Monday, April 25, 2016

Dear Church * Part 3 ~ Now What?

It all started with a quick email sent to nine single women, saying, 'I'd like to do a post mid-April on What Single Women Want the Church To Know ... and I'm inviting you to be a part of it!' 




Eight said an enthusiastic 'yes.'  And the discussion morphed from there. 

*

This past week found us gathered 'round this community's virtual table for what turned out to be a much-longed-for dialogue.  As in the finest of conversations, some bravely took the floor while others listened carefully.  Speakers and listeners traded places over and over, the dance of inspiration continuing back and forth in the most reassuring fashion.  

Hundreds of you came and went and returned again, this time with your friends ... and we were more than happy to move our chairs closer together to make plenty of room for each valued soul who dropped by.  Weary shoulders touched, lonesome hearts connected, eyes lit up, smiles were given and received.  

And many of you felt comfort in simply sitting quietly, gratefully soaking up the companionship of other kindred spirits.  

Courage and vulnerability, compassion and grace, insight and empathy all melded together as we supported each other like eager fingers cradle a cup of warm sustenance.




And there was alot of 'oh, you, too?  I thought I was the only one.'  

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, souls connect as one.  No matter what our marital status, culture, or age.  Leadership status, ethnic background, or financial situation matter not one iota.

It turns out that our heart cries are quite similar after all.  Who would've guessed?

Your public comments and private emails have let me know that there's been a bit of healing going on around here.  Don't you love how God's sacred touch is evidenced as we connect at levels that are deeper than surface chit-chat?  He specializes in redeeming our own personal pain and sorrow so that we are gifted to offer a healing touch to others.

Not necessarily by our words, although those can be a most worthy vehicle.  But also in the sacred offering of our quiet presence.  The attentiveness of our listening ear or the nod of the head in genuine empathy.  The reaching out of an affirming hand, yes, even across the miles.




And in doing so, we speak the precious words we all yearn to hear.

'You are not alone.'

*

I could try to sum up all we've learned in recent days, but I'd be sure to leave out someone or something that should have been included.  The eight stories and the dozens of conversations that followed are here and there.  And they speak for themselves with a wholehearted clarity that's hard to miss.

Yet, there always comes a point in any kind of meaningful dialogue where we are obliged to ask ourselves this pivotal two-word question.

NOW WHAT?

And what follows below are 4 rather personal questions I might ask a client if we were sitting together.  They are open for your consideration.  You might like to share your responses with the community in the comment section of this post.  

Or not.

Either way, I'm ever so grateful you've invested time and energy in this little mini-series.  You've taught me much.  As always.



What insights resonated most?

The biggest surprise?

Is there a tender place where God is ministering to your spirit?

Or maybe gently convicting you?


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
 -  2 Corinthians 1:3-4  -

*



*

connecting with
 Anita  .  Kelly  .  Jennifer
 Holley  .  Leah  .  Lyli

44 comments:

  1. Very good questions to ponder privately, Linda. Especially the third one. Thank you.

    God bless you and your contributors here.

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    1. Yes, Victor, yes. Praise God for the gentle, yet firm and steady conviction of the Spirit ...

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  2. Beautiful ending to an enlightening series. I am asking myself some questions too. How will I phrase my response? What is God teaching me? Where do I go from here? When will I learn it not not just about me? I truly believe there are many lonely souls out there---I am asking God to teach me how to connect!

    Thank you for starting this conversation. I am praying we all have learned about each other--how different and yet alike we all are. Praying we remember the common thread---God Himself.

    Blessings, Friend!

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    1. Your questions are showstoppers, for sure, Lulu. Thank you for all you've poured into this series. You've made a difference in the lives of many of us ...

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  3. Linda,

    What an intriguing post series. How did you get that idea? I need to read back over these older posts and get caught up. I know that the church often fails this group of people, without meaning to. We had a neat widowed gentleman over to our house this weekend, and loved getting to know him.

    Re your comment on my post "Pheasant Hunting with a Pen and Author in Turkey," Hi Linda,

    Matthew, Psalms, Proverbs, John and Philippians sounds extensive and varied. Nice! Do you follow a certain reading plan, or just choose your own and go with it?

