This has been the summer I fully embraced the community of my church family. The one where I attend services and the one that has connected me with some life-long friends and acquaintances. It has been a summer of gathering together socially and spiritually. Mostly, it has been the best time I have had in years and I am beyond grateful.
Please forgive me if my language is clumsy or inadequate. I am a work in progress and happily take your suggestions on how to improve.
I grew up in a military environment that was pretty well integrated. My best friends as a kid were African American and Jewish. I learned the best parts of their heritage and was shielded from the bias against them. As a teen, two of my best friends were of Asian descent. I never saw any hate directed toward them, or if there was any, they didn’t tell me. I dated people from many backgrounds and races, yet my parents made it clear that these were unacceptable long-term relationships. I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and because my dad’s best friends were Jewish, we learned to respect their faith. In spite of all that, there were still derogatory terms used by adults around me: the N-word, the f-g word, the S-word (you get the gist) that was perfectly acceptable to them. There was an undertone that as alike as we were, we were still superior in some way because we were white and Catholic/Christian.
These are concepts that are hard for me to reconcile today. How could I grow up with such welcomed diversity and acceptance and yet still a sense that I was “better than” because of my skin color or faith? How could I have been so blind to the prejudice and hate my friends likely experienced on a regular basis? I have had to search my heart and soul to ask when I have, even in some small way, passed on that negative heritage to my daughter. How have I taken the subtle superiority of my parent’s generation and filtered relationships- personal and professional- through that negative lens?
As someone who believes we are ALL created in the image of God, we are all loved by him and we all have value and worth in his eyes; how do I reconcile those derogatory tapes in my past against the backdrop that my own family today includes Asians, African-Americans, LGBTQ+ people whom I dearly love? How do I do a better job of loving and caring for people who are not like me?
I start with asking forgiveness for my naivety and ignorance. I ask the Lord to break the chains to any past behaviors and thought patterns. I start the conversation with friends and family and seek to learn more about walking in their shoes. And I walk more closely with them.
I have to be responsible for taking off my blinders and my disbelief that prejudice and hate exist. I need be more deliberate in standing for my friends and family- asking them how best to do that. It isn’t about what I think they need and want- it is about asking them what I can do and standing with them. That’s how we break our own bias and preconceived notions. I will seek to be more informed and more engaged and more respectful of others.
Lord, forgive me when I have closed my eyes to the inequality toward your people. Forgive me for my own pride and superior attitude. Lord, open my eyes and ears and use me as an instrument of your change. Father, guide our nation to be welcoming and change our hearts to see each other as valuable, regardless of color, culture, religion, or life-style. Start with me father.
Photo: Getty images
I am a parent, who like you has dreams that my child will find love and happiness in life. I may also be a parent like you whose child or grandchild is part of the LGBTQ community. My love for her and my joy for her hasn’t changed. I have taken this to the Lord for many days and nights and I am trusting that He is with her, as he has been all her life.
Living single is not always easy. Single, no matter if you are there because you never married, divorced, or lost a spouse, has challenges that most marrieds don’t appreciate. Sure, we have freedom to do what we want to do when we want to do it, but we live in a world that focuses on married or coupled people and often we can feel excluded.
Single means making our own decisions. It means not having that spouse to turn to and discuss an upcoming surgery. Single means asking all our friends for their advice and then making a decision. It often means nursing ourselves when we are ill and suffering alone because we don’t want to burden our friends.
Living single has its challenges and it has its blessings.
We have so much to offer. We have so many opportunities to live a life of giving and community. We have the ability to step out of our homes and develop new relationships with other singles just for the purpose of being friends linked through a passion. We are not a sorry bunch but a blessed bunch and we need to start living the lives that God has given us.
Singles need each other. We need to hear each other’s stories and to encourage one another during those dark days. We need to speak strength into our circumstances and embrace all that we can do because of our situation. We need to look for opportunities to meet other singles and forge new uplifting relationships.
So get out their friends. Look for ministries in your religious organizations where you heart leads you to serve. Look for sporting events where you can meet other singles. Look around you and when you see another single sitting alone, go sit with them. When you hear of a sick single, call and offer help. When someone goes through a divorce or the loss of a spouse, walk with them until they are stronger.
We all have purpose no matter our circumstances. God can use us if we are willing to get over the notion that we are of less value than coupled people because we live alone. Be willing friends, be willing.
Faith without Good Deeds Is Dead (James 2)
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 1Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless
We’ve all been there. Friends ask us to join them for dinner along with another couple and there is that awkward moment when you both realize something is just off. Maybe you all walk into a restaurant and low and behold, most of the tables easily sit four but with five, well now we have to wait. Or we are invited to come over for a game night and there are only couples and you wonder how you will even out the sides since you are the extra person. Let’s face it, society, including our churches, is couples-focused and some days we feel as if we don’t have a place at the table.
