fruitI caught of a whiff of longing this morning. I’d almost forgotten what it feels like. I stood in the parking lot and let the Texas breeze wash over me—and I felt a burst of hope inside of me: I’m going home!

I am sitting at the table with two dear friends the other day, an elder from my church and his wife, one of my first friends in Texas. They are New Yorkers, upstaters like me, and they have loved me well in my time here. This year has been one long shove, I said, a pushing away from all the reasons I would have to stay here. But are you running? they ask. Is it still running if you’re going home?

New York is a big state, divided into sections. The City, Upstate, the North Country, the Adirondack Region, the Finger Lakes Region, the Thousand Island Seaway, the Catskills. It’s all New York, but so much more than just The City. I’m not moving to the same region from which I hail, but I’m moving to the state I call home. Is it still running if you’re going home?

When I first visited New York I was 18 years old, a sullen teenager whose parents wanted to buy an old farmhouse and homestead it, growing organic vegetables and raising animals. I was born and bred in an affluent county north of Philadelphia. The earthiness of our new home didn’t bother me, but the humbleness of it did. It was a bigger, grander house than the one we’d left, but the life we now lived was simpler. I never felt at home there.

New York took from me, from beginning to end, it seemed. The timeline of my time there is dotted with its thievery. Home, life, family, security, finances, faith. By the time I left, my small car packed with every earthly belonging, I would have been glad to never return.

I tell one of my girls this morning that it was the lonely, poor, and rejected times where I now see the providence of God. It was not New York that stole from me, it was God who pruned from me. Cutting off what didn’t bear fruit. My first three years in Texas I felt strong and tall and healthy, free of the dead branches. But new branches grew and they have to be pruned too. That is the truth I am learning: to bear healthy fruit, even new branches have to be pruned.

One of the most painful lessons God’s children must learn is that we are not God, and our strength is only as strong as our dependence on Him. He is our strength. That which bears fruit in us, is born of Him. He is the producer, not us. He is also the farmer and the vine-keeper. He decides what is not best, what is not fit to produce.

I have some fears about moving back to New York, going home to a state that took from me, a place where my faith withered and died. I have fears that feel paramount today. Fear that some will think I am running away. That some will think I will never settle down. That I am making a mistake. That there, where I am known, I will slip into old patterns and ways of thinking. Deadly things.

But at the bottom of those fears, I land on one solid truth: He prunes. He takes away and gives something better. And he does it over and over and over and over again until we are his likeness. Because He is the vine and the vine-keeper, and truest fruit-bearer.

c2261c8246316ed0dfea405f565551e8A few weeks ago I tweeted, “In my home we don’t shout. This is our home & the rules are No Shouting. If you want to shout, you can, but not in my home.” It was said in reference (and perhaps defense) of blogs which do not have open comments. I removed comments two years ago and have only looked back wistfully a time or two. All it takes is a quick glance at some other blogs with similar content, though, for me to remember it was the right decision for me.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I think of Sayable in much the same way as I think of my home. My home has four outside walls, keeping out the wind and elements, a front door which is often open to passers-by, and often closed to afford us some time home as a family. In our home we do not yell at one another and if there is some disagreement it is talked out in quiet, gracious voices. There have been occasions where words have been flung carelessly and trust has been broken, but that is not the modus operandi of our home. That is not the norm.

I grew up in a home with a good amount of yelling. Excuses for it were common, as well as prefaces or follow-ups. What I learned early on is there are levels of yelling, there is also tone of voice, there is not enough coffee, too much Irish in our bloodline, and too short a fuse. I learned yelling was the expected response and apologies came later, if at all. And I learned, most of all, that what is yelling to me, was not the universal decibel level of yelling.

Everyone has their own barometer of what constitutes yelling and when it is appropriate. 

Because I’m a sinner and we’re not in the new earth yet, I still find myself sensitive to the tones of voices around me, to how words are phrased and flung, and what excuses are given for anger. I am rarely offended, but if you yell at me, I’ll be looking for the nearest closet. Fear of man is alive and well in this soul on this issue.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

What does this have to do with blog comments? In our day to day life, we’re face to face, tone of voice is heard, body language is seen. On the web, though, and social media, we are left without those necessary cues. If a person uses coarse or aggressive language in a post/comment, and defends their words with, “I just want to have a conversation,” they should understand words that sound conversational to them may sound abusive to someone else. And likewise, someone like me who feels any slight pushback is a personal affront to my character, my spirituality, my soul, and my personhood needs to take a step back and assume a charitable posture.

