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Take the #IAmArt Challenge!

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Steve Furtick said, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlighted reel.”  Where else is this seen more than on Social Media, something that most of us use every day?  Want to know more about the #IAmArt challenge?  Watch the video below!

 

I Guess You Could Call Me An Unashamed Slave of Scripture

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For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools…” – Romans 1:21-22

Earlier this year I was sitting at Starbucks enjoying my Cinnamon Dolce Latte (That’s a hint for my local friends.) when I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation going on at the table next to me. I guessed this group to be in their late teens or early twenties, probably college students who all seemed to have some sort of church upbringing.  They were discussing their opinions on how faith and Christianity should be applied to certain hot-button social issues.  I listened as each one assigned characteristics to God that were formed not from a thorough studying of scripture, but rather an attempt to make God into someone who wouldn’t challenge anything in anyone’s life.  Ever.

I am an unashamed slave of scriptureAs someone who is still young myself, with many young friends, and an avid Facebook user, I wasn’t really surprised by this.  I am reading more and more posts from young Christians who look at their faith as something pliable that can be molded to more comfortably fit their popular worldview instead of weighing everything against the complete body of scripture. This trend has always concerned me, but lately it has gone beyond concern.  The rampant, blatant disregard for the whole and literal word of God in His own Church has become a burden that is keeping me awake at night.

I spent a summer in China when I was in High School smuggling Bibles into a country where entire villages of believers would very often share ONE between them all because they were so scarce.  Raffles would be held among these groups to see which family got to have the village Bible that night.  Thousands of Chinese Christians have since been swept away into cults and deception because they had no tangible way to gauge truth. American Christians are swept away into cults and deception because we have a tangible way to gauge truth but never read it. While everyone is talking about the fear of Ebola or terrorism right now, this one thing frightens me more that those ever could.

I have been praying about what, if anything, God wants me to do with this burden that has been so heavy on my heart.  I’m not a person with any real influence or credibility to speak of.  I don’t have a degree or a title, just blog with a small following, most of whom will agree with this anyway, so is speaking up just a wasted effort? I don’t know.  Maybe.  But a tweet I came across this morning from a prominent Pastor, Ed Gungor, actually broke my heart so much that I can’t sit silently anymore watching this unfold, even if no one is listening.

Ed Gungor Tweet

Oh, man.  Where do I even begin?   If holding fast to the truth of scripture makes me a “slave of biblical ideals and words” then shackle me up!  Our faith is in the person Jesus Christ, yes, who is revealed to us through Biblical words. Without those words, I can make Jesus into whatever or whomever I want Him to be. I can make Him have blue hair and give him a unicorn horn and say he was a member of PETA.  Why not? If all scripture is relative, and I get to design my own Jesus, then I can also pick and chose which passages I want to apply to my life and which ones could “use updating.”  I could also define salvation itself, as unfortunately well-known author Rob Bell has done, so that I don’t have to bother with the reality that people are actually going to go to Hell, because hey, that’s harshing my mellow, man.

Belief in Scripture is all or nothing. It’s either truth or lies. People are writing their own religion and putting a “Christian” label on it in droves. It’s a progression that begins with the neglect of the Bible and snowballs into an open dismissal of its legitimacy. When it gets to that point, it is no longer Christianity, but something else entirely.

Many who see things the way Ed Gungor does base their belief off of Romans 2:12-16 that talks about the law of God being written on our hearts.

