Community: Outside Your Comfort Zone

lyrics for life

There are basically two ways to get community:

  1. You step out of your comfort zone and into someone else’s.
  2. You wait for someone else to leave their comfort zone and step into yours.

One Saturday in late April, five beautifully brave women and two toddlers stepped out of their comfort zones and into my home, while I stepped out of my comfort zone and hosted an (in) Real Life Conference.

What is the (in)Real Life Conference or (in)RL, you may ask? The conference that comes to you, the women behind (in)courage.me host a webcast on the last weekend in April and encourage women to meet together in homes across the country.

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The discussion centered around community and learning to tell your story. It’s an amazing thing that by one person opening up and sharing part of their story, others find the freedom to do the same. We end up in closer, more honest, community as a result. Through the course of the that Saturday, the six of us were able to share parts of our stories with each other. Even though I knew all the women on varying levels, I was thrilled to learn something new about each one of them as we shared.

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Earlier in April, my friend, Brooke, led a women’s training session for our church. She shared a great article by Paul Tripp that fit so well with the conference. In Who Knows You?, Tripp talks about two character qualities to shape your life by:

COURAGE OF LOVING HONESTY. “You will want relationships where truth can be spoken, where honesty lives, and where candor thrives. Truth should be spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15), but you won’t be afraid of what will be revealed about your heart and life.”

HUMILITY OF APPROACHABILITY. “When sins and weaknesses and failures are revealed about you, you won’t rise to your own defense. You won’t summon your inner defense lawyer and try to argue for your own righteousness. You will admit your need for help and run to where help can be found – Jesus Christ and the promise of a new heart.”

I highly recommend you read the whole article.

Don’t wait for someone else to break out of their comfort zone. Make the first step. Grab that courage and humility and dive into life where you can share your story and get to know someone else’s.

What can you do to build a deeper relationship with someone around you? What would be the first step to breaking out of your comfort zone?

**Thanks to a gracious host gift from Dayspring, I was able to offer these gorgeous Lyrics for Life plaques as giveaways to the women who attended the (in)RL Conference in my home. **

 

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You are a hero (minus the cape)

You, my friend, are a hero.

Didn’t know that, did you? As clueless as Lois Lane working alongside Clark Kent, you have no idea of the hero inside you. Cue Whitney Houston song…scratch that. Moving on.

You are a hero. Once in a great while, someone might see that. An author or celebrity might realize it. Most of us miss it.

Look around you. Who is watching you? It might be a child, your own or a friend’s. It might be a lonely neighbor, a disconnected coworker or classmate.

Think about it. There are people who have touched your life deeply, but you never told them. An upperclassman who was kind. An unexpected friend when the world seemed against you. A helping hand from a stranger. A friendly coworker. A camp counselor who took time to learn your name. Someone who made you feel known. Seen. Accepted.

I can almost guarantee there is someone watching your life. Someone who looks up to you. You may never even know it this side of eternity.

But, friend, you are a hero to that one. Make someone feel known and you become a hero to that person. You don’t even need a cape to prove it.

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This has been another adventure with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday community. The prompt this week is Hero. Pop on over to her blog to read other great posts.

Five Minute Friday

Come by anytime for a visit

Five Minute FridayIt’s Five Minute Friday again. We write for 5 minutes, without aiming for perfection. Just write, link up with Lisa-Jo, and read/comment on someone else’s blog.

This week, the prompt is Visit:

I met up with a retiree during a Christmas holiday event. We reintroduced ourselves. It turns out we live in the same neighborhood. Just blocks apart.

Without hesitation she invited me over for coffee. “Come by anytime for a visit.”

I responded affirmatively, “Sounds lovely. I’ll have to do that.”

Did I mean it or was I just trying to sound friendly?

How often do I extend an open invitation for someone to drop by my house anytime? To not worry about interrupting my life or disrupting my plans?

Let’s try never. I worry about making a phone call to my sister because it might mess up dinner or a homeschooling lesson or laundry or something ridiculous.

Come by anytime for a visit.

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I’d like that. I really would. I might be embarrassed at first, when I realize the state of my house or the amount of cat fur on that sunny spot on the sofa.

But deep down, I want to be known.

That includes my stacks of mail (has anyone really found a perfect solution for mail? I’d love to hear it, if you do.) or dirty dishes.

So, any local friends reading this? Take me up on it. Stop by anytime. Let’s get past the perfect facades and have a visit.

And that retired lady? I’m going to make plans to stop by her house soon.

— Read more “Visit” posts here.

Day 30: Rest in Your Mess

Photo credit: Jennifer @ http://www.jenbh.blogspot.com/

I’m a mess.

