary reminder,

“No parent gives mercy better than the one who is convinced that he desperately needs it himself.”

I am definitely desperate, and I am choosing to cling to the new mercies He offers me each day. His power is made complete in my many weaknesses. Maybe their mommy’s obvious need for grace will allow my children to grow up trusting in an almighty, unfailing power outside of themselves. Maybe our family shortcomings and the forgiveness we offer through Christ will give them a framework of gospel hope on which to build their lives. I cling to the fact that because of Jesus, God is redeeming and reconciling all things (even temper tantrums and bouts of depression) – everything – to Himself for His ultimate glory.

There is eternal good even in the most cloudy of days. 

Take the Awkward First Step in Friendship {a guest post}

This post is an excerpt from Christine Hoover’s new book, Messy Beautiful Friendship: Finding and Nurturing Deep and Lasting Relationships, which explores the joys and complexities of friendship among Christian women. Find out more about Christine at www.gracecoversme.com.


 

 

When it comes to school dances, Footloose was no lie, except for the part when Kevin Bacon, who’s been practicing punching and kicking the air in an empty warehouse, shows up and everyone suddenly becomes fantastic dancers and instinctively knows the choreography. Middle school dances are perpetually the beginning of that final scene in Footloose, where the guys and girls are on separate sides, no one dares talk to the opposite gender, the music is lame, and absolutely no one knows how to dance so they just stand against the wall trying to look casually cool. Everyone’s waiting for someone else to make the first move.

 

Making friends and even deepening the ones we already have feels eerily similar to being an awkward middle schooler at a dance. We show up. We put our best foot forward. We want to be invited and chosen, because we want so badly to belong. We gravitate toward the huddle of people just like us. It all feels desperately awkward and clunky as we hang out against the wall, hoping for someone—anyone—to make the first move.

 

Really, we’re all just separated by an unwillingness to be uncomfortable. It’s too uncomfortable to cross the floor. It’s too uncomfortable to strike up a conversation with someone who appears as foreign as a middle school girl does to a middle school boy. It’s too uncomfortable to reveal our lurching dance moves when no one else is dancing under the glaring strobe lights.

 

I am one of the most awkward people I know. I’m actually quite shy, I’m hopeless at telling a good story or delivering the punch line well, and I tend to ask penetrating personal questions way too soon after meeting someone.

 

And I have realized I’m not the only one feeling awkward in relationships. Everyone is uncomfortable. And everyone wants to be loved. Which means that anyone who is willing to resist and push through the discomfort has an incredible opportunity to make friends.

 

I learned this through church planting, because when you start a church in a city where you don’t know a soul, and when you have a three-year financial deadline to form a self-sustaining church that has actual people, you figure out how to push through awkwardness and meet people pretty quickly. I was crossing dance floors right and left—chatting up moms at the park, inviting strangers into my home, joining the PTO, and interacting with anyone who so much as glanced in my direction. Little ol’ shy, nerdy me. And guess what? People responded. They chatted back, they accepted my invitations, they were happy to have me volunteer. People are waiting for someone to care.

 

Sometimes, if you want to know the truth, it was awkward. They’d ask why we’d moved to town and I’d tell them about the church that we were starting in our living room–and they’d get quiet and stare off into the distance, unsure what to make of me and silently willing me to go away.

 

I learned to just keep at it, because I had started connecting with women and getting to know them and, wouldn’t you know, actually making friends. Making these connections had little to do with my personality or my marital status or the ages of my children. It had everything to do with my newfound willingness to push through my own discomfort and initiate with others over and over and over again.

We are women who long for community and to live lives of purpose, but just like anything else that is good and beautiful and worth having, these things don’t come just because we want them. The secret to discovering friends is to be a person who is willing to bust in like Kevin Bacon, ignore the gasps and the silence, see a person who wants to be known and loved underneath the casual cool, and move toward them. In other words, be someone who isn’t afraid to take the first step, look a little silly, and possibly be rejected or misunderstood. Someone who isn’t afraid to push through the awkward.