Hmmmmm……. A scritpure taken WAAAAAYYYY out of context to prove an ungodly point….. where have I seen that before?  Oh yes, Satan started that in the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11:

  • Satan temps Jesus the first time.
  • Jesus responds to Satan with the truth of scripture
  • Satan tempts Jesus a second time, only this time, throws a verse in there to try to make his point. (v.6)
  • Jesus is able to identify and refute the out-of-context use because of His thorough knowledge of the complete work of scripture (v.7)
  • Satan tempts Jesus a third time and a third time Jesus responds with…. you guessed it: scripture! (v.10)

My Pastor once said, “Postmodernism is meant to deconstruct the Bible, but the Bible is meant to deconstruct us.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Now, more than ever, we have to dig into the Word of God and guard our hearts.  I am literally begging as I write this to the Church: Stay in the Word.  Read your Bible.  You and I aren’t immune to the tactics of the enemy, and the minute we start to think that, we’ve got a real problem.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.” – Psalm 1:1-2

“Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests.  It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.” – Deuteronomy 17:18-20

RESOURCES:

The Truth Project – A great Apologetics video series.

The YouVersion Bible app – A free app for listening to scripture on the go in several translations.

THIS fabulous video clip from Ravi Zacharias:

What Can We Learn From Disney’s Frozen?

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All images used in this post are property of Disney
All images used in this post are property of Disney

Do you want to build a sermon?

Well, Disney’s mega-hit animated film, Frozen, will give you plenty of material.   Even though I am a child of Disney’s early 90s “Golden Years”, Frozen is far and away my favorite picture they have ever made.  I now have a few small children of my own, so I have seen the movie myself about, oh, 80 million times. But I just can’t seem to get tired of it, because each time through I am amazed at the depth of lessons woven throughout the story that have touched me in very personal ways.

So what can we learn from Frozen?  Let’s take a look:

*SPOILER ALERT*  If you are part of the 0.0000001% of people who have not yet seen this movie (what is wrong with you?), there are major spoilers below.

1.  We’re dying inside by living in constant fear of our flaws.

elsaperfectEveryone has flaws.  Everyone.  The people you look up to, your family, friends, your boss, and you.  But you already knew that.  Yet in spite of that knowledge, we tend to self evaluate our flaws as if we’re the only ones who have them, comparing our “real” self to everyone else’s best face.  This is tormenting, causing depression, self-loathing, and insecurity, and worst of all is completely unnecessary.  God gives us freedom from fear of our weaknesses in 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  We can only really start living inside when we realize how God is using us through and in spite of our weaknesses.

2.  Isolation is never the answer.

elsa isolationWhen the jig is up and we can no longer hide our flaws behind a painted on church-lady smile, our tendency is to give in to pride and fear and isolate ourselves from the very people who love us the most and who can help us.  It may feel like freedom, like you can finally be yourself with no repercussions, but it is a false sense liberty.  The issues that we run from will always catch us eventually because God is always wanting to refine us and pursues us relentlessly.  The castles we build around us to hide and resist growth will never address the root of the problem deep within the heart.

3.  Don’t stop pursuing those who have thrown in the towel.

Frozen_anna_and_elsain castleAnna could have easily stayed behind, been married, and become queen of her kingdom.  But love drove her to go after her sister, even though Elsa had given up on everyone else, including Anna.  What would have happened if Anna chose her own comfort and desires over her sister?  What would have happened if Anna said, “It’s pointless, she’s always been this way and I’m never going to get through to her.  It would be a waste of my time and energy”?  What would have happened if Anna had given up the first time she was rejected while trying to bring healing to this hurting person?  What about the second time she was rejected?  God shows us how to love others by the way He is continually long suffering toward us.  He doesn’t give up on us.  Ever.  And we’re the ones He has called to show that love to those who are hurting, who have given up, and walked away.

4.  Everyone is a “Fixer-upper.”  The Answer?  Community.

Trolls_frozen_disney2013“People make bad choices if they’re mad
Or scared, or stressed but
Throw a little love their way
And you’ll bring out their best
True love brings out their best!

Everyone’s a bit of a fixer-upper
That’s what it’s all about!
Father!
Sister!
Brother!
We need each other
To raise us up and round us out”

I think these song lyrics from “Everyone’s A Bit of A Fixer-Upper” explain it best.  The value of being connected to a community of people who love us and have our best interest in mind is immeasurable.  God designed us to grow this way.