I have lived through all the experiences above. I been around the edges when my friends are planning a weekend at the beach and they are hoping that I won’t overhear because they are only going with other couples. I know what it is like to walk into a gathering at church and look around for a seat only to see that there are two seats and someone is holding them for another couple. I try to search out another single or someone who came without their spouse so I can partner up and at least give the appearance that I didn’t come alone.
This yearning to belong and getting out there to become a part of a community can be difficult waters to wade into if we hold onto the thought that we don’t belong or fit in. You do. If God is nudging you into an area, go there. Trust that he will smooth the waters and that you will find your place. We can easily be our own worst enemy if we wait to fit into the couples’ world, because for the most part, we don’t. That isn’t a bad thing; it is a different thing.
Seek out other singles or individuals whose spouses may not be fully engaged in their lives and activities. Call the person who just lost a spouse and invite them to go with you. Ask the person whose partner is hospitalized or in nursing care to be your partner in an adventure. We singles are a strong community if we are willing to bond together and strengthen each other. So the next time you are going to an event, invite someone, even if you have to pay for them to go. Together you can walk into the room and take those last two seats. Together you can find the person standing alone and invite them to be your third person.
And, if you are going as the third wheel, be a tricycle that you propel forward! You are getting out there and doing what God is asking you to do. Be the strong thread in that threesome and bring the best you out for the occasion. Live and laugh and love every moment of being the single one because for this part of the journey, it is how God is shaping your life. Roll on into your purpose friends.
“If a man prevails against one who is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 World English Bible
As I lay out my plans, I have found it helpful to have someone who will ask me the questions I don’t want anyone to ask me. I have a coach and a spiritual director who does a great job of seeing into my carefully concocted plan and finding the areas that I am avoiding because it might cause me to regroup and take new action. As much as I dread these questions, they get at the meat of what God intends for my plans and away from how I envision things. Some may call this an accountability partner, other wise counsel, or maybe just a concerned friend. Whatever title you give this person, make sure you have someone who will tell you what you don’t’ want to hear—and this applies especially to relationship building!
I am convinced that there is something wrong with the thermostat in my apartment. I have programmed it to warm up the apartment just before I get out of bed so that I’m not stepping into the freezing cold. It, however, seems to think it is much warmer than it actually feels—at least in my bedroom. So most mornings I get up and manually turn it up a couple of degrees to take the chill out of the air. Then I realize it is too late to warm up my bedroom because I’m already up and out of my comfy covers. I keep repeating this behavior, thinking this is the morning it won’t be so cold. Ha!
Blind spots. Those things we don’t see or aren’t willing to acknowledge about ourselves. My thermostat is reading the air near it. The living room area is much warmer than our bedrooms and so it doesn’t think it needs to do anything. Our bedrooms are its blind spots. I have a blind spot in setting the thermostat to match when I wake up. After several cold mornings I need to make an adjustment if I don’t want to get up in a cold room. And I STILL haven’t fixed it. Part of that might also be because I don’t want to accept that winter is coming and I hate the cold.
Life coach Georgia Shaffer says that we all have blind spots that impede our process forward. One of those areas in which we get stuck is not seeing the reality in our situation. In my example, the reality is nothing will change in my morning ritual unless I do something to change the environment and circumstances. We may be living out a fantasy in hopes that what we wish for will come true. It can be painful to look at our situations and realize that we are the problem. I have to accept that I don’t live in California and it is getting colder. In some cases, we may be stuck in a make-believe life because the alternative is unknown and scary.
Do you find yourself sitting in an office day after day and feeling that something just isn’t right with the business practices or the people you work for? Do you tell yourself, “it will get better” or “I’m just imaging things” and go home feeling drained a little bit sick. Are you waiting for a promotion or raise that is never going to come? We tell ourselves a lot of things out of fear when really we should move on. Are you refusing to see the reality of whatever situation is not benefiting you at work when it is time to find something new? Are you missing beneficial opportunities because you don’t know what to expect? Has someone told you this is as good as it gets and you are lucky to have this job?
Are you in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect you or treat you well? Are you hanging on because most of the time it is ok and ignoring the other not so great times? Are you thinking that the longer you stay the better it will get—that they will come around? Are you compromising who you are so you won’t be alone? Reality check. Most times the person we are in a relationship with is not going to change. If you have shared your point of view and it is ignored, the chances are it is not going to get better. Are you willing to commit to someone that steals your joy and who only makes you happy if you ignore all the other stuff? Are you conceding who you are so that they will love you? Your blind spot may leave you committed to something that compromises who you are and stops your personal growth.