The longer it’s been since I lived in a home with yelling, the more I realize yelling or raising your voice in anger is not functional, not ever. If you are a parent, there is no excuse for yelling at your child. Ever. If you are a child, there is no excuse for yelling at your parent. Ever. If you are a friend, you should never yell at another friend. And the same goes for blog and blog comments. If you find yourself typing furiously using a tone of voice in your head that you reserve for moments of anger, frustration, or even defensiveness, stop typing and step away.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I got spanked more than any child in my home, sometimes multiple times a day (mostly for being the resident smart-aleck), so many times that I have no recollection of any time save one when I was about nine or ten. I had disobeyed one of my parents after them repeated telling me to stop, they were getting angry and I could see it. Just one last time I pushed the envelope and it sent them over the edge. But, for the only time I can remember, they looked right at me, took a deep breath, told me they were going to spank me, but needed to go calm down first. In those twenty minutes of waiting for the coming walloping, I had a few minutes to think about my actions and my disobedience, and they had a few minutes to calm down. I’ll never forget that spanking. It may have the first time I was actually repentant before they put me over their knee.

It is never in our favor to dash off responses, use the internet equivalent of raising our voices, or react in anger. And, which is more, it is never in the favor of anyone else. It is not loving or long-suffering, kind or hopeful.

Questions for personal consideration: What is your tone online? What are you known for? Do those who may disagree with you find you approachable and generous? Are you aware that what is simply aggressive conversation to you may be abusive to someone else?

You fancy yourself a prophet, a priest, or a king, but the Bible says you are all three, not just one.

Prophet, you ride high, calling the world to repentance. Priests, you lay low, taking confessions like coins. Kings, you rule lofty, making decrees with your mind and hands. But the Bible says you are all three, so will you be?

Will you be the prophet who points the ever-loving way to the Lord, never exposing sin to ridicule, tear down, or bully. But to peel away the layers of grave-clothes, the years of sin and shame, exposing deadened flesh to the hand of a skilled surgeon?

And will you be the priest, who takes and handles confessions dearly as the costly thing they are? Not as one who publishes pages of confessions on the street corners for all the callers and peddlers to market. But as one who covers the confessor and the broken with the manifold grace of a Living God?

And will you be the king who rules with gentleness, graciousness, and weight? Who disciplines his fellow kings and receives discipline in the same way? A king who does not put himself above others in the kingdom, but who lays his life down for his friends?

Some rule with a heavy and hidden hand. Some nail confessions to the doors of their churches, stoning the sinners and the saints all the same. Some cry out in the wilderness to prepare ye the way of the Lord.

But I want to be like Mary, pouring everything dear on the worship of One who has already come.

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

Link Love

June 13, 2014

Here are some things I’m loving this week:

First Aid Kit’s new album which you listen to here on NPR’s First Listen.

This documentary which has prompted a week-long art history-fest in our home.

All my smartest friends have all recommend West Wing to me for years. I must be the dumb one because I never gave it a chance until the past month. My roommate and I are watching it slowly and surely and loving every single episode.

I’ve been rereading one of my favorite Annie Dillard books the past week or so: Living by Fiction

I love iced coffee but I do NOT like how watered down it gets with ice. Making a batch of cold brew fixes everything. All the time.

The internet. Sometimes I hate the internet. But sometimes, like when I’m looking for an apartment on the other side of these United States, or looking for moving options, or trying to sell a bunch of furniture and books (all the books. Want to buy all the books?), I’m just really grateful for the internets.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 11.23.06 AM

 

Also, just a quick note. I’m a full-time design freelancer now and I have some openings for new work coming up. If you’re getting married and need invitations, or starting a business and need a website, or rebranding your business, or need a book or ebook laid out: I’d love to chat with you! Click on those links to see some work I finished up this month. Thanks for letting me do that little business plug.