5.  Keep moving forward.

Frozen_Hans_AnnaIt’s easy to feel like our bad choices disqualify us from doing what we are meant to do, but everyone makes them.  Even Anna, the hero of the film, is so desperate for love and attention that she falls for the first tool who looks her way.  The discovery of just how wrong she was could have easily caused her to feel so stupid and upset with herself that she should have given up and died, but she picked herself up and kept moving forward.  Your screw-ups are an opportunity to show grace, and to empathize with others in their weaknesses. I was speaking at a camp last Spring and talked to the students about Judas and Peter.  I asked them which one of them betrayed Jesus.  “Judas”, they all said confidentially.  But the real answer is both.  Why, then, is Judas known for his betrayal, and Peter known as the “rock on which I’ll build my church?”  Because Peter came back.  Peter didn’t let the shame of his choices keep him from the great things that God had for him to do.  He humbled himself, repented, and kept moving forward.  Keep moving forward.  God has big things in store for you.

6.  Only love can melt a frozen heart.

sacrificeAnd no, I’m not talking romantic love, which is one of the reasons I love this Disney movie above all others.  It’s sacrificial love, the kind of love that God first gave to us on the cross.  And unconditional love, the kind of love that He continues to show to us every single day, in spite of ourselves.  It sometimes isn’t returned to us from others, but that’s okay, because it’s not about us anyway, it’s about them.  It’s not naturally within us, it’s God-given.  It’s a love that we have to ask Him to give us for others, to show us how to see others the way He sees them.  That’s when this happens: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13  That is the love that melts the frozen hearts in others.  Love that brings healing.  Love that restores.

What did you think of the movie?  Comment below.

Enjoy this post?  Check out “Is Prince Charming Really Dead”?

It is OKAY to say YES to my kids!

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I have decided to take a short intermission from politics, theology, and opinionated controversy to bring you this fluffy Mommy-Blogger post about fluffy mothering stuff.

I know.  You’re excited.

There’s some brutal transparency in here, folks, so no judging.  But it needs to be shared because I am noticing that as I begin to talk to and develop relationships with other mothers, I am finding many other mommies like myself out there.  Who are we?  We are the mothers of “No.”  What do I mean by that?  I mean our days sound a little something like this:

Painting NailsChild:  “Can I help you load the dishwasher?”

Mom: “Not right now, honey.”

Child: “Can we get the paints out?”

Mom: “Not right now, honey.”

Child: “Can I flip the pancakes?”

Mom:  “Maybe another time.”

So what exactly can the child do?  He/she can sit in the high chair/Pack ‘n Play/ sofa in front of the flashing box that does all of their imagining for them while I make sure that everything looks perfect in the house.  Because, after all, having a perfect looking house means I have it all together.

And why are we the mothers of “No?”  Is it because we dislike fun?  Is it because we don’t want our kids to learn or try anything?  Is it because we’re big mean meanieheads who hate children?  No. (See what I did there?)

“No moms”, like me, are usually perfection/control personality types and it is important to us that everything is done the right way the first time.  But I’ve come to realize that trying to raise kids this way is just a constant state of chasing your own tail, and as you’re fighting to maintain perfect control of your household, your kids, and your schedule, it can feel like drowning.

Frankly, I am tired of drowning, so this Summer, I decided to do something RADICAL!  We got rid of ALL of our TV services.  No Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, Cable, Nada.  I am actually going to, like, do stuff with my kids.  Like Hiking, puzzles, going to the Pool and the park (and actually get in the splash pad with them).  And in addition to that, my goal these next few months is to say “Yes” to everything that is safe, biblical, and reasonable. Even if that means I have to re-load the dishwasher, sweep glitter off of the kitchen floor for the next week, eat pancakes with egg shells in them, and show up to a board meeting with rainbow colored nail polish all over my fingertips.

