Craving Community? Me, Too

Disclaimer: I wrote this sometime in the summer of 2015, so if you were at the get togethers mentioned or watched the scope I reference, you know they didn’t take place this summer.

I prayed before I wrote this because I have the tendency to edit as I write. I also chose to write it in a journal before posting it.  Here’s the prayer I wrote out.

Communion and Craving Community

Lord, clear my mind so I can have a conversation with You.  I want to let go of all pretense – to give up on sounding clever or relate-able.  I don’t want community based on smoke and mirrors.  I just want to share my heart.  My naked and broken heart.

I’ve been thinking about friendship and community a lot this year.  Questions like “Why don’t I ever hangout with my closest friends?” and “Why does my community seem to all be virtual?”  dominate my thoughts on the topic. I started to cling to the notion that my life would be so much richer if I got to spend time with my besties or meet up with members of my tribe for coffee.  Okay, not really.  We’d meet up for smoothies from Tropical Smoothie Cafe since God made me naturally caffeinated.  I even half convinced myself that in lieu of getting to meet up with my besties or my tribe that I need to attend a conference or retreat every three months or so.  You know, for spiritual maintenance.  More like a mountain high experience fix.

I was at one such retreat/conference in June when I told Brooke, the woman sitting to my right, “I wish I could have this at home.  I wish I could have this all the time.”  I was referring to the intimacy, transparency, and grace that filled the room.  I went on to tell her that although I get along well with the women of my church, I didn’t have this.  She shared that she could relate.

Full disclosure – Totally unsure of what the Celebrate Motherhood Retreat was going to be like and not knowing anyone in the Happy Mommy Box community, I attended the pre-retreat dinner so I would be acquainted with someone, anyone,  the day of the retreat.  Yep, I drove almost an hour and a half so I would feel more part of the day of the event.  That, and I was hoping to meet Jess Connolly who I’ve been following on Instagram since before she moved back to South Carolina.  It was a little awkward that most everyone was familiar with each other through the Happy Mommy community and I had never even heard of the company before my friend tagged me in a comment for one of their posts.  But by the end of our post-dinner trip to Marble Slab I felt like we’d all been meeting up like this regularly.  And the next day, I totally scoped out the room and looked for someone from the dinner to sit near.

Just a few days after that amazing weekend, I caught Angela and Catherine of REFIT® Revolution on Periscope.  They were in a Chick Fil A line with two of Angela’s daughters in the back seat.  They were just doing life together and invited us to take a peek into that every day experience.  Towards the end of the broadcast Angela said that she doesn’t have friends that she does everything with.  And she was clearly disappointed by that.

So it got me thinking about community again and why I feel like I’m missing something.  Something about friendship and community that holds the key to contentment.  Something I assumed everyone had in their own friendships and communities but I didn’t have.  But the confessions of Brooke and Angela had me rethinking all that.

I don’t blog much (I’m totally tempted to add “anymore” but let’s be honest, I’ve always been a sporadic blogger) but I remember writing something along the lines of “God calls us to be in community.  First with Him and the with others.”  I don’t know,  maybe it’s in one of the many posts sitting in my draft folder.  Anyway, God totally said those exact words back to me and then said “You’re glossing over that first part.  That’s the problem.”  What?  “I spend time with you every day.”  Silence.  “I even took prayer walks after my quiet time for a couple of weeks.”  I felt like a kid trying to convince her parents that she deserved a raise in her allowance because she was doing such an awesome job with her chores.  Ugh.

That’s when the conviction set in.  “That’s hoops and legalism.  I want you.  I want your heart.”  I had to admit that a lot of my quiet time was about studying and not about spending time before a holy God.  I also had to confess that I would often enter my quiet time hoping that God would give me a Tweetable nugget of wisdom or the perfect Instagram quote.

None of that has to do with communing with God.  I’d love to say “I get that now,” but I knew that already.  The thing is my heart is bent towards legalism and works.  I can sit here and blame the denomination I grew up in, but it’s more universal than me or a single denomination.  Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, mankind has been trying to earn or manipulate our way back into God’s good graces.  To work our way to good enough.

Before I could even try to devise a new and improved approach to quiet time, God whispered softly to me, “You’re looking to community to give you something that only I can give you.”  I can’t quite describe how I felt as that truth sank in, but it was like a mixture of relief and disappointment.  I was grateful to know that there as a reason that although I felt full when I left a retreat or conference that the feeling didn’t last long.  I knew part of the reason was that while a mountain top experience is meant to sustain me through the valleys, I can’t live up there.  Now God was showing me there was more to it than that.

The disappointment crept in when I realized that the solution was to do something I can’t really “do”.  I’m learning that communion with God isn’t’ about doing something, it’s about being something.  Humble.  Surrendered.  Vulnerable.  Willing.  As much as I want to be in the Lord’s presence and hear from Him, all that has me feeling pretty fearful.  And I’ve gotta tell you that my initial reaction isn’t to press into that fear, but to jump online and find a group of women who are in the same boat so we can go through this together.  But I know that isn’t what God is calling me to do.  I also know that He isn’t asking me to walk this out alone, either.

During the spring, on many of my post-quiet time morning walks I mentioned earlier, the Holy Spirit kept saying “Let’s do this”.  At first I thought He was pumping me up for the walk.  It was before the time change and it was scary dark out still, so I totally appreciated the motivation.  But as the weeks passed and He kept saying it I saw that it was more than a motivation to walk.  It was an invitation.  An invitation to what exactly, I’m not sure.  But I’m certain that God knows my heart.  He knows how I earnestly long to be in community with Him and others.  I trust that whatever “this” is that He’s inviting me to do with Him will equip me live the life He calls me to live.

