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Day Thirteen // For the Love

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Chapter 16: Porches as Altars – Pages 113-119

Do you want to know what changes a life?  Being known.  It starts with being known by God and continues to transform by being known by His beloved people.

I wasn’t raised in church, so I never grew up in a Christian subculture of youth groups, summer camps, small groups, and the like. I found Jesus as a young adult, so to say I was a little green and clueless about Christian community was an understatement.

I was awkward and just coming out of the hands of the world so I had no plan of action outside of clearing my calendar Sunday mornings and reading my bible by opening it up randomly and pointing at a place on the page. I didn’t know how to fit in. I didn’t know the lingo and wasn’t a part of a single circle that communed in the lobby before and after service. I was messy and imperfect and had maybe one memory verse in my back pocket. I knew showing up to a local church was vital in my walk with Jesus, but I didn’t quite yet understand what the power of community would have in growing my faith.

I can remember in my first years at church sitting in this sea of faces, never really knowing the depths of anyone around me. They were familiar sights on a Sunday morning, but no one I could call by name outside of the Pastor since his name was on the program in my hand and he had the microphone front and center. The only time I got to know someone at church was when the Pastor asked us after the worship set to turn around and shake the hands of our neighbors and say good morning. Or maybe a smile exchanged and small talk while washing hands in the ladies room. It was a fleeting connection that never evolved past 10 am on a Sunday.

Suffice it to say, I longed for more.

“People crave what they have always craved: to be known and loved, to belong somewhere. Community is such a basic human need. It helps us weather virtually every storm.” {For the Love}

I joined dozens of bible studies and different groups over the years, but what changed everything for me were the invites out to coffee around small round tables, talking in hushed, yet stirred up tones, or an afternoon on a sweet friend’s couch spilling our guts, tears, and dreams out with nods of agreement, understanding and embraced hands. We put down our phones and defenses, took deep, brave breaths, and told our stories.

It’s in these moments, we free and sharpen each other. We vow in this space to reach out to other woman in need of belonging and offer the same daring vulnerability and empathy. It’s in those small, sacred places wounds are healed and the Holy Spirit moves. Jen speaks of these divine connections in the chapter Porches as Altars:

“If Jesus is the heart of the church, people are the lifeblood. There is a reason He created community and told us to practice grace and love and camaraderie and presence. People soften the edges and fill in the gaps. Friends make up some of the best parts of the whole story.” {For the Love}

What brought me to church was an invitation, and what kept me there and growing were continued invitations with my name written in bold on the hearts of His people.

Being known and loved changes us. It frees us. It inspires and spurs us on to press in when we have this kind of encouragement and accountability. Our living room intercession for one another cultivates miracles and breaks chains. The Amplified version of James 5:16 calls us to this kind of community and power:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power].  – James 5:16

Today I meet with an incredible living room community of women from all seasons of life and faith during the week in the home of a dear friend. This special time fills me to the brim and overflowing. It is where I am learning to be a leader out of a meek and sensitive place. It is place where my spiritual gifts gave birth and are being nurtured and challenged to grow.

I can’t imagine my life without these women and this space where I can live without shame, and I am free to be me in my messes and victories. Both are met with tender care and celebration when the Glory of God is manifested out of each of these beautiful and broken places. “Don’t fear your humanity; it’s your best offering,” reminds Hatmaker.

Today when I go to church, I know the stories behind the faces. My soul is well as I sit and receive the Good News with testimonies of hope to my right and left. See, I know their struggles, and it freed me to tell them mine. Their steps in obedience challenged me to fashion my own shoes of peace and walk on. Nothing compares to the love of God and the love of His people.

There is power in the invitation. Freedom in being known. And such a healing in hearing the words: “Me too.” Jesus extended his hand with abounding love, mercy, and grace; His very likeness lives in you. There is a place for us all. Be His invitation and pull out a chair, embrace a hand, and partner with Him in healing hearts and widening your circles today.

Can you recall moments in your life when someone has personally invited you, called you by name, or pulled out a chair for you? Do you remember how this inclusion and belonging gave you courage? Tell us about it and the impact it had on you.

[divider] [row-start] [three-fourths]Staci Payne is a Word girl who loves authentic connection and has a passion for online women’s ministry (along with the perfect latte to start her day).

You can connect with her on Facebook, and Instagram.[/three-fourths] [one-fourth]Staci Payne[/one-fourth] [row-end]

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  1. I to have a very familiar not so christian upbringing and am working as an adult to grow my Church community. It is amazing how doors are opening and invitations are happening. It is so empowering to feel included and worthy. Loved this blog and Staci is such a beautiful and powerful woman. She has been an important person in helping me to grow my community with God.

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