Holding the Mystery

June 11, 2014

mystery

I live in a neighborhood where all the houses look the same. Our floorplans are swapped or switched a bit, but generally, we are like a row of Japanese diplomats, all bowing our heads to the Suburban Man.

The names of the roads are Springaire and Winter Park and Summerwind and Autumn Breeze—a nod, perhaps, to what the city planners wish would be instead of what is. People keep warning me about the Long Winter (they say, with capitalized letters) up north. I keep reminding them of their long summer, but neither of us can agree which is better. We always want what we can’t have, right?

I live on Summerwind in a house just like my neighbors. We express our individuality with paint colors and shrubbery. A yellow wreath on my door, a terracotta pot with flowers that cannot withstand the heat. As they say, if you can’t stand the heat, something, something.

I stop mid-run tonight in a rare open space of sky. The sky here is lavender at night, clouded or clear. The city lights create a cover of light that covers the light. I can’t stop thinking about how manufactured light crowds out natural light.

We’ve been on a steady diet of Vermeer this week at my house so we are obsessed with color and light and mirrors and mysteries. I can’t stop thinking about how betrayed I feel by recent discoveries on Vermeer and simultaneously how wonderful it seems to know he was more than an artist, but a genius.

The poet Levertov said, “Days pass when I forget the mystery,” and I think of this line often in these neighborhoods and days that pass so seamlessly into one another. I forget the mystery of nuance and life, of curiosity and wonder. It becomes only a perpetual plod toward tomorrow.

But tomorrow is a gift, and the only one of its kind, and God help me to remember that in our matching houses and macchiatos and yoga pants and yearning.

I am reading in 1 Timothy this morning, the qualifications of an overseer, and nestled there in verse 9 these words: “They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.”

How we love and laud the matching, the simple, the clear, the found-out, the known. But how we must hold the mystery of the faith with our consciences clear: the gift of mystery. The gift of the unplanned. The gift of the unknown.

Do you have an unknown before you? A path not clearly defined? A choice which seems impossible? A God you do not fully understand? That is a gift, friend. You can trust the mystery of it all with a complete clear conscience.

This video is making the rounds on the internets today. N.T. Wright’s thoughts on same-sex marriage are spot on, biblical, and refreshingly God-centered. I’ve said this before, but I think when we go right to the issue of homosexual behavior being a sin, we muddy the waters from the get go. Is it a sin? Yes. But so is gossip and divorce and lust and unbelief and so much more.

The Christian blogosphere expends so much energy on the ins and outs and details of rights and sins and loves and politics. I earnestly believe that we need to constantly back way, way up, back to Genesis 1, before the creation of man and woman, before sin entered the world, and look at God’s cosmic design for creation and his kingdom. Marriage between same genders becomes a non-issue at that point.

N.T. Wright says it better.

Awaiting a Savior

June 10, 2014

Awaiting a Savior, The gospel, the new creation, and the end of poverty
by Aaron Armstrong

This book is the book I’ve wanted to exist for a long time—and now it does. In Awaiting a Savior, Aaron Armstrong talks about the roots of poverty, not in economic terms, but spiritual terms. Aaron brings with him knowledge as an employee of a charity, but also an obvious study of the subject biblically. In a strangely refreshing way, he exposes poverty for what it really is at the root: the result of sin, and not just the sin of others, but our own sin, and not just our own sin, but original sin. He doesn’t make excuses for poverty in a “what will be will be” way, but instead joins every act of poverty with the greatest display of riches: grace and the gospel. I found myself tearing up time after time in this book and want to give it to every person I know who asks the question, “What can I do about the problem of poverty!?” I highly recommend this short and powerful book.

awaiting-a-savior3d1

Eat the Words

June 9, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I cut my teeth on L’Engle and Dillard, mulled over O’Connor and Greene, struggled though four semesters of Shakespeare, found myself in the pages of Berry and Kingsolver. Good writing has carried me along. Good writing taught me more theology than six semesters ever did.

In the attention deficit world of the blogosphere, it can be easy to subsist on the crumbs. Comments back and forth, public discussion and debate, he saids/she saids, commentary on every public event that happens and quickly dissipates. This is the oil that keeps the machine running, greasy stories and grimy bits that catch our fancy for a moment and flee just as quickly.

