This Is a Test

Over the last few weeks, as the coronavirus has played havoc with our lives, it has been both deeply encouraging—and frustrating—to see how people are responding. On the plus side, I loved Governor Cuomo’s introduction of “New York Clean” hand sanitizer. Regardless of what we might think about his politics, I appreciate how, in a few short sentences, he calls out people who are price gouging, offers a local solution and reassures the people of New York that their government is taking action. I was also encouraged (to be honest, I cried last night) as I read this story about a small Italian restaurant in San Anselmo, California that offered its customers not just takeout but also “help to those who are in need of items that have disappeared from store shelves, like toilet paper, hand towels, bleach, sponges, and many more items that restaurants normally use. If we have it, we’ll give you some at our cost, just ask!” Here in Durham, NC, it seems like business after business, and most community and institutional leaders, have been doing all they can to help. Likewise, many small groups are organizing mutual help, such as the ncrestaurantrelief.com fund or the woman in my neighborhood who handed out flyers looking for people to share needs (“Check this box if you need groceries”) and offers to help (“I can drive.”)

On the other hand, I am guessing that you too have seen leaders communicating poorly and people acting selfishly and have worried about finding toilet paper, which is currently suffering from an artificial shortage due to hoarding.

Does tragedy make people worse? Does it call out the best in us? I think it does neither. I think it gives us one more chance to respond “yes” or “no” to the love of God and love for our neighbor, one more chance to decide who we are and who we are becoming.

On Your Own

We’d like to invite you to respond to a few questions in one of two ways.

  1. Share with a group you are already a part of (or organize a new small group for sharing) via Google Hangout, Zoom, Facebook, etc.
  2. If you are not part of a group like that, join the WeCanNeighbor conversation here (on Facebook) or here (on Instagram).

QUESTIONS

  • What opportunities have you taken—or could you take—to help a friend or neighbor this week?
  • Are there encouraging stories you have heard about people helping each other?
  • How are you and God doing? What are you doing with your worries, frustration, isolation, energy?

Your Leadership Will Benefit from a “Core” Workout

NOTE: This month, NavPress is publishing a new book by a good friend of ours, Tom Yeakley. He and his wife, Dana, spent ten years mentoring ministry leaders in Indonesia before returning to the United States, where they both have been in leadership roles at the national level for The Navigators ever since. Tom has spoken more than once to the 20s leadership team, and we have all benefited. Here is a bit of his new book.

Some years ago, I was interacting with Dr. J. Robert Clinton about a personal goal to increasingly deepen my knowledge of the English Bible during my lifetime. After listening patiently and asking some questions, he offered, “Tom, I think you have an impossible goal.”

“Why would you say that?” I asked.

“Because,” he replied, “the Bible is not really one book; it is a library of sixty-six books. It’s too much to try to master in one lifetime.”

Your Core Scripture

He could see my disappointment, and he quickly added, “But there is a better way to develop the depth you desire. Instead of trying to become proficient in the entire Bible, focus your effort around a Core Set of Bible books. Begin with four books: one of the Gospels, Romans, Ephesians, and another book of your choosing—one that you spend a lot of time in, one that you’ve marked a lot in your personal Bible, or the book where you have to tape the pages back together due to wear.”

“Why Romans and Ephesians?” I asked.

“Because they explain Paul’s two revelations from God—the gospel and the body of Christ,” he said.

Don’t Miss the Forest for the Trees

Of course, while focusing on a smaller portion of the Bible, we need to stay familiar with the entire Scriptures. There is much profit in reading from the whole Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Don’t become so myopic that you miss great blessing. You wouldn’t want to get to heaven and not have an answer if Nahum asks you “So, how did you like my book?” You’d want a working familiarity with it so that you’re not embarrassed to admit that you never found the time to read or study it.

Your Core Set will be a dynamic list. As God gives you more influence and responsibility, you’ll want to add to it, and as you move through different seasons of life, your books and selected passages, characters, or themes may change accordingly. We can delete from our Core Set as well as add. We want to live and lead from an overflow of our walk with God. Concentrating in a Core Set has proved incredibly helpful for me and enabled me to deeply influence others as I serve others out of my focused study of Scripture.

Resources

You can find Tom’s original (fuller) post here.