 

In order to be a friend and have friends, we have to get over ourselves and just go for it. Invite an acquaintance to coffee. Visit a small group in your church even though you won’t know anyone and give it time and effort before you decide whether it’s working or not. Ask an older woman whom you admire to get together. Start a book club in your neighborhood even though it’s possible no one will show up. Serve alongside others. Ask penetrating questions to turn the conversation onto spiritual things. Confess sin to someone you consider a friend. Host a game night and invite people you want to get to know. Say yes to an invitation from a co-worker even though you’ve never spent time together outside of work. Basically, do things that make you feel uncomfortable but will possibly invite deeper friendship.

 

Of course, it’s true that we may push through the awkward and then things will be, well, awkward. The person may not respond how we hoped she would. She may not get why we’re doing what we’re doing. Our expectations and hopes for friendship may take a little tumble. We may have to do the work of getting ourselves back up and dusting ourselves off.

 

But it’s also true that we may push through the awkward and experience all sorts of incredible things, like a freeing dependence on the Lord and a new or deepening friendship.

 

We simply can’t know unless we go for it.

 

Just like Kevin Bacon.

 


This book releases on April 18th, but if you preorder, you get all sorts of fun goodies, plus the book is almost 1/2 off right now!! Get your copy here.

When the World Doesn’t Need Your Voice

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Social media is loud.

Google says, “Every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter, which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year.”

Let those numbers sink in for a second. It’s no wonder that on some days posting on social media feels like standing in the corner of a crowded party yelling at the top of my lungs for someone to pay attention to me.

Social media is the place to be. Churches and Christian organizations have realized that Facebook posts and YouTube videos are incredibly effective in sharing the gospel message. This post from almost four years ago describes the incredible benefit of smartphones and social media in the spreading of Scripture. The growing platforms of pastors and Bible teachers prove that the Holy Spirit is indeed using online ministry for God’s glory.

 

Could it be, however, that social media has encouraged laziness in our gospel witness? Have we forgotten the command to “go into all the world” and instead expect the world to come to our website or fan page? I have been convicted of this very thing recently.

Matthew 9 records the words of Jesus to his disciples,
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We have each been given a harvest field in which to labor. Mine happens to look like a tiny town in the Pennsylvania mountains. It includes a 177 year old church in an even smaller community and a toddler who has yet to give her life to Christ. It might also occasionally include a waitress or gas station attendant as I travel to visit family and friends (also included in that harvest field). My crop looks different and may yield different God-ordained results than yours, but we are each given the stewardship of time and talents to work the ground of our harvest field.

My heart has been grieved for the lack of time I spend in prayer for my lost extended family. We live miles apart and there is the very real likelihood that I will never interact with them in person again, but I can beg God to send a laborer to their field. I can ask the Spirit to pursue their lost hearts in a way that I will never be able to through an Instagram post.

The problem is that I too often spend time sowing and attempting to reap in fields that are not mine. While some may be called to speak to gigantic audiences, most of us will influence much smaller groups. I can spend huge amounts of time crafting the perfect tweet or advertising my latest blog post for those who will scroll right past.

Instead of using social media as a tool for ministry, I have turned it into a buffer to keep me clean from the sweat and tears involved in true gospel labor. I post a status from a godly worldview or pick a timely Bible verse and check the “witnessed today” box in my mental t0-do list of spiritual virtues.

The entire world does not need my singular voice. It will most likely get drowned out by all the noise anyway. Those in my path, in my everyday interactions, those in my harvest field need it desperately though. How are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14).

Father, forgive my laziness and apathy toward those who are facing an eternity without You. Deliver me from the temptation to take the easy route when sharing my faith. Help me to offer my life, not just my tweets, for the furtherance of the good news as Jesus laid down His life for me. 

“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
– Charles Spurgeon