There are many areas in which we have blind spots. I can’t seem to lose weight but maybe that is because I am sneaking in candy bars. I can’t pay off my bills because I cheat on my budget. I am not getting promoted because there is no opportunity or I am not putting enough effort into the job. I can’t find a job I like but I am not putting much effort into preparing myself for a career. I’m not growing spiritually but I’m also not making time to read my Bible or to pray or go to church.
I can’t…I don’t…I won’t…Those are killer words that might indicate you have a blind spot that is holding you back. Ask yourself what the truth is in your situation. Ask yourself if you want it to be better. Ask yourself if you are really ready to stop ignoring the things that are clear to others and make a change. Are you negotiating which truths you want to believe in to the point that you don’t know what you value or what truth means anymore?
You matter. You are valuable and worthy of success and good things in your life. You have the right to make decisions about your happiness, even if there may be some pain along the way. You have the right to reset your thermostat and greet the day with hope and promise. You have the right to set a new positive course for your life. Start by being honest and pulling back the curtain to let the light into your blind spot. Breathe in the truth and make the changes that align you with that truth.
I love hockey, basketball, and baseball. If I’m at a game I will surely be screaming when my team scores, dancing and singing silly sports songs, and raising my hands to cheer on my team. Most of my “Sunday friends” who are also sports fans, have little inhibition about clapping their hands and shouting to praise their team’s accomplishments. We yell out the name of our favorite player at bat, thinking he will somehow hear his name and be uplifted. We chant for our goalie. We wear shirts with our favorite player’s name for the world to see and will challenge anyone who doubts why we support that team or that player. I don’t know why this environment allows us to let loose or why it is we are so quick to celebrate the accomplishment of men or women in sports—but for many of us it is second nature.
I wish our Sunday dance was more like that. We dress up all proper and put on our best clothes for the day. We enter church with polite “hellos” and courteous smiles. We might laugh a little but the disapproving stares of some can quickly shut that down. We solemnly sing our songs of praise and close our books with the last note. Maybe we lift our hand for a verse or two. We listen quietly to the stories of the Bible and seldom do we just shout out the name “Jesus” to lift him up. Even when we are treated to someone’s story about God’s healing grace in their life; we nod and maybe respectfully clap our approval. We stifle the joy and excitement we should have for our Lord.
I have heard it said that some think this sports-like behavior is too undignified for church. Can you imagine if we all showed up wearing a jersey with the name “Jesus” on the back? It reminds me of David Crowder’s song “Undignified.” Every time I hear it I think how much I want to be that person when I worship Jesus—and not just at a faith event, but every day.
I will dance
I will sing
I will be mad
For my King
Nothing Lord, is hindering
This passion in my soul (Dave Crowder)
Just like David in 2 Samuel 6, I feel inspired to dance foolishly to celebrate before the Lord. When I consider the amazing things God has done in my life, I feel compelled to stand up and cheer when I hear his name mentioned. And when someone shares their story about God healing them, I want to leap to my feet and clap out loud to praise this wonderful thing. Yet, unless I’m at a Crowder concert or similar faith event, I tend to politely clap with the others around me.
I think it is time for us to loudly celebrate the forgiveness we have through Jesus Christ. I think it is time to shout a loud “AMEN” when we agree with what the Holy Spirit can do in our life. I think it is time to be a little undignified in church and remember that we are there to worship and praise our God. This is a happy exciting thing we get to do with other believers on Sunday. This is God’s place he has given us to celebrate him!! If I can whoop about my team scoring a point—I can whoop about Jesus saving my life!! I want my praise of Jesus to be second nature. I want to be like David and leap for joy at all he has and is doing in my life. I want others to see how exciting this life of following Jesus Christ really is!!
This walk of faith is not always an easy one. I am inspired every day to make changes in my attitude and in the way I live my life. Years ago there was a bracelet that many people wore: “WWJD,” a reminder to ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” in any given circumstance. For me, a bracelet is not enough. I have to feed my heart and soul regularly to know what God would have me do, especially when no one is watching.
What are you doing and saying when no one from church is watching you? What activities are you involved in that you hope no one finds outs about? What words are you using that you would never use in front of your pastor? How are you feeding your spirit when you aren’t sitting in the pew on Sunday morning? What behavior is living inside you that takes you away from being that person of faith you wish you were?
In his letters to the church in Rome (Romans 7:14 – 25), Paul asks himself these very same questions about his behavior and his heart. He knows what the right thing to do is; but still he finds himself drawn away from that. He struggles, like most of us; to do what his heart tells him is the right thing to do. He thinks he is forever trapped by his sinful nature. But he does have an answer for us.
