Removing Fences

As I was driving home from the grocery store today, I passed through one of the more affluent areas on the way to my apartment – far on the other side of the tracks. =]

I do appreciate beautiful homes with landscaping perfected for magazine covers. Some of these communities had brilliant water features with small ponds and lakes. When I was younger, my mom and I would wander through model homes just to marvel at how lovely they were; the floor plans, the kitchens, the bathrooms, etc…

But today, I saw something a little different. I saw barriers and fences. I saw restrictions and cages. I saw separation and exclusiveness.

The communities I drove by today were all gated. Access code needed. In other words, I wasn’t welcome there. Of course, I didn’t try, but even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to – unless, of course, I was given an invite from a specific person inside the community.

There was suddenly a separation. A me and them. A low people and a high people. A division in classes. It’s always been there, I know… but today I just saw it differently. It was eye-opening. Heart-opening.

I was suddenly aware about how we do this. How Christians do this. How we create a me and a them. A low people and a high people. The houses and the people who live in them didn’t make me sad, I was sad about us as people. As Christ lovers and followers. How many fences and barriers have we put up to keep out the riff raff? How many people feel like they can only approach us with a personal invite? How many people feel incapable to come to us because they fear judgement, harshness, and condemnation?

We are called to foster love, peace, kindness, forgiveness, on and on. And on and on. I wanna be a woman who envelopes the lost, who helps others find freedom, and who is always inclusive. I wanna be a woman who is approachable, unrestricted, and without fences of separation.

That’s what we’re called to do and be. It isn’t always easy. We find comfort in our safe places and in our comfort zones. Gosh, I feel like I know this so much more now after being recently uprooted from my own safe, comfort zone. It’s important to be and stay in community with one another. Yes! We are critical to each other’s growth and we nurture one another. But it can’t stop there.

Can we examine our fences? Can we double check our invites and make sure they aren’t exclusive, but rather inclusive. Let’s gather with people on both sides of the fences. The mes and the thems. Let’s have communities with less separation and more invitation.

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You Will Go Before Me

When I officially touched Texan soil, to become her permanent resident, I had big dreams, expectations, and ideas. I just knew that because God moved me here the way He did that things were gonna be fantastic!

I left a safe life, perhaps even a bit of a bubbled life. I surrounded myself with safe people. People who didn’t gossip, weren’t mean-spirited, who loved me deeply. I worked with the best people and served in a church with the best people. We had a common mission and goal to restore hope to the broken, lost souls. Ahh… the dream!

I knew that if God was calling me to leave all of that, it must be because He had something way bigger in store for me. I was excited to see where the wandering road would lead me and I was obedient enough to actually cut the cords and go.

Except… nothing BIG was panning out. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t land a job with one of the many ministries here in the DFW area. I couldn’t find a church that really needed me to serve. Even the volunteer opportunities I’ve taken have been pretty superficial and non-descript. I once received a “Thank You” card for an event that I missed. I signed up for it and then wasn’t able to go. Yet, I still received a thank you card, addressed to me, for all my hard work. To say I got a bit cynical at that point is an understatement.

It’s been a difficult summer. It’s been difficult at home, at work, at my non-existent church. I didn’t realize that leaving a life so wrapped up in ministry to come into the world at full throttle would be such a challenge. A friend told me the other day, “Stephanie, you’re not on the milk anymore. You are here for a reason and a purpose.” Of course, she’s right. I’ve been frantically searching for hands, like mine, to hold and walk this journey with me. Since I became a believer, 10 years ago, I always had a hand to hold.

As I said before, I knew when I came here that finding a church would be my first order of business. There are so many churches here it can make a person’s head spin. Big, small, world famous churches. I think I’ve tried them all. All the big ones that is. I was done with small churches – God was calling me to BIG things and because of that I needed a BIG church. The problem was that BIG church just wasn’t working for me. I did enjoy some of the extra things that were offered. But I also missed the personal connection – the lacking depth of human to human relationship. And yes, I was part of small groups, home groups, mom groups, single groups, groups of groups. Yes, I volunteered in the well-oiled machine of big church. Yet, I still wasn’t connecting.

So, today, I did what I probably should have done months ago, but I had to get to the point I was at to really receive the gift God was handing me. I walked, boldly and with God’s covering, into the small, little, only one service on Sunday, Grace Community Church – the only Foursquare church nearby – and felt God’s love all over me. It was like He wrapped a quilt around me and welcomed me home. The pastor, who actually took the time to talk with me before service, delivered a message that was directly pointing at me. “The peace of the Lord is there even when the plan seems counterintuitive.” I haven’t been feeling peace. I did feel peace today. “Sometimes the blessing of the Lord is in the midst of captivity.” The pastor was talking about when Jesus went to pray at Gethsemane and was seeking the Lord’s will and would be obedient even if it was counterintuitive to what Jesus thought the plan should be.

And that was my problem… I wasn’t really seeking the Lord’s will. I thought I knew His will already. I didn’t bother to stop and ask Him along the way what He wanted. I assumed that I knew and I carried on with what I thought was the plan. It wasn’t that I set out to be blatantly disobedient, but I also wasn’t lining myself up for obedience.

I’m a hardheaded woman. Ask my mom or anyone who’s ever tried to mentor me. It takes me a season of “learn this lesson the hard way” before it sinks in and I finally understand. Maybe you’re hardheaded too. Maybe, though, you’ll read this and then pray. Maybe you’ll ask God for clarity about His will over your life, and even if it seems counterintuitive, you’ll be obedient and move forward toward the things He has waiting for you. That’s where I wanna be today. Moving forward on the way to the things He has for me. Not the things I think He has for me.