This isn’t natural for me, but I know that it is important, because one day my children are going to be out in the world on their own, making their own choices, and finding their own way and our tiny little window for putting into them what they’ll need to be Godly, successful adults is going by faster than I expected. I hate the idea of them not knowing how, or being afraid of making decisions for themselves because I have micromanaged them their entire lives.

A dear friend pointed out to me once that the ever so popular verse in Proverbs 22,Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” says, “In the way he should go”, not the way he shouldn’t.  Which means we have to show our kids how to do right, not just tell them what they can’t or shouldn’t do.  And sometimes, that means saying, “Yes.”  What an injustice I am doing to my children by telling them about Jesus without showing them Jesus.

I may be coming into the game a little late, but I am finally ready to get messy, to teach and to play, and I am excited to see the changes that will happen in our family because of it.  Send one up for me, folks, because honestly, I don’t know how the H-E-Doubble-Hockey-Sticks to do this, but I am about to give it my all, praying a lot, and depending on God’s grace to power me through it.

I leave you with today with this paper towel commercial from a few years ago that I always loved that shows the totes awesome “Yes Mom” that I’ve always dreamed of being.

Did you enjoy this article?  You’ll probably enjoy these as well:

 

Grace for the Journey – Letting Go of Perfect

 

That Lovin’ Feeling – The Key to an Incredible Marriage

Raising Spock – Learning to Love God’s Curve Balls

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Recently, I was asked to be a guest writer for Heartfeltramblings.com, and share a short message about raising our 10 year old son who has Asperger’s Syndrome.  Here is that piece:

Two weeks before Christmas, my 9-year-old son asks me, “Mom, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure”, I replied.

“Well,” he began, wringing his hands together and looking down at the floor, “I just wanted to say that at 6:00 am in the dark, I went into your room with the night vision goggles to look at my presents.”

“Oh,” I said, encouraged by his confession. “And how do you feel about that decision now?”

“Well, pretty sad, because they weren’t bright enough and I couldn’t see my presents.”

“Hmmmm, I see. And is not being able to see your presents the only thing you feel bad about?”

“Yep!”

Being a parent isn’t easy for anyone. I respect the challenges and situations that every mom and dad have to face when it comes to God’s highest calling, and I would never assume that our difficulties are any more trying than anyone else’s, they’re just different.

Our son, Samuel, has High Functioning Autism (or Aspergers) and parenting him comes with its own set of rules, most of which, we’re still learning.   But much more important than discovering our son’s practical parenting needs has been the lessons that God has taught my heart along the way. It’s learning how, not only to allow God to interrupt our plans, but coming to fall in love with those interruptions.

 

“’For I know the plans I have for you’ Declares the Lord” – Jeremiah 29:11

 

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” – Proverbs 16:9

 

This journey hasn’t been easy, and it’s never going to be easy. Truth be told, there are many days where I just don’t know if we’re going to make it, and all I have left in me to do is cry out to the Lord for help. But trusting the Lord means allowing Him to write our story, even when we think we could have made the plot better, or we don’t see how He is going to tie it all together.

Holding my baby son, I had already written his story according to my desires: Straight A student, football, college, marriage, and grandbabies. But God is the sovereign writer. He directs our steps in spite of what we think is best, then creates a masterpiece that is so much more beautiful than anything we could have come up with on our own.

The days of frustration may sometimes outnumber the days of joy, but they definitely don’t outweigh them. As difficult as Aspergers can be, there is also great wonder in discovering the world through Samuel’s eyes.

We have jokingly come to refer to him as Mr. Spock since he views everything through a literal lens, which has also made him a master loop-hole finder. This has caused us really raise the bar with our communication. Not just with Samuel, but with all of our children as a result. He has a gift of memorization and music that takes my breath away, and is always creating outside of the box.

Next year, we will be embarking on the adventure of homeschooling Samuel after having a very difficult time in public school. This decision started out of necessity, as the classroom is no longer a healthy environment for him, but the more I prayed about it, the more I began to see all of the amazing doors that this move is going to open up to him. We’ll be integrating occupational therapy techniques into the curriculum and will have every opportunity in the world to build and develop him in his unique areas of gifting.

