A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Category: enduring love (page 1 of 7)

“It’s not your problem. It’s ours”: Engaging in our communities’ most personal struggles

Allow me to tell you the story of a friend of mine, because her story’s stuck with me. I’ll call her Susan.

Susan has a couple of daughters. They’re grown now–but back in the day, she was ready to pull them out of their public school and opt for private: Their public school was performing among the lowest 20% in the UK. But it’s her take on this that struck me:

I realized most the kids from our church remaining there didn’t have a place to go or the means to get out. They were stuck there. And it didn’t seem like ‘being the church’ if I pulled out and left them to flounder.

So we pulled together a bunch of people and started praying. And some of us got on the [school board], and I eventually became the [chair].

Together, they considered their school problem a community problem, and therefore a Church problem.

An unexpected, happy ending God tacked on? Susan’s daughter ended up with stellar test scores on all her IGCSE’s–British university entrance exams (6 A-stars, if you’re familiar with their system)…better, in fact, than some friends removed to private schools.

Allow me to clarify: The point of this post is not “you should put your kids in public school”. As a former homeschooling mom of eight years, know that I understand the heart behind all sorts of school decisions.

But I am saying this–an echo of another friend who’s both school board president and pastor’s wife. If our greatest strengths are some of our greatest weaknesses, our focus on our own families and what’s best for them can at times divert us from a beating heart for our communities.

Forgive me for getting a little soap-boxy. Because yes, yes I believe in the power of our homes. But I also believe our goal isn’t to be cesspools, but funnels for the great stuff God’s pouring into our families. And of course not just on short-term missions trips, but in our own “Judea” right here. Or as Romans 10 puts it, how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?

Our homes and churches carry potential not as bunkers, but aircraft carriers.

Keeping our distance?

Tim Keller articulates,

Celebrate deeds of mercy and justice. We live in a time when public esteem of the church is plummeting. For many outsiders and inquirers, the deeds of the church will be far more important than our words in gaining plausibility (Acts 4:32-33). Leaders in most places see “word-only” churches as net costs to their community, organizations of relatively little value. But effective churches will be so involved in deeds of mercy and justice that outsiders will say, “We cannot do without churches like this. This church is channeling so much value into our community that if it were to leave the neighborhood, we would have to raise taxes.”*

My oldest has come home twice concerned about girls in his class that might be in dangerous home situations. I love that rather than just praying from a distance for them, he’s getting his hands dirty in the work of lifting injustices in his school. There is no room for “those people over there” or “their problem” in our churches.

If it’s a community issue, it is an issue of the Church, right? We actively “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7). May God continue to awaken our hearts to the distress of those around us.

Lord, enable us to live so that others can truly say, “They engaged in the crucial struggle[s] of our time.” 

–  Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

So we’re ready for some practical ideas! In what ways is your church actively engaging in key struggles of our times?

P.S. Want more? Check out this timely message from Jill Briscoe, regarding the “mission field between our own two feet.”

 

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“Not my problem”

An Open House

Living “Sent”: An Updated Job Description

A Prayer for Your Community–Every Day of the Week

12 Ways to Pray for Your Child’s Teachers (FREE printable)

 

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A Symphony around My Chopsticks: Thoughts on Everyday Faithfulness

symphony alongside my chopsticks everyday faithfulness

My house is (blissfully) quiet now. I sit at my clean wooden table. My stomach is comfortably satisfied. My kids are actually adjusting remarkably well to school life—something I couldn’t have anticipated after five years homeschooling them in Africa. (Adjusting so well, in fact, that after their dental appointments last week, the younger two begged me to return to the last hour of school. Um…okay!) My new job as a freelance writer—after a few weeks of what might be called panic—is actually a delight. And my husband is happy, which is just a good gift all around. We are all healing mpola mpola (slowly by slowly).

This is to say: I have a lot I am thankful for. Many of you have asked about our transition, probably because my heart has seeped out a bit into cyberspace. I would not be telling the truth to say something other than—wow. This has all gone much more smoothly than I thought possible. (Thank you, friends, for praying. He hears.)

I noticed in myself this weekend—I guess you could call it a longing. As a friend pointed out, I’ve lost a couple of my jobs in the last year. And I think the slight gap I feel, where the wind whistles through, could be called purpose. Occasionally I see flashes of it, like light on water. But a little part of me is still puzzled. It whispers, see–when I’m not flying around with school lunches and permission slips and work deadlines. Why am I here? (And maybe, Why am I not there?)

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The Safe Place Series, #3: Practical Tips to Becoming a Person of Refuge

The other night, one of my kids was at his finest. It was as if a switch had been flipped. He went from easy-going to stonewalling us, arms crossed, resolutely stubborn. And man, was I getting the stinkeye.

Though his attitude was not without consequences, God was kind to me. I think He reminded me that disproportionate reactions are a lot of times symptoms that something deeper’s being triggered. Thankfully, this tipped my husband and I off to dig and uncover the problem more than just slam down the symptom.