Please consider purchasing Growing Kingdom Wisdom on NavPress.com Code: WISDOMGOGO during the week of 8/31/19 – 9/10/19.

For each book purchased, the Nav 20s ministry will receive a copy to mentor a young leader.

 

What if my friend is marrying the wrong person?

Giving and receiving wise counsel during serious life decisions can be really healthy since we’re called to live in community, and deciding who to marry can be one of those decisions. However, it can be tricky to navigate what to do when we think a friend might be making a mistake. I’ve told an engaged friend they were marrying the wrong person, and I’ve also been the person who was told they were making a mistake by getting married. While I’m all about tough conversations that draw us closer to God and each other, neither of those conversations did that.

Now, a couple years later, and hopefully a few years wiser, there are a few questions I think someone should ask themselves before sharing their concerns with an engaged friend. I’ll group the questions into two categories: “Should I say anything?” and if so, “How should I say something?”

Should I say something?

1. What is your relationship like with this friend currently?

Are you close with this friend? Be willing to be honest with yourself about this. If you are not close, you will need to build trust, and then worry about deciding to say something later. If you are close, move on to question #2.

2. How much time have you spent with the couple or with your friend’s fiancé?

Try to get to know your friend’s partner. Regardless of whether you think they should get married, your friend cares a lot for this person, and you should too. Knowing them as a couple will allow you to speak from personal observation rather than assumptions or stories you’ve heard.

3. What type of relationship are you willing to have with this friend in the next few months?

If you are considering telling a friend to break off an engagement, are you willing to walk through it with them? Will you have the time and energy to support them? If not, you need to think hard about why you (and not someone else) is having this conversation..

4. Are you having this conversation for you or for your friend?

While the concern for a friend getting into a difficult marriage can begin out of pure concern for them, we need to be careful that the conversation doesn’t become about absolving ourselves from the responsibility of “warning” a friend about the disaster you believe they are bringing upon themselves. If you are heading into a conversation and only thinking about the guilt you might feel by not saying something, you need to check yourself and talk to God. Ask God if the guilt is genuine conviction from the Holy Spirit, or if it is from your own cultural expectations or mis-guided pressure.

5. Have you asked God for direction in how to relate with your friend about this?

Pray, pray, pray. Humble yourself to God’s direction. Recognize that God cares about your friend more than you do. While He tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, there is no command to “warn every neighbor about a bad marriage decision.” It is ultimately His role to change hearts, and their role to respond to Him. Ask God if, when, and how He would want you to talk with your friend. And pray until you get His direction.

Once you get the go ahead from God, take some time to consider what to say and how to talk to your friend.

How should I talk with my friend?

1. Has your friend shared with you concerns about the relationship in the past?

If your friend has shared concerns about the relationship in the past, start by asking for an update. If they haven’t, before sharing your thoughts about the relationship, ask your friend how they are feeling about it. The goal is not for your friend to follow your advice, but for them to be able to be honest with themselves and with God. Only this type of honesty and vulnerability will lead someone to break an engagement. If they don’t regularly share heart-level things with you, test out the water of deeper conversation, but be willing to take it slow. It might be that you aren’t the best one to have this conversation with them.

2. What is your timeline? 

In the Christian circles I’ve been around, these conversations tend to be approached as an emergency. It is not. This is not a surprise to God. Be intentional and follow God’s prompting. Don’t feel unnecessary pressure to share all your thoughts at one time, and make sure it’s not the only thing you talk to your friend about. Having a broader conversation helps communicate your broader concern for them as a whole person.

3. Have you thought thoroughly about how and what you will say?

It might sound silly, but you should mentally rehearse what you will say and how you will say it. You may even want to practice aloud. You want to communicate love and care for your friend above all else, so speaking calmly, talking at a controlled pace, and being patient when waiting for responses are really important.

4. How will you offer support?

How will you let your friend know you will be there for them during and after a broken engagement? Equally important to consider is how you will assure your friend that you will be the biggest supporter of their marriage if they don’t split up. If the issues are serious enough for you to say something, your friend is probably going to need support. Be prepared for this likelihood and don’t burn all your bridges trying to persuade him or her about your concerns.

Remember how much you love and care for your friend and let that drive your decisions. Take the necessary care to seek the Lord and proceed lovingly. Regardless of their end decision, you want your friendship and their relationship to be honored, and the Lord to be glorified.