I stay up too late at night so I’m groggy and cranky when the alarm goes off – IF I hear the alarm go off. I run late – EVERY.WHERE. I lost a lot of weight, got new clothes, then gained the weight back and now nothing fits right. I put off emptying the dishwasher until the sink is full of dishes. “Luckily?,” I have a cat who can’t get it through her thick skull that she’s not allowed on the kitchen counters, so I have to keep the counters clean or she’d be licking anything left on the counter. I nag and complain and am rude to my husband when I think he should be home helping me clean. I get sidetracked by Facebook or Pinterest or blog reading instead of doing something constructive. I procrastinate. I’m jealous. I get angry. I covet my neighbor’s…well, everything.

Let’s just stop there for now. I could go on, but we all get the point – I’m a mess.

You’re a mess, too. I don’t mean to sound rude, but you know it’s true. Even if you don’t let anyone see it, you know it.

We are all messes. That should actually be comforting. Because God meets us in our mess – we don’t have to clean up our act before He wants us or before He will accept us. Romans 5:6-8 says:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Weak = messes. Sinners = messes.

We don’t have to hide our messes from one another in community, though, pretending we are already perfect. God is perfecting us as we grow closer to Him, but we’ll never be absolutely perfect this side of eternity. Pretending to be so is really only adding to the mess.

Be willing to show your mess to your friends. Be real about your mess in community. It only creates more opportunity for grace to abound (Romans 5-6) or, as Mary DeMuth put it, it’s where grace will find a home.

Rest in your mess because God shows His love for you in your mess. Then grow in grace, releasing more and more of your mess into His hands, allowing Him to work in you. My prayer for you from Philippians 1:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Can you believe it’s Day 30 of the series on Rest?

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Taking Down the Walls

The Wall Around Your HeartHi friends! Today we’re taking a brief break from the Rest series, because I am so excited about the release of The Wall Around Your Heart!

The premise of this book is that pesky wall around your heart, the impenetrable fortress you vow to build higher and higher so no one can break in. When we’re hurt, we protect. We wall off. We retreat. We leave. We falsely believe that life is too painful now, and leaving relationships will protect us from further pain.  – Mary DeMuth, The Wall Around Your Heart

We all do it. We get in a friendship or love relationship or business partnership and end up hurt. Sometimes the hurt is our own fault (admit it, sometimes it is), often the hurt comes from the other party without meaning to (their mess collides with your mess…), and even, at times, we find we have run into someone deliberately bent on hurting others. Regardless of how it happens, when we get hurt, our instinct is to protect ourselves from letting it happen again. And so we build walls.

Using the roadmap of the Lord’s Prayer, Mary DeMuth walks us through how Jesus will pull down those walls through prayer and in community. She even addresses how to protect ourselves from those “wolves in sheep clothing,” and still keep ourselves open to healing community.

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The Wall Around Your Heart is written in an easy-to-read style, with many of Mary’s personal stories interjected throughout. She starts with the Scripture of the Lord’s Prayer as her base, but also includes other Scripture references for further study. Several places in the book have prayers to guide you to pray for specific circumstances and the end of every chapter includes questions to help you grow in being openhearted.

I highly recommend this book to people who have been hurt by community, who are nursing raw relational wounds, with freshly built walls. I strongly suggest this book to people who have scars from years of hurt, whose walls are tall and deep. God has plans to break through all of these. Let’s together declare, “Take down the bricks, whatever it takes,” and find the sweetness of community on the other side.

If you have a wall firmly built around your heart, ask Jesus, the great gateway, to make a doorway through. He can. He is the gate. He is the avenue leading toward a rich and satisfying life—not a stingy, walled-off life.  – Mary DeMuth, The Wall Around Your Heart

You can buy The Wall Around Your Heart on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as in local stores. If you don’t see it on the shelves, ask if they can order a copy for you.

If The Wall Around Your Heart sounds like a book that would help others you know, would you share this review and encourage them to check it out?

One final note:  Mary DeMuth has another book expected to release early next year. Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing after Sexual Abuse was recently crowd-funded after traditional publishers deemed it too risky an investment. From what I’ve heard of it so far, I believe this book will minister to many hurting people marginalized by shame and fear of being marked. Pray for that book and for Mary as she has a lot of work ahead of her to prepare that for release.

Day 7: Rest Provides Margin

Photo credit: Pauli Antero via flickr (Creative Commons)

It’s been interesting to begin a series on rest when I was having one of the busiest weeks of my year, definitely of my fall (so far). Some of the things on my plate outside of work responsibilities were:

  • completing church communications tasks (writing a newsletter, maintaining a Twitter and Facebook page, reserving rooms, communicating with team members),
  • getting out early for Lead School (and finishing the reading before the session),
  • helping my husband with some graphics and printing needs for his business (and I’m not trained to do graphics),
  • starting up regular exercise again after recovering from foot injuries (to both feet), and
  • continuing to promote the launch of The Wall Around Your Heart (releasing October 15).