Empires by Hillsong United + Giveaway

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of Empires from Family Christian for review purposes.  All opinions shared my own, and I clearly loved the CD seeing as I bought a copy to give away.

{I wrote this review over the summer some time but out of insecurity never posted it. I feared it was too long and detailed.  As time passed it seemed as if the moment had as well.  Since the CD was no longer on anyone’s radar why post the review?  Now that “Say the Word” was just released as a single, I decided to shed my insecurity and share my thoughts on this beautiful piece of art.}

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Oh. My.  This album is incredible.  It’s not the kind of worship CD you pop into your car’s stereo system and get your praise on to, though.  It’s the kind of worship album you need to listen to when you can steal away some time to be still and glorify the Lord.  If I had only one word to describe this project it would be ethereal {extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world}. Even when the music and vocals build and the percussion is more up tempo, they build so organically and fall so effortlessly that it seems like the natural ebb and flow to each song.

It took me multiple naptimes – my sons’, not my own – to listen to all of the songs, as several of them are over five minutes in length.  While percussion strings the songs together musically, the Gospel message does so lyrically.

As I listened to the songs I jotted down things down, including lyrics, that stirred my soul.  Here is a synopsis of each song and a lyric from each that really struck me.

1 – HERE NOW (MADNESS) is pure adoration.  It speaks of the closeness of God.  It’s an invitation asking God to speak, to move, and to have His way.  The song shares the Gospel message of grace, redemption, and Holy Spirit led living.

“Grace found my heart where logic ends”

2 – SAY THE WORD celebrates the power, majesty, and character of God.  To me it’s a reminder of just how important it is to read God’s Word.  How else can I get to know Him if I don’t read His Word?  Sermons are great but that’s second hand knowledge.  To get fresh manna I need to seek Him for myself.  Amen?

“My soul will hang on to every word You say”

3 – HEART LIKE HEAVEN is a beautiful reminder that perfection is unattainable and imperfection is okay because God wants our busted hearts, not perfection.  Jesus came for the sinners, not the righteous.

“Face down where mercy finds me first”

4 – TOUCH THE SKY is the first single off of Empires.  It speaks to the reality of how upside down God’s kingdom is.  So often we find ourselves exhausted from striving in this life.  But throughout His word God tells us that not only can we do nothing apart from Him, but His power is made perfect in our weakness. {The cover art work speaks directly to the upside down nature of God’s kingdom.}

“I found my life when I laid it down.  I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.”

5 – STREET CALLED MERCY reminds me of 1960’s American folk music because of the beautiful opening harmony.  The lyrics call up images of the prodigal son returning to his father’s open arms, Moses proclaiming that he will not go on without the Lord, and the psalmist proclaiming his loyalty and devotion to God.

“Tired of endless walking not knowing which way to go, I collapse on a street called Mercy.”

6 – WHEN I LOST MY HEART TO YOU (HALLELUJAH) is the most straight forward worship song on the album.  You know, the kind that gives you permission to lift your hands up in abandon and let’s you sing along even if you don’t really know the words.

It has the most simple chorus “You have my heart…hallelujah” and again speaks of God’s upside down kingdom “I found Your love when I lost my heart to You.”

7 – EVEN WHEN IT HURTS (PRAISE SONG) is not your typical song of praise, as it lists “even when” circumstances and situations which remind me of Paul’s teachings on contentment and John’s teachings regarding trials.  This song touches on the same issues raised in other contemporary Christian songs, but stresses that our hallelujah can be in tact even when our spirits are broken.

“Louder then I’ll sing Your praise”

8 – PRINCE OF PEACE is a beautiful declaration that God is still God in spite of all of the things in this life that invite fear and anxiety.  As Lysa Terkuerst says, “He is still God, He is good, and He is good at being God.”  Amen!

“Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war”

9 – EMPIRES is a beautiful portrait of salvation, sanctification, and eternity with God.  I’m so grateful that God has gifted people with the ability to share such deeply spiritual subject matter in music.

“We are shadows and portraits, empires of light and clay, images of our Maker.  Sinners called out as saints.”

10 – RULE  is a call to Christ to be exactly who He says He is.  It’s like praying the Scriptures back to God, but in song.  It reminds me of the words of the Psalmist – set to a very danceable beat.

“Hope came dancing on an empty grave.  Death has lost its rule to the King of grace.”

11 – CAPTAIN speaks to walking by faith and not by sight.  It’s also a beautiful reminder that when we walk by faith we are not walking blindly, since we have a faithful Guide.

“Lost in the shallows amidst fear and fog Your truth is the compass that points me back north.”

12 – CLOSER THAN YOU KNOW is by far my favorite song on this album.  It’s also the longest song on the album, at over nine minutes long.  But it’s worth every second of your time, I promise.  It reads like a beautiful love letter.  The first half is written from Christ’s perspective, calling us to not lose faith and reminding us of all He has done and continues to do out of His great love for us.  The second half is written from a believer’s perspective, acknowledging Whose we are and who we are in Him.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to have a tissue handy.

“For I’m Yours and You are mine and my soul knows well, You are here.”

If you haven’t already purchased Empires, you can buy your own copy here or click on this link below for a chance to win a free copy!

2/07/16 Update – the raffle is now closed.