And the best part is, we’re not going at it alone.

Samuel's AwardThey say it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s true. I believe it takes a Church family to raise a child with Aspergers, and we are so blessed to have ours. This is a group of people who have come around my husband and I and prayed with us, supported us, and occasionally taken our children when I just needed to take a walk and gather myself.

A few weeks ago, Samuel received his first award at the school and we were so blessed to see such a large group from our church show up to cheer him on as the principal called his name.

I don’t know why God chose us to raise Samuel, but I am so thankful. He has an incredible plan for his life and we’re humbled to be given this responsibility. It takes a reliance on the Lord’s strength and careful listening to His voice to know how to tackle each and every challenge, but He has been faithful to give us everything we need to help our son live long and prosper.

Go and Do Likewise – The Call to Love Radically

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One day, a beautiful red fox was running through the woods back to his home, when he was stopped in his tracks by the whiff of a plump, juicy mouse.

With his nose leading the way toward the tempting fragrance, he wandered from the familiar path, stepping slowly, sniffing the air, and breaking fallen branches under his paws.  Suddenly, a pain he had never felt before shot up his back leg and into his body.  White-hot paralyzing pain!  He couldn’t move.  Looking down, he could see the rusty metal teeth of the hunter’s trap buried deep into his fur.  He was caught.  He was scared.  He had been told about the hunter’s trap before, warned by others about the scent of the bait luring foxes off the path into certain death.  He knew that time was running out before the hunter came to collect him, and he had to find a way out.  Any way.

A few minutes later, a crow swooped down to see what all the commotion was about.  She saw the fox’s predicament and agreed that the fox needed to be rid of the trap.

“I know it’s difficult to consider, but you may have to think about chewing off your leg.  You really don’t have any other option.  The hunter will come this way at dusk, and if he finds you, you’ll be dinner!  That’s what I would do if I were you.  Well, I have to be on my way.  Best of luck to you in whatever you decide.”

The fox didn’t want to chew off his leg, but he didn’t want to die, either.  He was left all on his own to struggle with the tormenting decision, when came along a proud buck.

Seeing the fox’s predicament, he agreed that the animal’s plight was unfortunate, but he was also in a hurry to get back to his own thicket.

“Say, young fox, I see you’re in quite a poor situation, there.”

“Yes, I am!  The hunter is coming, and I have to chew off my leg to be free of this trap.”

This idea troubled the buck greatly.  He believed that animals should have all of their legs and would hate to see this beautiful fox lose his. So he proceeded to explain to him what a bad idea that was.   The buck described to the fox, in graphic detail, how painful and bloody that would be; how he’d never be able to run the same way again, and how, if he valued his leg, he probably shouldn’t have strayed from the path in the first place.

All of this, though, the fox already knew.  But none of it changed the fact that the hours were quickly passing away, and the hunter was coming.

After leaving behind his best advice, the buck loped away, proud that he was able to speak such wisdom to the fox, while fox looked down at his increasingly painful leg, still stuck in the grip of the trap.  He wanted to live.  He pleaded heaven for a magical wand that could take him back to the way things were just a few short hours ago.  But no such thing existed.  He knew what he had to do.  Taking a deep breath, he placed his teeth around his leg and prepared for the first bite, when he heard a voice behind him.

“Hello”, came the calming voice of a large white owl.  “Looks like you need help.”

“Yes, I am caught in this trap and time is running out.  I have to chew off my leg, it’s the only way out.  Can you help me?”

The owl’s heart broke when he saw the wounded leg in the trap, and he had compassion for him.

“The only way out, you say?  Hmmm….  What if there were another way?  What if I could help you open the trap?  Then you would be free of the hunter, and keep your leg.”

The fox looked at the owl in hopeful disbelief.  “How is that possible?”