How are you speaking today? Are you speaking with patience to the person waiting on you in the store that might be working their second job for the day and is doing the best they can? Are you smiling and letting them take their time and thanking them for being there for you? Are you holding your tongue when you feel words like “idiot,” “stupid,” or “reject” enter your mind and replacing them with “child of God,” “and “fellow human?” Can you not cuss out the driver that cut you off, especially since he can’t hear you anyway? Can you instead ask God to make you a better driver and an example—even if no one is paying attention? Can you let someone in when they need to merge and pass on that behavior not what you just experienced?
What are you watching on TV? What images are you filling your mind with? Are you watching porn when no one sees you? Did you sneak a movie in while you were on travel because no one will know? Are you watching shows that make fun of other people? Are you filling your brain with negative responses and examples or are you looking for positive reinforcement for good behavior? Can you change the channel and find something else to do? Can you ask for help—go to Celebrate Recovery—to break the bonds that porn or other negative images have on your thinking?
How are you spending your money today? Did you go buy something new instead of paying a bill? Did you hear about a friend in need and think “wow, they are really messed up,” or did you think: “how can I help?” Did you borrow money from someone and really need to start paying them back because you are doing better now? Can you help someone else out without judging them? Are you not giving at church or to charity because you are afraid you won’t have money to buy that thing you don’t really need anyway? Can you find a way to start giving a little today and commit to giving regularly? Can you volunteer somewhere to make meals or reach the homeless?
Are you standing so firm on being right that you have lost compassion for those in need? Have you buried your healing from brokenness so deep that your redeemed life is hidden from others? Is there someone suffering from their bad choices that you feel better than and can’t be bothered with? Are you feeling self-satisfied because you don’t have “that” sin in your life and forget you have others? Are you willing to step down from your pedestal and reach a hand out to help the wounded and hurting that they too might know God’s grace? Did you ask someone if you could pray for them? Did you invite them to your home—to your church?
These things I struggle with. There are things I wish I did differently today and I am taking Paul’s example and I am asking Jesus to free me from these negative behaviors. I am praying to act better today. I am asking that he change my nature. I am asking what to do when no one is watching and that what I do is positive and honors his example. I will fall short. I will fail. And I will keep moving forward, closer to who he wants me to be and how he wants me to behave—when no one is watching.
If this is helpful to you, please feel free to share my posting and blog with others. Together we can grow stronger and live better examples of Jesus in our lives.
There are days when the mud seems to rise too high for us to fight it back. Maybe we have become entangled in a net and can’t get loose. Stuck, trapped, snared, and unable to move. We have forgotten what light looks like anymore and we fear we may never see it again; if we ever really saw the light in the first place. It is a hard place to be and even harder to explain it to another.
I can remember those times all too well in my life. I would lie curled up in my bed and ask myself: “how on earth did I ever get into this mess?” Sometimes I knew it was because of the decisions I had made, other times I wasn’t as sure. You know that feeling: your stomach churns and the tears flow and you hide from your family and friends because you don’t want to be a burden? Those are the days when we don’t even want to see our counselor or hit a meeting because we are so sure that even they would never get it.
What if you could see just a sliver of light? Would you be willing to take advantage of that sliver of light and believe that maybe, just maybe there was more where that came from? For me it started with a prayer. Oh, I couldn’t pray it. I had to ask someone else to pray it until I could. Yes, that meant I actually had to answer the phone or the text!!
I needed a rescue. No one I knew could give it to me; however, there were people who would help me to find it. I didn’t want to feel the way I was feeling forever and the only way out was to send a distress signal out to a friend. That friend needed to be someone I could trust and someone who I knew would send up prayers on my behalf. I knew my eyes needed to be on God to get out of the mess, but I just didn’t have it in me.
Slowly, I was able to look forward because looking back did no good. I couldn’t change what had happened but I could change the present and thus the future. Those prayers eventually became my prayer. Psalm 25 became my strength. I couldn’t read it all but I kept asking God to show me what to do next, even if next was only getting up and going to work. Hours became days became weeks became months became years.
My ability to stand up and let go of the pain did not come overnight. It came by having someone else help me cut the net from my feet and pull me out of the mud. And once out, it took my commitment and motivation to change. It is a daily struggle, because life is a daily struggle. Today I get out of the mud a lot faster. I tell others quicker. I pray before I slip into the mud bath and I don’t get tangled up like I used to.
Please, please; reach out today if this is your story. If there is no one you know, look up a church with a prayer line and call them. Just tell them you hurt and you need prayer. Get up and find a counselor whose name you like and give them a try. Go to a Celebrate Recovery meeting or other 12 step and meet people who have walked where you have walked. Look up. God is there and you will find his love and his strength until you have your own.
“My eyes are always looking to the Lord for help, for he alone can rescue me from the traps of my enemies.” Psalm 25: 15