I want the slow meal. The feast prepared with wooden cutting boards and whole foods, the juices of meats flavoring the whole. The spice. The wine. The tablecloth and the candles. Shoulder to shoulder, leaving the dishes for later, much later. The slow food.

Spotlights, whether by association or viral fame, do not a good writer make. Good writing is made in the kitchen, with the dashes and pinches, the taste-testing and stirring, ruminating and storing, aging and serving. Good writing sits and satisfies from the first bite to the last. It is a chocolate cake with a dollop of homemade ice-cream, from which only one bite is needed—because it satisfies.

When I lived in Central America the close of the meal was signaled by the head of the home saying, “Satisfecho.” It was a statement. I am satisfied. He would lean back in his chair, push back his plate, and we would sit there still, until all were satisfecho.

This is the writing I want to read. The kind that satisfies, that isn’t clamoring for more attention, for commenting, for debate, for the spotlight. It simply is. And is beautiful.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

It’s been a season where I have hesitated to write about singleness for obvious reasons. But Tim Challies linked to this post this morning and I wanted to comment on it briefly.

First read the post on how to make your wife more beautiful.

Now, let me say that a woman who is fully loved by her husband is markedly different than a woman who is not, or does not feel loved by him. We all know both women, and there is a definite glow and confidence in a woman who feels the security of her one-woman man.

That said, I worry about the message this sends to unmarried women, particularly those of you who are in your thirties and beyond. Shakespeare said it best “Age, with his stealing steps, Hath clawed me in his clutch.” We cannot stop the inevitable blurring of our birth year behind us and the empty grave in front of us. For a single woman aging feels achingly more hopeless than for a single man as he ages. Every month we watch our fertility fade and the crows-feet crowd in. We feel less beautiful as each day goes on.

On top of that, there is rarely someone tending to the garden of our souls. There isn’t someone delighting in us, in every curve and nuance, every idiosyncrasy, speaking to fears and sheltering us in times of question. The lack of these things begin to eat at the blossom that bloomed in our twenties, and soon the withering comes.

If you know a single woman (and you all do), take a few moments today and encourage her inner beauty. Comment on her character and your hopes for it. Speak to her fears and lead her to the cross. Affirm her good desire to be married,  speak highly of your own marriage, and assure her of her eternal position within the Bride of Christ. And practically: serve her. Nothing makes me feel more cherished as a woman than a brother who notices and serves my sisters and me.

We should desire for the whole bride of Christ, not just the women, or just the married women, to be beautiful. Proclaim the manifold wonder of what the gospel has done in our lives and how it has transformed us.

That is true beauty.

Moving

June 4, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetWhen I first moved to Texas, it was hot. It was 100 degrees the mid-September day I crossed into the metroplex of Dallas-Fort Worth. I was on a mission. The church I knew I’d be calling home was holding a quarterly event we call Group Connect and I knew if I wanted to make this place home, I’d need a group.

I drove ten hours that day and got there late, didn’t find a group, but talked to a person who put me in touch with Jen Wilkin who taught Women’s Bible Study. I only wanted to know one thing: is this the kind of women’s bible study where weepy women cry and complain and take prayer requests that sound like gossip? I was assured it wasn’t and so I went.

And God, that hidden man, the monster of my heart, the one I feared, at times hated, and rarely trusted, split the veil in two. This temple, for the first time maybe ever, knew what it was like to approach the throne with confidence, to be full of the Holy Spirit, to cease sacrificing the lamb of self and to trust Him. I was home.

It was a new kind of home for me, the vagabond pilgrim. I’ve always been the girl who moved a lot. Comfortable with risk and averse to complacency, I’ll nomad my way through life if it means more treasure in heaven and less on earth. But this kind of home, in Christ, in the gospel, it was new and different. It fit. I never liked Texas, but I was home. Inside the doors of my church I found a people who became my family.

This past week my pastor had a few of us stand during Elder Led Prayer (a once a month prayer meeting at my church, mostly attended by covenant members and staff) and receive prayer. I didn’t see all those who had hands on me, but I felt them. I felt the hands of my family and the prayers of the saints. I left that night and felt so full and so at home.