Because when you’re going through a hard time, life can feel a little…naked. So our emotional safety is directly tied to the degree of acceptance we sense from someone.

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Friday Quotables #6: A Terrible Force

Dostoyevsky humility humble love terrible force Karamazov

At some thoughts one stands perplexed, above all at the sight of human sin, and wonders whether to combat it by force or by humble love. Always decide “I will combat it by humble love.” If you resolve on that once and for all, you can conquer the whole world. Loving humiity is a terrible force; it is the strongest of all things, and there is nothing like it.

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

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Shame–and Your Marriage: On the Fear that Keeps Us Hiding (and Clawing Your Way Out)

shame in your marriage The power of shame continues to make my mind fizz. (Yours might, too: This post on shame in parenting has drawn more readers than any other post on this site, bar none.)

But now all those thoughts are bubbling over what shame might look like in a marriage; in our most intimate concentric circle of community. See, I know shame—this idea that I’m not worthy of connecting with someone—immediately leads me to cover up.

Take the typical fight with a spouse. First reaction is not typically, You’re so right. I’m snippy, and I have a profound case of PMS. It’s more along the lines of blame-shifting (Well, if you’d stop overreacting like some kind of hypersensitive Pomeranian). Denying (I didn’t say you were arrogant! I said you were cocky). Hiding (If I don’t say anything, it will look a lot like peace and taking the higher road).

The Masquerade

Joking aside—this predilection to hiding means the manifestations of shame are endless. For me, it led to a profound insecurity (you can read how that affected our relationship); to people-pleasing ad nauseam, to the extent of a near eating disorder.

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12 Ways to Pray for Your Child’s Teachers (FREE printables!)

12 ways to pray text

It’s happening.
Tomorrow, I’m sending all four kids to school for the first time. Lunch box chaos, carpool lines, field trips extracurricular activities, homework, track and field day–these are all mine at the crack of dawn tomorrow. There’s some anxiety, some excitement. (And you should see the kids!)
In celebration of the new school year–and since many of you are new to this blog –I’m reposting these specific prayers for these individuals who powerfully influence our kids, families, and communities day after day. 
DOWNLOAD HERE FREE here as a pdf–great for small groups, personal use, parent prayer groups, or this format for church bulletin inserts. I’m hoping it’s a great way to kick off loving on the teachers in our lives and cheering them on throughout the year. Please share if you find this useful!   -Janel

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Guest post: Where’s the Holy Spirit When My Marriage is Hard?

It was late, and she was crying now. Her marriage had been hard–hard for a long time.

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An Open Letter to a Mom of Young Kids

Hey.

I don’t know how you found time to read this. But then again, it’s possible you were hoping for a sliver of personal time. (The short people in your house are maybe sleeping.) Maybe you wanted to be reminded you’ll make it through this. Um, and that everything in your house will not always be sticky. That there is a REM cycle in your future.

And that you’re not alone.

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Off-season: When You’re Not Where You Wanted to Be, When You Wanted to Be There–Part II

Off-season: When You're Not Where You Wanted to Be, When You Wanted to Be There

Missed the first post? Grab it here.

In three weeks, my family and I will quietly glide across the line sectioning our lives into before and after. And it will be as innocuous as stepping onto an air-conditioned airplane.

With an escapade like living in Africa—and really, in many ways embedding ourselves, and it in us—we bear the marks inside. Strangely, truthfully, I have fear this plane will land me back in a place I was giddy to leave seven years ago.

My thirtieth birthday was approaching. From childhood I’d pictured and prepared myself for a lean, vibrant life overseas. Instead, my approaching birthday found me squarely in Little Rock, a fistful of miles from where I graduated high school. I wielded a deep inner fatigue unique to welcoming four children in five years. (No. No twins. A couple did feel like twins.) Insert the picket fence and the dog—and you can picture the level of contentment I both seized with two hands and questioned, even while cherishing my life. I mean, I knew how I got there. I was grateful I was there. But still, I wondered. How did I get there?

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11 Ideas toward More Emotionally-whole and -healthy Parenting

The other day, both a bad thing and a good thing happened. My son—the one with ADHD—had a meltdown after lunch over his math homework. Maybe you’re thinking, I missed the “good” part. Good part: I realized he hadn’t melted down in a long time. So we were actually able to tease apart some of the factors for the meltdown (math after lunch, when his brain is tired; worrying that he wouldn’t get enough time to mess around at the pool after swim practice). We had time to deal not just with the meltdown, but to recognize it as the dashboard light it was—and hopefully circumvent it in the future.

One of the things I’m loving about some friends who’ve done the hard work of going—and responding to!—counseling is their remarkable capacity to love even better. As they’re combing out some of the tangles in their brains, everyone around them is cashing in on more enjoyable, meaningful interactions. My point? The time we spend investing in our homes’ emotional health pays untold dividends both to people around us now, and the countless ones in the future—including generations to come. Here, I’ve compiled some new and best-of ideas to take us to the next level (including yours truly).

Never underestimate the impact of a healthy home.

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