    It's always nice to have you here. :)

    Jennifer Dougan
    www.jenniferdougan.com

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    1. Why the series? Those 8 women are lovely, intriguing, with hearts to share. How very good it's been to chat and discover that marital status doesn't mask the very real needs we all have.

      Glad you're here, Jennifer!

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  4. Linda, thank you for drawing in the net here. I always appreciate the way you pull back the curtain on an issue . . . and then come back to revisit it. I hear you asking us, "So . . . what are ya gonna do about this truth?"

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    1. God is always inviting us to something deeper, stronger, more significant, isn't He, Michele. Thanks for reframing the question ... we are obliged to decide what to do with what He teaches us!

      Always glad you're here. Always!

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  5. Great questions as always! I have many tender places in my heart but as a redeemed child of God that is natural. What humbles me over and over is that God has written a beautiful story for my life and He has chosen me to be His. I just happen to be single. But I have an amazing Father who loves me unceasingly. God continues to show me through others that I am serving Him, loving Him and showing others through my words and actions that God is my Savior. This is the tender spot because I am awed that He would choose me to do show the way to Him. Thank you for opening up a subject that needs to be talked about and listened to. I am praying that this beginning leads to a beautiful ending.

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    1. Your tender vulnerability and deep well of wisdom has been a lovely gift to offer. Thank you for joining me in this series.

      And for doing life with me, even from afar.

      And yes and amen to the beautiful endings He's designed for each of us, Mary ...

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  6. Wow, Linda, what a lovely idea. Love that you gave your idea wings and put it out there, allowing the vulnerable places to be of kingdom use. Beautiful, Linda. Thank you for sharing. <3 ((grace upon grace))

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    1. Don't you just love how God can use our vulnerability, used in appropriate ways, to bring Him glory and unify His children?

      I admire these 8 women ... and readers like you ... so!

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  7. Being a dude, I hesitated to comment in this series before.

    But as a married and soon-to-be-dead-dude, I hope church will open its heart to Barbara, without pushing toward remarriage. Want her to remarry; but her own pace. No setups.

    Seen heartbreak that can cause.

    Sorry that wording is a bit clumsy. Bit of a problem over weekend, stopped breathing. It painful coming 'back'. Hard to think around pain.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2016/04/your-dying-spouse-146-another-near.html

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    1. Dudes welcome.

      For sure.

      You love your wife well. I can tell.

      Glad you're still breathing, pal ...

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  8. Hi Linda! I think the biggest surprise included the fact that I didn't know that some of the bloggers you featured were single. I think I just assume that people are 'like me', partnered. Its a good eye-opener to not assume!
    I also felt how important it is to extend myself, which I don't always do. I attend church regularly, but do not often stop to chat with people after the service. We need each other, and certainly that is very true in a Christ-sense. Probably that's the greatest place, because I should be reminded of the awesome responsibility to be Christ to others.
    I enjoyed the series very much!
    Ceil

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    1. I love what you say about not 'assuming,' Ceil.

      And for us introverts, or those new to the church, or those coming alone, the most difficult time on Sunday is after the benediction has been said and the doors open.

      I too often want to head out quite quickly. But I'm learning the hard art of introducing myself, something I find most difficult.

      I know I'm not the only one ...

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  9. Thank you so much for allowing single women to be heard, Linda. And I thank each of you 8 women for vulnerably sharing your stories. What resonates with me is that every person, whether married or single, need to feel like they belong. Each one has a unique and precious story to tell. I am convicted to be ever more mindful of where each lovely person is coming from. I LOVE McHugh's quote. It's a deep longing in my heart. It prompted me to pray to practice it more in my life. Blessings and hugs to you, dear friend!

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    1. Adam McHugh's new book, THE LISTENING LIFE, is simply superb. I just can't sing its praises loud enough.

      A must read for everyone!

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  10. What an important series, Linda. It's so easy to focus on families, marriages, and children. But there are singles, too, in God's kingdom. Good work, my friend. Healing work ~ oh, so good!

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    1. Yay ... let's hear it for the healing work He does through our stories of redemption!

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  11. Linda, I served more in our East Coast church and heard frequently that more needed to be done to serve the singles in the community and help them to feel more at home as they were a big part of the church-at-large. Love what you have done. This should be implemented on a global scale.