Resources

The apostle Paul often sent people to visit groups and individuals he was concerned about. Look at the following examples and ask yourself: what was Paul’s goal? What approach did he assume these visitors would take? Examples: Ephesians 6:21-22, Phillippians 2:19-24, 1 Thes. 3:1-5.

Inside Out is a book with helpful insights on the topic of honesty with God, self, and others.

Ravi Zacharias tells a great story about his brother’s unusual (by some cultural standards) engagement and his own awkward attempt to “help” in The Will to Do, an article on his website.

 

Craigslist Friends

The idea that God can work “right where you are” sounds great, but it takes faith!

A few years ago, even as Meaghan and I were figuring out life after graduation – marriage, new careers and home ownership – we wanted to be making some type of ministry impact, but we felt lost about how to get started.

We didn’t know much, but we did know we could pray and trust God to bring people into our lives. So we asked God for people we could befriend, love and influence for the gospel. And He was faithful to provide, truly, right where we were.

We were looking for a new car, and while out on a walk, we saw a “for sale by owner” sign that piqued my interest. When I got home, I looked it up on Craigslist (I guess in the “old days,” the sign in the window would have had a phone number), and after a quick conversation with Meaghan, we decided to take a look. The owner not only sold us an awesome car but became, he and his fiancée, some of our dearest friends.

Over the past six years, we’ve made experienced a lot of life together: a bowling league, a wedding, three children, numerous game nights, camping trips and celebrating both kid and adult birthdays…. We are thankful that God answered our prayer and provided people we could relate to for the sake of the gospel. These friends recently told us that they consider us family. Would you please pray with us that God, in His timing, might one day make them even closer family, through faith in Jesus?

 

Resources

The Insider by Jim Petersen and Mike Shamy. A great book about learning to share Jesus and the Gospel with the people God has already placed around us.

Google Keep or any note taking App. Jot down the names your neighbors, their address (if you know it) and what you last talked about. That way you eliminate repeating the “Hey you, how’s it going buddy?” conversation.

 

 

Single and Loving It?

The first time I read the Bible front-to-back was when I was a college sophomore in Boulder, Colorado. That was also the first time that I learned the Bible had positive things to say about singleness. I’d grown up going to church, Bible camp and youth group, yet I’d never heard a message or done a Bible study that made any mention of the viability of a single life. I’d come to assume that marriage was the only path to a fulfilled, fruitful, God-honoring life.

Suddenly, I was struck by how both Jesus (Matthew 19:10-12) and Paul (1 Corinthians 7:6-9) were affirming that being single is a good path for some people. The unmarried person, Paul notes, can give undivided devotion to the Lord. Similarly, Jesus (who walked the path of singleness himself) says some choose to be unmarried for the sake of the Kingdom. Neither says singleness is for everyone, but both say it’s good.

In my 20s, this view of singleness helped me to have an open-handed approach to dating, rather than a sense of entitlement. I still desired to be married, but – at least most of the time – I didn’t feel like it was the end of the world when relationships didn’t work out. It also helped me make the most of the time I had while single and to enjoy its unique blessings. Working in a pub until 2 am and taking a seminary course on my off-nights (something I did in my 20s) is something I probably would not have been able to do if I had a family.

The reality is that we are designed for relationship. More specifically, I think we’re designed for family… brotherhood, sisterhood, sonship, parenthood and marriage. How can we experience all of these relationships if we don’t marry?

The answer, I believe, is that Christians are called to radical community.

Jesus reframes family when, in Mark 3, he’s told that his mother and brothers are looking for him. He responds, “whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (3:35). The Church life depicted in Acts functioned like a family, as “they shared everything they had” (4:32). And Paul describes himself as loving other believers like a mother (1 Thessalonians 2:7) and like a father (2:11). He – and other New Testament writers – regularly referred to fellow Christians as brothers, sisters and children.

When I’ve moved to a new city without family and sought to make a home there, brothers and sisters in Christ have been vital to making that possible. We’ve cared for each other while we were sick, invited each other into our homes for meals and truly loved one another like family.

Tim Keller has said that “Christianity was the very first religion that held up single adulthood as a viable way of life…. Nearly all ancient religions and cultures made an absolute value of the family and of the bearing of children. There was no honor without family honor, and there was no real lasting significance or legacy without leaving heirs. Without children, you essentially vanished – you had no future.”

As I have plugged into different faith networks across the country, I have found that some of our modern faith communities emphasize marriage and family in a way that sounds a little more like those ancient religions than like the radical way of life and belonging described in the New Testament. Marriage and family are good, and they’re gifts, but so, too, is singleness and the family we have in Christ. The most essential thing is that all Christians –  married or single – live into this calling of radical community.

Through these experiences, I have learned that it’s good to desire marriage and to hope for, pray for and pursue it. But if we do so in a way that neglects the value and gift of singleness, we can be robbed of the blessing and joy God has for us now. Marriage is a great gift, but it’s only a foretaste of the union with Christ for which we’re all created. Consequently, let’s be thankful for the gift God has given us for today – singleness or marriage – and use it to bless others.

 

Resources:

Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, is excellent. It’s about marriage, but as Keller says, understanding marriage is a great help to understanding singleness. Here is brief sample and a couple of questions: “The Christian gospel and hope of the future kingdom de-idolized marriage…. The Christian church in the West, unfortunately, does not seem to have maintained its grasp on the goodness of singleness…. Single people cannot live their lives well as singles without a balanced, informed view of marriage. If they do not have that, they will either over-desire or under-desire marriage, and either of those will distort their lives.”

  • Have you found Keller’s observation to be true? Have you seen people who over-desire or under-desire marriage?
  • Who do you have to talk to about your own journey through singleness and/or marriage?

 

For a resource on singleness from a woman’s perspective, check out Connally Gilliam’s Revelations of a Single Woman.

Christmas is a Collision of Worlds

Within a few weeks of throwing my lot in with Jesus, I pledged a sorority. It was a collision of worlds. I was an ignorant freshman, a fledgling Christian and a freshly-minted sorority girl.

I look around at my new sorority sisters. Hmm, we all look the same. Young, white, well-dressed women, from good-enough families, aspiring to great things. It’s not as snobby as it sounds—more like, “intentionally monolithic.”

Simultaneously, I become immersed in Christian groups. Wow. This was the widest mix of people on the planet! What powerful force, I wondered, could draw together the drop-out and the scholar, the penniless and the preppy? I was in awe. I got the message pretty quick: Jesus could shape in people’s hearts a love for that which was not like them. I was hooked. It was an utterly different kind of beauty that drew me. I have come to think of it as the beauty of the gospel.

Last Saturday, my wonderful Virginia cousin gave me the gift of touring homes in Richmond’s “old Victorian” section, all decorated for Christmas. For three hours, I walk through homes with period antiques and crown moldings, gables and front porches, all decked out for Christmas, each house fit for a cover of Southern Living.

A familiar mirage begins to take shape in my head. I feel myself sucked into an old vision of “The Good Life.” Though I’ve known plenty of people in homes like these and know better than most that the lives inside don’t often match the decor (I am a counselor)….still, I can be fooled.

The next morning finds me in my regular church service back home, and once again, I experience that wonderful collision of worlds. It makes my head spin in a needed way.

Here I sit, once again, among the people of God. We are quite the crew. Where else could you find, in the same setting, the Duke professor, a child crawling in the aisle and a woman wearing an elf hat? Preaching and music and sacrament come together in a deeply-cleansing whole. This beautiful gospel of a beautiful God with nail prints in his hand. I am converted all over again. This Christmas, once more, I trade the mirage for the Real.

Perhaps something like this collision is happening for you this Christmas. Perhaps in some way, two different visions of beauty—of reality itself— are colliding.

My hope is that the beauty around us will draw us all to the true Source.

Nails, spears shall pierce Him through.

The cross be borne for me—for you.

Hail, hail the Word made flesh,

The babe, the Son of Mary.

(A longer version of this post was originally published here.) 

Resources:

 

The Deafening Sound of Silence

I hesitate to write about the racial issues that are plaguing this country because, as a White woman, I feel like I have little to say. And let’s be honest, I am nervous about saying the wrong  thing. But my silence is deafening. At least to my Black friends. I am quick to cry over injustices in Kenya or Peru. I tearfully read my friends’ blogs about the plight of orphans. I post and post about these issues. “Why aren’t we adopting? Why don’t we do more?” I talk about all these things with my social media friends.

