Tuesday, November 17, 2015

So It's Been a While

Dear Sisters,

Yes, I've been quiet for a bit.  Sorry about that.  I do have at least one larger post brewing - steeping would be a better term - and will share it out when the time is right.

I've been living in a new place for over 2 years and this summer noticed that a new Frank was making an appearance.  Odd, yes, but I was happy to see him.  I miss my Northern Frank.  This past weekend I got a couple new bird feeders and a squirrel feeder as well.   So far I've only put out the bird feeders as I need to grab my screwdriver and figure out the placement for the squirrel feeder on the bush in front of the window. 

I came down the stairs this morning to see the cats looking intently through the window at something outside.  I rounded the corner and saw that Southern Frank was enjoying the suet cake I had put out for the birds.  He made a mess of it but was thoroughly enjoying it.

It looks like I need to hang up the squirrel feeder I picked up this past weekend.  Soon.


Sister Jane
Psalm 18:30

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Seasons of Life - What Do You Read?

This God—His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true;  
He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him. Psalm 18:30

Dear Sisters,

There are seasons to our lives like there are seasons during the year.  Some seasons we look forward to, some seasons we can't wait for them to finish.  This past year has been a season for me that I wouldn't wish on anyone and it's one that I hope is nearing the end.

No matter the season of life, Scripture is important.  Ground yourself in the Word during the good and the not-so-pleasant seasons.  During this season I'm in, I have found that reading some additional books to help me make sense of Scripture has been good practice.  Below is the list of books that I found helpful and they are listed in no particular order.

The Cup and the Glory: Lessons on Suffering and the Glory of God by Greg Harris:
I had actually started reading this book before the not-so-pleasant season began.  Looking back I can see God's hand at work with me finding the book and picking it to add to my nighttime reading pile. Harris does a great job using Scripture to explain suffering.  This is not a book to read through fast.  Take it slow so that you may fully understand and process the concepts that Harris is discussing.  Sometimes Greek words are pulled into the discussion but the words are defined well and not in such away as to be above anyone's head.

As Silver Refined: Answers to Life's Disappointments by Kay Arthur:
This not a short book but Arthur's style of writing demonstrates how much she cares for her readers; how much she wants them to see God at work in the disappointments we go through in life and to trust in God and His sovereignty.  There is also a Bible study section at the back of the book in case you want to use that to help you dig even deeper into the concepts Arthur discusses in the book.

Living Victoriously in Difficult Times by Kay Arthur and Bob & Diane Vereen:
This is a simple way to do inductive Bible study that you can do on your own or with other people.  The first half of the study focuses on suffering: how we are not immune to it, it will not separate us from the love of God, and it is part of God's process to refine and purify us to reflect His image.  The last half of the study looks at how we are to live out the truths of suffering in our daily lives.

Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian:
Tchividjian sets out to look at the reality of suffering in this book.  He points out that suffering is going to happen - Scripture says so - and that there is a wrong way to look at suffering.  When suffering brings us to your knees, we should be looking to the cross remembering Who suffered for us and suffers with us and the grace He provides us. 

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero:
'It's impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.'  Scazzero sets out to prove this through Scripture, research, and his own personal journey as a pastor, husband, and father. There is a discussion of the symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality,  the six stages of faith, how to deal with the 'Wall- the dark night of the soul', and how to grow into an emotionally mature adult.  Each chapter also ends with a prayer.  Give this book a try to learn more about your own emotional maturity level and how it affects your spiritually.

The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero:
Written by the wife of the pastor that wrote Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, she talks about 8 things that women need to quit.  Quit being afraid of what others think and quit denying anger, sadness, and fear are 2 of the 'quits' that she covers.  Scazzero uses Scripture, her own personal experience, and research to support her list of 'quits.'

How to Forgive When You Don't Feel Like It by June Hunt:
This is a book that my mom gave me.  I'm thankful that God pointed her in the direction of this book to have it sent my way.  This is a great book to give to someone who is struggling to forgive another person.  I wouldn't recommend giving it to a person right after they have experienced a painful event (abuse, an attack, betrayal, etc), but when the person comes around to knowing that they need to forgive the other person, this book is a great resource.  I also recommend that people read it even if they have no one in particular to forgive.  The book does a great job of using Scripture to define what forgiveness is and is not and that is extremely important because not everyone has the correct definition of forgiveness.  Examples: Forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation; forgiveness is not excusing the wrong or letting the guilty 'get away with it;' Forgiveness is handing the offender over to God and trusting that God will provide the consequences to the offender in His time and in His way.

Sisters, what books have been helpful to you during various seasons of your life? Please share those books and how they helped you in the comments.

Thank you!

Sister Jane
Ps 18:30

Monday, April 6, 2015

Being Single in a Couples World

Dear Sisters,

Events in my life over the past couple months have been interesting.  Some bad things happened, some difficult things happened.  God's grace has carried me through and I am thankful.  Through all of this I observed that many churches don't know how to deal with single people who haven't fulfilled the American church model of coupling up in high school or college and being married soon after. 