“I am going to call for the other owls, and we’re going to work together to free you from the trap.  Then, I will stay with you and care for you until your leg is healed and you are able to run again, however long that takes.  I am not going to leave you.”  Tears welled up in the fox’s eyes while the owl let out a loud “HOOT HOOT” into the sky.  Within minutes, half a dozen owls surrounded the fox, feeding him, and offering words of encouragement.  Working in unison, they opened the grip of the trap long enough for the fox to slip out his wounded foot.

“Dusk is coming, and we have to get you moving. Let us help you walk.”  Steadying the fox on all sides, they walked him to safety, where they would care for him for weeks to come.

In 2009 I started volunteering at my local Pregnancy Center, where I now work.  I had been raised in a “Pro-life” Christian home, and much like the buck, had a little more passion than compassion when it came to the reality of unplanned pregnancy and abortion.  I had no idea just how much my whole perspective was about to be rocked. 

I remember sitting in a little room, fresh out of training, with my first client whose situation was just impossible. Devastatingly heartbreaking.  I realized that I had nothing to offer to her.  NOTHING.  We had facts and stories and pictures and practical baby items galore; but for her specific situation, that meant nothing.  It was the first time that I was ever able to see why women really have abortions, and I cried.  “Well, Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you, I’d love to see you again.”  It was a ‘Be warm and well-fed’ as she headed out the door.

It didn’t take too long before I started to notice a common message coming from every young woman making plans for an abortion:

“I have no choice”, they would tell me,my boyfriend will leave me….parents will kick me out…. I won’t finish college… I am homeless… my husband isn’t the father… my dad is an elder in our church….”  It was clear that while the word “CHOICE” was the mantra of the efforts to keep abortion legal, these women are having abortions because they feel they have no other choice.  Their situations, like my first client’s, all seemed impossible.

“A woman doesn’t want an abortion like she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche, but like an animal caught in a trap who wants to gnaw off its own leg…”

– Frederica Mathewes-Green

 

Many studies out there seem to echo this same discovery, including this one, from the Vitae Research Foundation, which says that women view an unplanned pregnancy as death to their very life as they perceived it to be, and thus abortion is seen as the least of three evils in an act of self-defense.

The abortion industry, as my boss pointed out, then twists and parrots the words of Jesus in Matthew 11, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  But the “Rest” that is offered is death itself.

What is the Church to do?

Go and Do LikewiseIf you’re thinking the story about the fox sounds familiar, you’re right.  Jesus told it a little differently in the parable of the Good Samaritan, but the call to action – to love radically – remains the same: “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:37. 

It’s tempting to be the buck, believing in the sanctity of human life, yet never having been faced with that decision ourselves. We give out truth without love (usually very well meaning).  I personally believe this is where those we see holding graphic abortion signs usually are.  I have had the opportunity to speak to some of them, and their hearts are often not intending to condemn but to educate women with the truth of what abortion is in hopes that knowledge will change their minds.  The problem with this is that all the truth in the world doesn’t speak to the very real crisis they are in at that moment and is almost always counter-productive to their cause, only hurting women further.

God is calling His people to be Good Samaritans when it comes to abortion-vulnerable women.  One of the greatest arguments that abortion proponents have is, “Okay, say she has the baby.  Then what?  Are you going help her for the next 18 years?”  The church needs to be the answer to “Then what?” We need to shift the fight from making abortion illegal, to making it unnecessary; being moved by radical compassion from our comfortable lives and walk alongside these precious women (and fathers, too) in a community of support, help, hope, and acceptance.

Everyone has something they can offer to a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy; and when we all put our “somethings” together, we can provide her with a way out of the trap and into true freedom.

What do you have?

If we truly long to see our communities become free from abortion, we need to ask God to make us owls and answer the call to “Go and do likewise.”

 

How To Deal With Social Anxiety At Church

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Have you taken any of the personality tests on Facebook yet?  They can be kind of fun, but if you’re an introvert with Social Anxiety, like myself, you don’t need to answer a bunch of questions about whether or not you prefer curling up with a book over going out with friends to know that you have a real problem.