And I felt pretty overloaded but tried to find space in the hours I had to make it work. I was trying to find rest in the middle of it all. Some of the time, that meant I had to forego (forewent isn’t a word, is it?) pleasures like watching TV or playing games. Sometimes it meant taking a deep breath and deciding what was MOST important (since everything feels so important at the time). Sometimes it was choosing sleep over getting one more thing done (I had a great convo with Rachel, who is both a super-cool friend and super-smart PhD student, about sleep – watch for a post on that soon).

Photo credit: MoneyBlogNewz via flickr (Creative Commons)

There’s a key point that I’m learning about rest, and it relates to community. By building rest into your life (not sleep, here, but soul rest and spirit rest), you are building in margins. There’s space around you to flex and breathe. We need to have that margin of rest built into our lives, so when we are needed by a friend, spouse, child or parent, we have the resources to give out.

Here is an excellent example shared with me by another great friend: she was told that she had a dime for each day. From waking up until sleeping, there was only 10¢ to spend. Every task costs money and more expensive items cost more emotional, spiritual or physical energy. Laundry was 1¢, a tough conversation with a spouse or friend was 5¢, etc. She had to decide how to spend her dime each day, but when it was gone, there was nothing left.

Rest is like adding deposits to your day’s account. This is why I’m not emphasizing sleep. Sleep adds maybe a penny, but meditation on Scripture = 5¢. We need rest in our lives so we have more to give to others.

Jesus shows us this by His example.. The book of Mark records how Jesus would go into community and heal people and teach, then he would retreat to the Sea of Galilee. People followed him there and he would heal and teach, then retreat to the mountains. People followed him, he would teach and heal, then retreat. He continually sought out moments of rest. The times of rest refreshed Him for ministry.

By building rest into our lives, you/I can drop all the seemingly important things to focus on this one thing (a distress call from a friend or a neighbor in need at the door), because you/I have extra deposits in your rest account.

Does this make any sense? I’m kind of unwinding this ball of thought as I go – I’m learning right along with you here.

Photo credit: on2wheelz via flickr (Creative Commons)

Taking time to rest, in its various forms, provides margin in our lives that we can, in turn, pour out on the community around us. Are you creating those margins in your life, adding deposits to your account? Think about that as you go through your day.

31Days_Rest_thumb  ← Click to find links to each day in the series.

There are 1500+ blogs participating in the Nester’s 31 Day Blog Challenge. We’ve chosen nearly 1500 different topics, organized under nine categories. You’re sure to find one or more topics that interest you.

This week I’m linking up with these blogs:
              

Set Free: What Mercy

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We’re praying through A City Set Free: 40 Days of Prayer for Columbia in Karis Church and tomorrow, Day 20, is praying for those incarcerated and their families. Tonight my Missional Community met and in the course of the evening, discussed and then prayed for Day 20. One comment was made that we tend to judge people in prison looking at the wrong they have done, forgetting that we have done wrong, sinned, and had that wrong washed away – forgotten by our Heavenly Father.

That’s mercy.

It’s easy to talk about grace sometimes. We want more grace and we want to show grace and we pray for God to lavish his grace on us. Those things we don’t deserve, the gifts of the Father.

We don’t as often talk about mercy. We have sinned grievously and yet the punishment was paid by Another. What mercy was shown us, that our sins were forgiven and the debt owed was paid in full. We once were prisoners, chained in the stench of our sin. In Christ, we have been shown mercy, and have been washed clean. Pure. Free. Restored. Released from our prisons.

Praise God for his mercy!

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This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt was Mercy. There’s a couple hundred other bloggers who also wrote on mercy. You can check them out at Lisa-Jo Baker’s site. The basic rules are to write for 5 minutes on the week’s prompt – no editing. I’ve learned I’m a slow processer, because some people end up with twice as much content than I do or more. But, it’s still a fun exercise in writing freedom and it has helped me blog more consistently.

Somewhat random, but I’m going to include it because it has mercy in the first verse: we are going to be learning a new song in church on Sunday, so I’ve been previewing it. I want to share it with you as well.

I once was dead in sin,
Alone and hopeless
A child of wrath I walked,
Condemned in darkness
But Your mercy brought new life
And in your love and kindness
Raised me up with Christ,
And made me righteous

Who, Me? Missional?

Karis Church is about to make a radical change in how we handle community and outreach. In just one week we are dropping our current small group model and starting what is becoming known as Missional Communities (MCs).

Quite frankly, I’m freaked out.

Or rather I was, until a conversation with my friends, Kevin and Susan, in Virginia. Let me share their story with you:

For Valentine’s Day, their church usually has a nice dinner and invites all the church couples. They eat dinner, play the not-so-newlywed game, and generally have a good time. Not this year. No, this year they decided to have the same dinner but instead purposefully invite people who could not afford a Valentine’s Day dinner out. Everyone spread the word and a handful of people signed up to attend. Discouraged, they started asking around their city and got connected with a woman who had a relationship with people living in a lower-income neighborhood. (more…)

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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