Families / couples in churches have a rhythm in their lives.  It's a rhythm that can be similar from one family / couple to another.  That's why you see families hanging out together because maybe their kids are of similar age or are in similar after-school activities.  Or you see couples that hang out together because they have things like activities, jobs, or backgrounds in common.  These are good things.  It's good for people to fellowship with others.  

The issue that I've observed is that many families / couples in churches don't know how to incorporate single people into their rhythm.  Single people seem to disrupt the flow and ruin the harmony.  This is not how it should be.  True, Single Adult J will not fit in with every family at church but there should be at least 1 family that they harmonize with beautifully.  The single person may alter the rhythm a little but maybe a family could use a little jazz in their lives. 

Yea for musical inspiration!  Single people can only make a family's or couple's rhythm better.  They may have the unique sound the family band has been waiting for to make it even better than before.  I have friends outside of church where we make great music together.  I fit right in and that is one of the best things for me as I live in an area far from my family.  For me the hard part has been trying to find a family / couple band to join in the church.  It has not been an easy task and it is incomplete.  I work during the day so I can pay my bills which means that doing things with other ladies in the church during the day time when many are available is nearly impossible for me.  It's awkward trying to schedule things on a weekend with families because for many people that is family time and I feel like I'm intruding into the family's rhythm instead of providing a delightful musical accent.  It's a work in progress and I'm doing my best not to give up.

Sisters, maybe you are part of a couple and have been thinking about similar things lately.  Maybe you're a single person who struggles with this as much as I do.  As I've thought through this topic over the past few weeks I've come up with a few tips and thoughts that might be of some use.  The order given does not indicate any preference or rank to the tip.

Tips for families / couples:
1. Find ways to include a single person into your family.  Invite them over for game night, to go out with you on a fun shopping trip that involves a shared hobby or interest, to join you for lunch.  Make them feel welcome and not like they are intruding.
2. When traditional family holidays come around (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter) consider inviting them over to join your family.  The single person may be far from family and being with a different family can help lessen the loneliness. I am extremely thankful for the people that invited me to join them during their family's gatherings. 
3. A single person could become an additional "aunt" or "uncle" to your children.  Be careful though about  taking advantage of them by turning them into free babysitters and errand runners for you.  They may be willing and glad to help out but take care that you don't ruin the relationship you've developed by using them too much.  But if the single friend volunteers to watch the kids so you can have a date night, do take them up on their offer.  This is their way of saying thank you and that they care for you and your family.  Turning down that act of love isn't a good idea.
4. Don't play matchmaker for the single people in your life.  Just because you're married doesn't mean everyone else is supposed to be.  If you think you've found the "perfect" person for your single friend, take it to the Lord in prayer to be sure and WAIT on His answer.   Setting up the person could really backfire and cause the loss of the friendship you have with the single person.

Tips for churches:
1. Don't try to set up your single people with other single people in the church.  When the relationship goes bad one of those singles if not both will leave your church.  Trying to get both of them to stay after the break up will only increase the size of the wound created by the break up in the first place.
2. Single people are gifted by the Spirit as well so find ways to encourage your single people to use those gifts in the church.  Don't ignore your single women and don't assume they are only useful in children's ministries.  Many women are gifted in areas that do not involve children.    
3. Cultivate a culture in your church where everyone feels comfortable and confident in following God's will for their life even if that means being single.  Put a simpler way: stop making single people feel bad for being single.  God doesn't intend for everyone to be married. 
4. A singles ministry can be a good thing but it could also isolate the singles in your church depending on the focus and activities of that ministry.  Don't use the ministry to create couplings.  Help your singles to become a part of the church family so aim for all-inclusive church activities.

Thoughts for singles:
1. Be willing to invite yourself into a family activity.  This one is hard for me because growing up I was taught NOT to invite myself to someone's home. If you have a schedule that is very flexible as to when you can hang out, let that family know that you'd really like to hang out and that your schedule is flexible as to when that can happen.  Yes, you may feel awkward but you can do it.
2. Figure out what your spiritual gift is and find away to use it in your church. 
3. Join in with some of the group activities at church.  This could be the way that you find other people in church who have common outside-church interests.  If there are no group activities, consider organizing a game night at church.  Ask people to bring board games; set up a Wii machine with a projector; make it a potluck meal.  Interacting with people in this way can be a good thing.
4. Be careful about isolating yourself from others.  Be thankful that people are reaching out to you.  Step outside your comfort zone and say "yes" to some invites.  You never know how God will use your time with those other people. 

The above lists are what I was able to think of - I was surprised that I could come up with 4 ideas for each section  - and are by no means the authority on how singles and non-singles are to relate to one another.  I'd love to hear your tips and thoughts because I'm sure I missed somethings.  Please share them in the comments.

Sister Jane
Psalm 18:30