But, dear reader, all has not been right in this temple-home of mine. Some of you know all the details, some of you have suspected, some of you guessed, but this year has been hard. Hard in hard ways. Ways that make me wonder daily what I’m doing wrong, or what God is doing right.

I have known since I moved here that Texas wasn’t the long-term plan. I moved here with the intention of staying six months. Six months has turned into four years and they have been four good years. But it has become increasingly clear to me that my heart is back in the northeast, that my soul yearns for four seasons, for the darkness of winter, the light of spring, the death of fall, and the life of summer. Even more than that, my heart yearns for the people of the north. I love those people. I love their wild eclecticness, their independence, their fierce can-do-itiveness. I love their ideas and philosophies. I love how hard they are, and how soft, how welcoming and how hard to win they are. I can’t get the northeast out of my blood, out of my soul. I get them because I am part of them.

When I moved here four years ago it was a fluke. Texas was nowhere on my list or mind. A certain mid-sized city in New York was my aim and then one day I knew it wasn’t, couldn’t be. I have never regretted that decision. He brought beauty out of the ashes. He taught the pilgrim how to pilgrimage.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka (Valley of Weeping),
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

That was the verse God gave me to meditate on before I moved to Texas and I have seen how he has taken my weeping and turned it to joy, a dry land and made it bear fruit. He has given me strength after strength, given me men and women who have pushed on those strengths and called me to deeper and stronger places. Everything he has done with the gifts he has given me, has surprised me. He has shown me his character in a fullness I never knew possible, he has put a new song in my heart, a song of praise to our God. That is a blessing I know I will never understand fully. All I can do is be grateful.

And I am.

And yet I am leaving, heading back up to the northeast, to the people who I love with my whole heart, to lilacs, rivers, lakes, and mountains, small churches with great needs, to gospel-dry places with gospel-rich people.

Will I be home there? I don’t know. But I know for sure He is at home in me.

trees

If you are a Villager, or you podcast The Village’s sermons, this weekend Matt is preaching from II Corinthians 5. If you struggle with doubt, I encourage you to listen. One of the things I love about my church is that it is a safe place to wrestle with sin and the brokenness that sin brings into our lives. As I’ve been reading Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones, I’ve been so freshly encouraged to be honest not only about my sin, but also the brokenness that trickles down as a result of it. Note: if you haven’t read Spiritual Depression, I cannot recommend it more highly.

From Chapter III:

What is the cure for [spiritual depression]? For the moment I shall give principles only. The first principle is evident: above everything else avoid making premature claim that your blindness is cured. It must have been a great temptation to this man to do that. Here is a man who has been blind. Our Lord puts spittle upon his eyes and says to him: ‘Do you see?’ The man says: ‘I see.’ What a temptation it must have been to him to take to his heels and announce to the whole world: ‘I can see!’ The man, in a sense, could see, but so far his sight was incomplete and imperfect, and it was most vital that he should not testify before he had seen clearly.It is a great temptation and I can well understand it, but it is a fatal thing to do. How many are doing that at the present time (and are pressed and urged to do so), proclaiming that they see, when it is so patent to many that they do not see very clearly and are really still in a state of confusion. What harm such people do. They describe men to others as trees, walking. How misleading to the others!

The second thing is the exact opposite of the first. The temptation to the first is to run and to proclaim that they can see, before they see clearly; but the temptation to the second is to feel absolutely hopeless and to say: ‘There is no point in going on. You have put spittle on my eyes and you have touched me. In a sense I see, but I am simply seeing men as if they were trees walking.’ Such people often come to me and say that they cannot see the truth clearly. in their confusion they become desperate and ask: ‘Why cannot I see? The whole thing is hopeless.’ They stop reading their bible, they stop praying. The devil has discouraged many with lies. Do not listen to him.

What then is the cure? What is the right way? It is to be honest and to answer our Lord’s question truthfully and honest. That is the whole secret of this matter. He turned to this man and asked: ‘Do you see ought?’ And the man said, absolutely honestly: ‘I do see, but I am seeing men as if they were trees walking.’ What saved this man was his absolutely honesty.

Now the question is, where do we stand? The whole purpose of this sermon is just to ask that question—where do we stand? What exactly do we see? Have we got things clearly? Are we happy? Do we really see? We either do or we do not, and we must know exactly where we are. Do we know God? Do we know Jesus Christ? Not only as our Saviour but do we know Him? Are we ‘rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory?’ That is the New Testament Christian. Do we see? Let us be honest; let us face the questions, let us face them with absolute honesty.

To End

May 30, 2014

3M37D

It’s been a month.

In the beginning I asked God to press the burning coal to my mouth and now I know that He has never stopped. A friend asked today what I’ve learned this month and I wasn’t sure how to answer her except this: what have I lost?

If I never write another word, has 13 years of writing been good enough?

If I never think another cohesive thought, am I grateful for the singular thought that He thinks of me?

If I am never read by many, have I proclaimed truth as best to the few?

And if I am never read by the small tens and twelves of a decade ago, have I been gentle and careful to the masses?

This month has not accomplished much in me except this, I hold no light but the light which he puts in my hands. I create no light, but am only the steward of it. Nothing is of me, born in me, birthed from me, that did not originate in Him and with Him. And if I think any different, I am a bigger fool than anyone.

Writing is work, from the first word to the last, but the gospel is not. Sanctification is. Sanctification is work from the moment we roll our sleeves up our newly saved arms to the time dust to dust is tossed over our shallow grave. Life is fleeting and short and is full of the difficult work of the day. At night we go to bed weary and if we do not, we are not obeying the first commandment: to be fruitful and multiply, to take dominion and subdue. Subduing is tiring work and what is writing if not lassoing the words into submission, corralling them into coherent sentences and stories? It is work I tell you.

To those who think the words comes easily, swift off my mind and into the pages, I remind you it is the easy words we ought to fear most. The difficult, painful words, these are the ones we ought to heed and hear because sweat has spilled for them. The words groaning in gestation, brought forth in a bloody birth. Those are the words of eternal life and those words are not to be found on any blog, in any article, or book, or from a podium or podcast.

I have thought much of Simon Peter during this writing sabbath. Peter with the gift of speak, words persuasive and foolish, loyal and rebellious, anxious and placid. I know Peter as well as I know my own mind—a paradox of faith and doubt, fear and hope. “To whom else would we go,” Peter said, “You have the words of eternal life.”

May Sabbath

May 2, 2014

photo.PNG

It was after writing this post through tears in the early morning hours that I remembered it was almost May. May means Sayable Sabbath month. Usually I feel ready for that 12th month Sabbath; I feel I’ve earned it, worked hard at my craft, swallowed pride, written my heart out for 11 months. But all I feel this year is guilty for how much I’ve hated writing for six months.

In November of last fall I began feeling like I’d lost my voice. I wasn’t sure where it had gone, all I knew was this was a different writer’s block than I’d ever felt before. Usually I press through, write anyway, exercise that muscle, and the words eventually come. But this wasn’t missing words, this was a missing voice.

I was asking the question, “Who am I?” in a way I never have before. I’m not a person who struggles with identity. I know my strengths, my weaknesses, and my proclivities. Every writer has to know a few things before writing a term paper or book: who am I and who is my audience? I’d perfected the answer to those two questions, but suddenly neither of them seemed right anymore. I didn’t know who I was and I certainly had no idea who my audience was.

When we lose our voices I wonder if this is simply God’s grace to us after all—since we are His and He is our only audience.

I think of Isaiah in chapter 6, standing before the throne of God, the seraphim around Him singing one refrain, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty. The whole earth is full of his glory.” I think of Isaiah standing there with his head bent down, saying the words, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.”

Do you feel the uncleanliness of your lips sometimes? Whether you are a pastor or a blogger or a mother or a son, do you feel the clutter and grime that spews from your mouth and your fingers? The realization again and again of how selfish and prideful and arrogant you are and how you cannot clean yourself up enough to stand before the Holiness of God?

I feel it. Oh, how I feel it.

It was a burning coal that cleansed Isaiah’s mouth but we are all looking for the nectar and sweet juice to cleanse ours. The affirmation of friends, the compliments of strangers. We want the feel good way to feeling good, not the burning coal, God, not the burning coal.

I have felt the burning coal these last months. Learning the hard way that I am a person of unclean lips and all around me are others with unclean lips. We who are being sanctified and being transformed are still so not. Look, and not too far, you will be undone too.

We do not Sabbath to give God his due, His 10%. We are not tithing our time, giving of our first-fruits. We Sabbath to remember we need Him. We do not need rest or stillness or peace or comfort. We need Him. We need a vision of Him and His holiness. We need a burning coal. We need to be undone. We need to be touched and sent. But only through Him, Lord of the Sabbath.

Normally I have guest writers for the month of May, but somehow that seemed cheap to me this year. I want Sayable to be still all this month, to Sabbath, and to offer to you readers the blessing of one less thing to read. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially for sponsors, but I’m willing to lose here. I want to lose here. I want to feel the burning of the coal on my mouth, my voice, my “platform,” and my pulpit. I want to stand before the throne undone.

I  wanted to comment on something I wrote this past week on singleness. I got a bit of pushback on it and some of it was founded; I also received some concern that I was pushing against my own church’s model of home groups since we don’t have extraneous ministries apart from home groups. I love my church and agree strongly with our leadership that less is more, and that a focus on programatic within the local church can distract from mission. Some of my pastors have written a book on that which you can find here.

However, when I look at the sheer amount of divorces or marital problems within the Church at large, I can’t help but wonder if we could do better for our singles before marriage.

If the divorce rate is rising—or even plateaued, because even one divorce is too many in my opinion—shouldn’t we do more to prevent marriages of unequally yoked, immature, or otherwise unwise individuals? Of course we can’t micro-manage the unions of everyone, but a few? As many as possible?

I don’t think singles ministry is the answer, so let that be said. I actually agree strongly that singles should not be segregated off to themselves, but should surround themselves with marriages from every point along the way. Walking with young and old couples is one of my great joys. I’m able to enter into their joys and mourning in a way I can’t with my single friends. I’m able to pray for babies, for grandchildren, for discipline problems, for marriage difficulties, and they’re able to pray with me through my single-specific trials. This is one of the beauties of the local church.

So if singles ministry isn’t the answer, what is?

First a few observations:

1. Homegroups cannot be the means through which we expect marriages to be born. I am not saying that two singles can’t meet, mingle, and marry within the context of a home group, I’m simply saying that by nature of the smallness of a small group, we can’t expect the 2-5 possible singles who’ve put themselves there to find themselves face to face with their future spouse. It’s certainly ideal, but not the norm.

2. Using an online dating service does bring a few success stories—praise God for them and pray for more of them—but as a whole there are more disadvantages to this than advantages. It takes a very wise believer to walk that path in a circumspect and godly way—and sadly many of our singles are spending more time crafting the perfect profile, responding to foolish inquiries, and dating aimlessly, than working on wisdom.

So about that answer?

First, do not be a parasite, sucking off the life of others, expecting your church to serve you in this area. They probably want to serve you here. It’s not like your elders are sitting in a dark room scheming how to get more troubled marriages in their offices. They want godly marriages to happen and fortunately they’ve probably provided the perfect vehicle for singles to meet, mingle, and marry.

That vehicle? Ministry.

Within your local church—whatever its ministry model—there are things to be done. Trust me. I’ve worked for local churches and non-profits most of my adult life. If you can fold a piece of paper, sweep a room, hold a baby, pray for someone, you can serve. (If you’re a Villager, go into Connection Central on your specific campus, and there will be a list of roles and needs you can fill.)

Here’s why this is the singles ministry you’ve been longing for:

As you serve you will encounter those with shared visions, shared goals, & shared burdens. You will see work ethics, the heart of hospitality and mercy, the hands of service. You will not be distracted by perfectly crafted profiles or instagram images. You will see real people doing real things for their real God. You will see in motion the things we ought to value in marriages.

Your life of singleness will be richer, more full, more joyful. You will encounter someone’s someday spouse. You will begin to systematically kill the little foxes. You will grow into what will be a better wife or husband. When you see all there is to do, you won’t ever complain about a lack of ministry to singles again, trust me.

And you might just meet him or her.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 12.07.18 PM