A year ago April, thirty six women showed up in my house. I invited them to come and find new community. One with no pre-requisites. No matter education level, background, hair color or if you had any. No discussion of denomination or if we drank from the same juice can on issues. The more breaths we take, we discover the deep range of gray that covers many issues that grow into dividing lines. Love prevails. Grace endures.
A year later we are hundreds strong, women who gather, talk, pray, laugh, play and eat... lots of eating. I shared with these beautiful souls last week my journey and why I care that we gather, foster, grow and go out into the world.
A few asked me to share again.
Crisis, Choices, Freedom...
Wherever you find yourself at this moment, single, married, widowed... I want you to think about you and God... your relationship. What does it look like? This relationship, that calls to be first of all relationships and sadly is the most neglected, ignored, trampled upon. Until we find ourselves against the wall as we cry out for a Savior. Even this sometimes happens after we have called out to man as our savior.
A friend asked me the other day, "I'm praying my heart's desire and nothing is happening. Am I supposed to change what my heart wants? Should I pray for God to change my heart?" Her question got me thinking... what have been my answers when I have asked God for my heart's desire? And was I wrong in asking because I can't think of many that came true. I believe God has given me better answers to my requests, sometimes more painful, many times very different but I think I'm different because of His answers.
I think I know Him more because of His answers. I'm not a better Christian. I still make mistakes, think in the zillions, but I think I'm solid in my belief of who God is.
I think we will always struggle with our heart's desire because of our human condition. I will always be a beginner in faith because of the skin I wear. Thomas Merton said, "We do not want to be beginners. But but let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners all our life." I'm okay with that. It doesn't mean I am not being transformed as I mature in my faith. It means, at least to me... don't get too cocky Dale, thinking you know the ways of God or how He feels on every issue. It keeps me humble and reminds me when others bring out their legalism measuring stick, I can roll my eyes a bit and say, Bless their heart. Okay, I would try not to say that, because I know what it means. It's not nice or kind but neither is legalism, but I digress.
Tonight we're talking about Crisis, Choices, and Freedom. We will all suffer crisis of faith moments in our life, and we will all choose, one way or another and freedom is where God calls us to live. Freedom to cast our cares on Him, and live our faith out loud! Freedom to dream big with God! God has created each of us with a purpose, a passion, a calling, if we walk it out, He will use us, everyday for His glory. Oh, and it will look nothing like you thought it would.
Proverbs 16:9 says, "The Heart of man plans his ways but the Lord establishes his steps." So make your plans, but make them in pencil and give God the eraser! Corny but true, oh so true.
Oswald Chambers said, "If you are truly recognizing your Lord, you have no business being concerned with how or where. He engineers your circumstances. If you debate for even one second if God has spoken to you, it's all over for you. Be reckless immediately, totally unrestrained and willing to risk everything, casting your all upon him." Wow! That's crazy, right?! Who lives that way?! I think we should.
The goal of our lives is not the work we do, the nonprofits we start, the churches we build or the busyness for him. No. It's… are we bringing God glory? Through our interactions with others, in the workplace, our homes? In the tough moments when we are wronged, hurt, maligned. Do we show Him off, giving Him glory, or do we make Him cringe? I was thirty years old before I understood that glory was God's first desire of me.
A couple years ago I came through a desert time. I had spent three years in the desert. Not the literal desert, but what felt like a desert to me. Sixteen years earlier I had moved from New York to Illinois with my husband and young family. Champaign was a rich season for us, with deep relationships and community. But the next move was hard. No kids, no job no friends. I left my youngest in Nashville, a freshman in college where his sister was. I left my job, church, leadership group, my community. Where I was known. Where I was loved. Where people knew my story.
It was lonely, and it was for the best. God started a new work in me. We got close, went deep and I waited. I thought IT, whatever it was, would happen. It didn't. Not as I expected. It was the season, a season that was lonely and hard, and maybe where you find yourself tonight. But take heart, it's only a season. It may be painful, but it doesn't have to be wasted. For me, I read more, I wrote more, I prayed more. I got to know God more. These are the seasons that grow us.
The next season was a move to Nashville, east to be specific. As I opened the last box of mostly unnecessary items I said, "Okay, now what God?!" That was March 2014... two years ago. I stood in my kitchen and spoke out loud, "God, You and I, we are good, really good, but I need more. I need friends. Women to do life with!"
There is something that happens when we speak out loud, to God. Within days things started changing. Maybe we become more aware, we believe more... we voice it so we are claiming it. Whatever it is, we must be careful what we speak out loud. Make sure your words are true and honorable. The book of Psalms is a sweet place to proclaim His Word back to Him. His Word is living and breathing and He offers these truths to all of us. Do we know them? Have we claimed them?
"If God is for us, who shall be against us?" Romans 8:31
A year later KnownNashville was born and God showed up and showed off. Women spoke of past hurts and judgements. They shared the desire to be accepted right where they stood, without having to change clothes or choices. Their hearts longed for community to build an army of women, holding one another up in the hard moments and celebrating the joys of this life.
Friends, we stepped out in faith and God provided. He has called women together in small groups, book clubs, dinners, monthly gatherings... the communities grow, I am humbled and my heart rejoices.
Life is messy and we should not struggle through it alone. When we are honest about our mess and lay it all down to God, He picks it up. Our God can handle our mess.
tomorrow part two... no boundaries, no fear.