You probably dread social situations that involve people other than your close friends.

You probably have one or two friends that you cling to at a party, talking only with them.

You probably opt not to go out when your safe person can’t make it.

You sweat.

You’d rather give a speech to a large crowd than attempt small talk, which you’re convinced you suck at and must feel as awkward for the person on the receiving end of your futile attempts as is does for you (Oh, and, they’re like, totally judging you, too, on account of your obvious weirdness and whatnot).

You probably use that infamous “Find a few people to shake hands with this morning” time between worship and the message to sneak out and use the restroom.

Did I mention the sweating?

This is one of my biggest challenges because I actually like people.  I want to get to know them, hear their stories, get to the heart of a person, pray with them, help them, and listen.  But taking that first step is terrifying.  And all of this is something that has to be overcome if I want to minister to others, because in order to get to know people, you have to get to know them.

In a perfect world, all of my introductions would go something like, “Hi, my name is Courtney, tell me everything about your past and what God is doing in your life now.”  But because that’s werid, I instead go with the more cultural acceptable spectacle of small talk.  It usually looks like this:

“Hi, I’m Courtney, what’s your name?” Oh, God, I can taste how bad my coffee breath smells

What’s the next question… Think!  What’s the next question… Oh right!…

“So, how did you find the Church?”…..”Oh, mmm hmm, mmm hmm”, Nod head up and down, up and down… make normal facial expressions… “Oh, cool, Okay”…

Mayday, mayday! Conversation dying! Think of another question… Weather?  No, too cliche.  Kids?  Yes! Always kids.  “So, do you have any kids?”  Nailed it….. Nod head up and down…. Wipe hand sweat on pants, shake, go back to seat. Whew!

Hot to deal with social anxiety at churchFor a lot of people with SAD, the idea of this encounter is so daunting, that it is simply avoided all together.  But what becomes lost when the risk is not taken is not only the potential of a great relationship, but the very purpose of the body of Christ: Bearing eachother’s burdens, sharpening one another, and growing together.  You miss out on using your God given gifts to impart something on to the people God has put in your path to help, and you miss out on receiving from the people God has put in your path to help you.

The funny thing about us SADers is that we tend to see others who don’t initiate relationship with us as exclusive, or snobby, never lending the thought that they may struggle with the same social crippling that we do.  So what you end up with is people not returning to the church because they “Can’t seem to get to know anyone” or “There’s too many cliques there.”

We simply can’t be effective for the Lord as islands unto ourselves (even though our island is warm, familiar, and has our favorite recliner) Jesus isn’t just our savior, He’s also our Lord, and we’re saved for a purpose.  His purpose.  Which means we’ve got to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and shake a few sweaty hands.  You never know what kind of beautiful relationships might unfold.

I’m not about to tell you that it gets easier or that as you become obedient to the Holy Spirit you’ll magically be cured and skip happily into a new small group, because that hasn’t been my reality.  Overcoming the stuff in our life doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone.  Sometimes people are miraculously healed, and sometimes we have to walk out our faith with a thorn in our flesh.  Those are the times when we have to lean into the Lord and rely on His grace for each new situation as it comes, or for me, for every new person I meet.  I am still terrified to talk to new people, but I do it because I love Him, and He loves them, and as I get to know them, I begin to love them, too.

And God has given us a wealth of knowledge out there to help us with this.  A little practical suggestion?  If you struggle socially, take a course on listening and communication.  The curriculum that our local Pregnancy Center recently started using, called Equipped to Serve, is fantastic and has helped me tremendously with the tools necessary to start and keep a new conversation going.

Another suggestion?  Make it a personal challenge.  My goal for the rest of 2014 is to strike up a conversation each Sunday with someone I don’t know, and try in earnest to plan a dinner with their family.  It’s a lofty goal, but I know that God will help me do it, and I am excited to see what becomes of jumping into the Body of Christ with both feet.

So how about you?