But about racial tension, death at the hands of police and retaliation, I have been silent. I have not known what to say, so I say nothing. This is the wrong thing to do.

A Black friend of mine recently posted on Facebook about our response as Kingdom people  to what the Black community  is experiencing. Her reminders weren’t revolutionary or new or laid out on a thoughtfully crafted Pinterest board. Her words were Jesus’ words. They were from the Bible. They were words and verses I have read, journaled about and poured over before.

A central theme in her reminders was the power of presence: sometimes, the best thing is to just be with someone.

My friends, our Black brothers and sisters, are hurting. They’re suffering. One of my friends said, “I’m scared that they {the boys she mentors} will be innocently doing what almost anyone would say is just ‘boys being boys’ and that they will become the next hashtag.”

The life and the words of Jesus encourage me. What do we do when our brothers and sisters—cut from the same cloth, made in the same Image and by the same God—are suffering? We enter in.

We make ourselves awkward, just as Jesus made Himself awkward. Jesus, fully God, the creator of the Universe, the King of all that is and has been and will be, Jesus, who lived in perfect harmony with the Spirit and the Father, came to earth as a baby. Not as a king on a warrior horse or as a politician with parades in front.

Imagine. Creating the seas, stretching the skies and then—being born into a baby’s skin, with fingers newly unfurled and eyes blurred, not yet cleared of their opacity. Jesus came into this world awkwardly, as one of us.

We can do the same. We can enter in with our Black peers. We take the first, awkward step. And then say something. Not defend or make excuses. Just speak life and love. And if it’s awkward, just remember the One who came awkward—and spoke Life and Love to you.

 

Resources

Joanna recommends . . .

Be the Bridge Community: “Be the Bridge desires to create space and conversations that would begin to tear down racial barriers that have divided people – even God’s people.”

Shalom in the City: A thoughtful blog and podcast.

Another great resource? Find a friend. Just as other people need you, you need them. A good place to start a conversation about racial tensions might go something like, “This is really awkward. I want to do something, say something, but I don’t know how. Can you help me?”

The Shame Cycle

I’ve spent far too much time asking myself two questions: What is wrong with me? and Why can’t I get it together?

These aren’t kind questions. They are condemning. They’re laced with a nasty idea: shame. Up until a few years ago, I wouldn’t have known to call it that. But then a friend gently helped me see the narrative that shame speaks: You’re not enough. You’re not worthy of love. Something is wrong – beyond even Jesus’ repair – at the core of your being. And worse yet, it tells me that nobody else is quite as bad as I am, leaving me feeling hidden and alone.

I had tried so many times to “fix” myself. As I struggled with sexual sin, anxiety and an intense drive to earn others’ approval, I would vow to make changes. Inevitably, I cycled back to sin, which left me feeling like a failure, only intensifying the shame.

But over time, God began to remind me of His narrative, a story that is louder than the story of shame. He is not repulsed or frustrated with me. He would never, ever speak shame over me. I began to see how Jesus treated people who struggled with shame (John 8:1-11; Luke 7:36-50). His love, combined with His truth, caused them to come out of hiding.

I am learning that I no longer have to remain hidden but can actually invite Jesus into my shame. His voice tells me that I am accepted, chosen and redeemed, made righteous and blameless by his blood – regardless of how I feel. I don’t have to “fix” myself.

Freed by the love of Christ to tell the truth about myself, I am seeing a new cycle emerge. I am finding the courage to practice vulnerability with my friends. Authentic relationships are emerging, and more truth and freedom is taking hold. This is good news!

Are there any areas of your life where you wrestle with shame? Would you be willing to sit with the Father and allow Him to speak into those very places, listening for what truth He wants to speak?

Once you’ve done that, think of a friend you could practice vulnerability with. Take a step of courage and invite them into this part of your life. Who knows, you may even hear them say, “Me too!”

Resources

The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves by Curt Thompson
The Shame Exchange: Trading Shame for God’s Mercy and Freedom by Steve & Sally Breedlove and Ralph & Jennifer Ennis
Boldly I Approach, a song by Rend Collective

I Knew You’d Ask

Though it’s late December, I just lived through Groundhog’s Day again. (If you haven’t seen the movie, in Groundhog’s Day, Bill Murray keeps living through the same day until he “gets it right” and breaks the cycle.)  In my case, I was talking with a student who’s trapped in a cycle of sexual sin. It’s a conversation I’ve had many times with him over the years.