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    1. I appreciate hearing thoughts from another woman in leadership. Actually, I thought the series was going to go in that direction --> women talking to church leaders.

      But it took on a life of its own, a very personal turn for the better. And for that I am grateful ...

      {But I know that there are MANY church leaders reading this series, this blog. And I hope that they'll take this dialogue to heart as they lead our church communities!}

      ;-}

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  12. Great questions. I'm so glad you did this series. We don't know the heart until the heart speaks. Stepping out of the shadows has helped us to grab their hand and for them to receive the warmth of our palm. Good job. Thank you

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    1. And you said this and I loved it -->'We don't know the heart until the heart speaks.'

      You do know how to turn a phrase, friend.

      Beautiful!

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  13. It sounds like you've had a wonderful conversation full of grace and insight. I wonder if those who identify more with extroverts have a different set of "What I Wish the Church Knew" than those who identify themselves as introverts?

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    1. Oh that's a really perceptive consideration, Anita!

      Any extroverts out there? What say you?

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  14. Yes, Linda, this has been a unique series that you have had in the past ten days, and a series that has certainly touched many folk who are going through this situation or problem - I think that this is a situation that few churches are meeting, but it is not only up to the church, but to each of us who sit in the pew.

    Our Lord is using you as you draw these ladies together to understand each other and emphasize with the serious concern that is facing so many. Yes, so many of these ladies just "fall between the cracks" as the old saying goes.

    {via email}

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    1. To have an 86 year old's viewpoint around here is sheer grace.

      Especially when it's my mom. And I know that what she says about older women in the church is absolutely spot on.

      I love you, mom. And as ever, quiet wisdom is your calling card ...

      xo

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    2. I love your mom and her beautiful thoughts! Now I know where you get it!

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    3. She's an incredible woman, for sure, Mary. When I grow up I want to be just like her ...

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  15. Oh Linda, what a beautiful comment from your mom ... "like mother, like daughter" definitely applies here. :-)

    And about this series, I think what Trudy said in her comment about every person--single or married--needing to feel like they belong is a big takeaway for me. I was just thinking this morning about married women whose husbands don't attend church with them ... how might all of this apply to them?

    What you've drawn out of these eight women reminds me again of how every person has a unique perspective, one that is worth sharing and one that someone else needs to hear.

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    1. I love how you put it, Lois ... that we each have 'a unique perspective, one that is worth sharing and one that someone else needs to hear.'

      I'm surprised at the direction this series has gone ... just goes to show you never know what the Lord has in mind ...

      Thanks for your encouragement, friend.

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  16. Thank you for this series and for opening up this conversation, Linda. It is great to hear people's different perspectives and I agree with what others have said- that we all have a common need to feel that we belong. It is important for all of us to think about how we can meet that need for others.

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    1. Good point, Carly ... we each have unique ways to show others that we care, to extend a hand of welcome, to invite people into our worlds.

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  17. I appreciated this series, Linda. I think the story of the single being invited to a church function and followed up by a phone call spoke most to me. It's easy to chicken out if you think no one will notice if you are there or not!

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    1. Who'd guess that a phone call could make such a huge difference, huh?

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  18. This was so good Linda for me to read. We have a lot of single missionary women so I am going to send link to your post. Sometimes I meet with them without my husband but mostly I like for him to be there because I have found these single gals appreciate his perspective on what ever issue we are talking about. He is a very kind, sensitive man which helps a lot. Great post.

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    1. Betty ... you've made my day. Truly. To know that women in ministry will have access to all that's been shared here makes my heart sing. Thank you for reaching out to them. They are not alone ...

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  19. Such an important series! It is an issue that has been at the forefront of several recent conversations I have had. I am so thankful you are providing encouragement, hope, and awareness!
    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori

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    1. Thanks for being here, Lori. Wouldn't you love to see us all talking together about support and unity a whole lot more?

      We were designed to connect ...

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  20. Wow! I bet that was a wonderfully insightful conversation. I love the four questions...worthy of great consideration. Thank you for linking this important post at The Loft, Linda.

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    1. You're right, Leah, insightful it was. What a terrific group gathered around those 8 women. The gracious response was inspirational for sure ...

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  21. Great finish to this series that turned into something even more than you expected! The questions are so pertinent. Thanks!

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda