Monday, July 25, 2011

So Long Dreams,....

Dreams...... things that you hope for, wish for, long for. Dreams are good.... they can motivate you to take the steps necessary to make them come true. Dreams can also be bad.... they can distract you from the "now".... but at what point (if ever) should you give up on dreams?

It's hard to realize that some of the things you desire most (or your strongest dreams) probably aren't going to happen. I want to know why.... I want to know what is wrong with me that these dreams aren't right for me..... I want the pain of this realization to go away. I want hope that something better is out there for me. I want to know that another dream will replace the old ones.

I've felt incredibly lonely lately, but I've not been by myself. On the contrary, I've probably stepped out of my comfort zone more lately than I have in a long time when it comes to spending time with other people. I have been lonely in a crowd. This happens to me a lot. Surrounded by people having a great time talking and laughing and I sit (or stand) there like an awkward pre-teen, socially inept.

It is times like these that it is hard to rely on my faith in God. I know in my head the promises He has made.... "will never leave me nor forsake me" (Deuteronomy 31:8)...... "the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9)....."I know the plans I have for you... to prosper you and not to harm you... plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11-13)..."cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you" (Psalm 55:22)....."you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble" (Psalm 59:16).......... the Bible is full of promises that God has made to his people. My head knows these promises but my heart is broken.

I am the type of person to unwrap gifts then re-wrap them at Christmas. I read the last pages of a book to make sure it turns out right.... in other words, I'm not good at waiting! I hate surprises! I'm a planner.... I want to know the timeline of my life and whether my dreams come true. I wish I knew if my dreams would ever be fulfilled. But then again, am I ready if the answer would be no?

I hate to admit it, but it has gotten harder to be around my friends whose lives seem to be working out. If they have something that I dream of, I get jealous. I don't want to be around them, it is just too painful. That makes me a horrible friend! Rather than be happy for them or encouraging, I shrink away, lost in my own hurt. I wish I knew how to get over this.

So I struggle. Mostly alone because others don't want to hear my pity-party. Friends and well-wishers try to encourage me, "just trust in God" "it will happen when you least expect it" "stay busy serving God" "when you don't focus on it so much it will happen"...... the problem is, I can't seem to lose focus!

I covet your prayers..... I've prayed for years and yet here I still am. Please pray that God will change my dreams and desires if they are not what he has in store for me. Pastor Chris just finished a mini-series about Doors-Finding God's Will. Pray that God will shut doors while others are blown open.

Lord, Help me to wait for Your timing. Help my jealous spirit that I can encourage and rejoice with others when good things happen to them. Help me to continue to believe in Your promises, even when my heart breaks with longing. Amen.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Small Groups-- Social Club or Support Group?

In high school, I joined lots of clubs--- Spanish Honor Society, Junior Civitans.... I was in the youth group, helped the band..... all things social..... wanting a group of friends (which I got).
In college, I did the same thing---- I became a member of Baptist Campus Ministries, looked for a church with an active college ministry...... still wanting a group of friends, a place to belong. As an adult, it has become harder to find that group of friends...... I have my "old" friends (that I have known since childhood), my "work" friends that I see almost daily and even spend some time with outside of work.

I know that the best place to find a group of friends who have similar beliefs and morals is at church. However, it has been difficult to find that group. At my childhood church, that group was a Sunday School class. In my current church, it is a small group.

Core group, small group, Sunday School class..... lots of churches use different titles but ultimately these groups are meant to help Christians grow spiritually.

"Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage each other." Hebrews 10:25 (GN)

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying hte favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:42-47

I've been attending "Growth Track" through my church.... tonight's lesson was on how to grow as a Christian..... it spoke about small groups and it made me think..... the apostles in Acts spent time together, they studied together, prayed, met each other's needs...... I want a group like that!

Tonight, I learned that small groups are supposed to provide opportunities for: Bible study, fellowship, communion, prayer, support, praise and worship, and outreach (based on the Acts verses posted above). If even one of these elements is missing in the group, then it is not fulfilling its purpose. If a small group is only interested in fellowship or having fun, then they are a social club, not a support system. If they never spend time studying the Bible, worshipping, and praying together, then they are not being effective. On the other hand, if they only spend time in Bible study and never make the time to fellowship and have fun then they can't develop true relationships either. There has to be a balance of all these things.

As a shy, quiet person in large, unfamiliar settings, it is hard to truly get to know someone. It takes time. It takes trust. It usually (for me, anyway) takes a pre-existing connection with someone in the group. Then slowly, I will come out of my shell. This contributes to why I've had a hard time finding my group. There have been very few people that I can say are my "small group" (a.k.a. support system).

This is my prayer..... God will help me to develop my relationships with other people. I pray that I can be a support for someone else..... I know that this will take time and also require me to step out of my own comforts occassionally. It may even require me to take a role of a leader rather than an observer or spectator (terrifying thought!) I have truly enjoyed the group where God has led me to...... now I must take it to the next level! I cannot be content with just meeting for church service, or in hanging out and having fun.... I must make a conscious effort to grow and help others to grow.

Lord, help me to find the right small group. Help me to overcome my own insecurities in order to be blessed and be a blessing. Help me to live out John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Help me to remember that I am not called to only be part of a social club, rather I am to be a part of a support system. Help me to be a true friend. Amen.