“So, how did Thanksgiving break go with your girlfriend?” I asked.

“I knew you were going to ask,” my friend replied. “I’ve been dreading this conversation, because I knew you were going to ask.”

“I’m guessing it didn’t go so well, huh?”

“It didn’t start very well,” my friend said. “We slept together again, and I really felt terrible. I felt even worse knowing I was going to have to face you.”

My friend paused for a minute, looked at me, and asked, “Did you ever have to do this? You know, when you and Katie were dating?”

“Oh, yeah,” I replied. “I hated it, but I needed it. Just like you.”

“So you actually told another person what you were doing wrong like I’m doing now?”

“Vic Black was my Navigator staff person at Auburn University,” I replied, “and I talked with him every week about how Katie and I were doing. It was terrible, sometimes.”

This gave my friend courage to keep opening up to me. He knew that I could relate with compassion to his struggles. That’s a vital element in helping people find freedom. Very few of us can break out of habitual sin cycles alone. We need to experience the power of God, and very often, this means the help of godly friends.

The path toward sexual wholeness and holiness is a lot like the path toward spiritual maturity. It doesn’t consist in greater degrees of independence but in greater reliance on the grace of God and the help of God’s people. As the writer of Hebrews tells it, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)

 

Four Essential Elements to Help Others Struggling With Sexual Sin

1. A compassionate appraisal of the weaknesses and sin of others

Even though Jesus never sinned, He was able to “sympathize with our weaknesses [because He was] tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) In my case, I have been tempted and sinned. My honest recounting of past sins or open confession of current struggles helps people realize that I stand in need of God’s grace just like they do.

2. An understanding of how the gospel applies to Christians who are struggling with compulsive sin

Everyone burdened by the weight of guilt and shame needs to hear the good news of the gospel. When a friend confesses sexual sin to me, I want the first words out of my mouth to be something like, “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, [God] made you alive together with [Jesus], having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

3. The moral authority to call someone to a higher place

Though I do not consider myself morally superior to anyone I meet with – and I do not mask my current struggles with sin – I believe I need to be experiencing significant freedom from sexual sin to help another person. If I am saying, “You can be free” but showing that I am not free, my words will sound empty.

4. Wise counsel about next steps

When a friend opens up to me about his sexual struggles, he’s usually asking for advice. He’s not looking for a generic prescription to read the Bible and pray more. Rather, he’s hoping I can spot something in the interplay of his fear, lust, temptation, and rationalization that might help him break the cycle of sin. He’s hoping I can diagnose why his soul feels so empty, or how he can live well through the next long weekend with his girlfriend. Good questions and proven practices are an asset here.

Community: Not a Replacement for God

Let me be very direct. Why is it that with just about everything, God and others are the focus, but when it comes to community, it’s very easy for things to become all about us? Whether it is intimacy or vulnerability, support or whatever, community can become about what we need. And if we don’t get that certain scratch for that particular itch, it’s back to the same old song: “Man, I really need community.”

What happened to serving? What about the command to love? Is community some sort of fantasy world in which we receive a dispensation from the great and foremost commandment?

Yeah, you might be right. Maybe a little harsh. But our understanding – my understanding – of community needs to begin at all times with our communion with God.

Yes, in one sense, he’s easy to love. Wholly faithful. Merciful. Unconditionally loving. Generous beyond words. Wise.… You get my drift. And certainly, He wants us to come to Him with our needs, to find rest in Him, comfort, encouragement. And yet, despite all this, because of our state of duplicity, it is quite a thing to love Him in return.

Does He then back off the call to love Him with all our hearts? Nope. In fact, He says, among other things, “let him deny himself and take up the cross and follow me.” Even in this unfathomably one-sided relationship, you pay in. Community, I gotta believe, is at the end of that road. You know…that sacrificial love road.

Whether it is with God, with family, friends or neighbors, we can’t find community looking for what fits us. Isn’t community the beautiful, surprising thing that blossoms as we obey God’s great command to love? The wildflower budding in a field of sacrifice and surrender?