Sing Anyway

The other day I stopped at a Goodwill Store and I looked over the large selection of used books found in many of their stores. Being a “bookaholic,” I am immediately drawn to the book area of any store that has a book area in it. It’s like I have a book magnet living inside of me… 🙂

I happened to find an old copy of a Baptist Hymnal (copyright 1956) with “Rockwood Baptist Church” printed at the bottom on the front cover, and it was well used and exactly like the hymnal pictured here, and I purchased it for 50 cents. It took me back to my childhood and teen years growing up in a small nondenominational church that I was raised in that primarily hired Baptist ministers.

Before going to bed that night, I turned every page in that hymnal until the very last page (over 500 hymns are in it), and I sang the first line and chorus of at least two dozen of the songs that I remembered singing years ago before going to sleep. It brought back many memories of those years gone by. Back in my younger years I sang in the church choir (alto), and I also sang in some of their musical productions, too.

The church I grew up in was a typical neighborhood church in the Midwest that eventually grew into one of the first of what are now called megachurches after it moved to a much larger facility. I haven’t attended there since my early 30’s, and the church has changed it’s name and moved to yet another location since then. I left that state a few years later when I accepted a doctoral fellowship at a private university in a another state.

Over the years since that time, modern worship music has taken the place of, and in some cases is used alongside, the older hymns that most older folks in our generations today remember singing. I really like the newer modern worship music, too, but I’m old enough to remember the older hymns, many of which are still very popular today (think of Amazing Grace and Great is Thy Faithfulness and, of course, many of the Christmas songs we still sing today, like Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Silent Night).

In an article titled, I Will Sing! Yesterday, Today, and Always!” by Victory Enyioke, wife, mother, and graduate student at SWBTS, she writes:

My recollection of Christian, congregational singing from my childhood and youth days is a repertoire of hymns either from the “Broadman Hymnal,” “Baptist Hymnal” or the “Sacred Songs and Solos” by Sankey. These songs etched in my mind and heart and continue to be my source of musical inspiration, encouragement and help in times of need. These hymns are loaded with spiritual lyrics and most times tied to Scripture.

Growing up, congregational singing was characterized by us holding hymn books by hand and connecting with the words of the song in a very special way. Families had hymn books at home and during devotional times we would pull out those hymn books and sing most times in parts because the songs were at our fingertips. This is a tradition we are trying to pass down to our children even though it is a challenge to match the contest that the sing-along trend of contemporary music poses. The technology of projector screens makes us lazy singers as we wait for the screen to spit out the next phase of the song without which we mumble and fumble.

My experience in recent years is one of bewilderment as I struggle to remember sometimes the very songs that were song in a morning worship service. Mind you, a lot of the songs are spiritual and melodious but not always memorable. And unless you are the type of person who is determined to take the extra time to go back and learn the songs, they fly by like the wind that brushes your face nicely and passes away swiftly. Not to misunderstand me, I do enjoy these new songs, they are Spirit filled and a lot of times are wonderful for worship. However, their life span is short because worship leaders are in a hurry to introduce the next new song.

Today, many reasons are responsible for why church folks no longer sing as the Church used to sing. These range from not knowing the songs to general apathy due to high pitches, complicated melodies and sometimes over repetition. Even though a lot of the modernized songs have rich theological content, worshipers generally have short attention spans and lack the patience to learn complicated musical pieces. Truth be told, most of these songs are designed for the choir and not for the congregation. While the younger generation try their best to follow along, older folks just cannot cope with the singing. While church music most ‘evolve in sorts’ and should not be static, we must not throw away the old as archaic and unusable. Reminds me of the old song that says, “Give Me that Old Time Religion, It’s good enough for Me. It was good enough for Paul and Silas, It’s good enough for me.” (Gospel Folklore)

My worship should glorify God. It is not about my likes nor dislike. Therefore, I should not pick and choose which songs to sing in church. However, worship leaders should strive to balance congregational music between the old and the new. The old folks should be able to sing for as long as their vocal chords can produce sound. While the young should be free to shout in Praise as their strength enables. What I want to be able to do is sing and sing and sing until eternity comes. (Quote source here.)

I agree with what the author above has written. Worship wars have been going on in churches for several decades now ever since modern worship music arrived on the scene. In an article titled, 5 Ways to Battle the Never-Ending Worship Wars,” by Carey Nieuwhof, a former lawyer and the founding pastor of Connexus Church, he writes:

So let me guess: someone recently complained about the music at your church.

It doesn’t matter what style of music your church features or how traditional or edgy your music is; complaining about music is almost a universal phenomenon in the church today.

Some of that is generated by church shoppers (I outlined 5 characteristics of church shoppers here), but the problem is more pervasive than hearing from a few church shoppers.

It’s endemic to human nature and to our consumer driven culture that basically says everything revolves around me. While I think consumer Christianity will die in the future (here’s why), we’re not there yet.

Before we get started, please know this isn’t a slam against any particular style of music in the church.

In fact, I admire all churches that are innovating to become more effective in their mission.

But here’s the challenge.

Many leaders have almost spilled blood getting their church to change in the area of music (or making sure their church doesn’t change).

And yet, despite the battles fought over music, many churches are still not much further ahead in reaching people because of it.

Why is that?

There are five problems I see church leaders struggle with when navigating the sensitive and emotional issue of worship style in church.

(1) You become so focused on pleasing the people you have that you lose sight of the people you’re trying to reach.

Whatever your music style, many church leaders are overly worried about how ‘their people’ will handle the change.

Being aware of the concerns of the congregation is healthy. Leaders who don’t care how their congregation thinks eventually end up leading nobody.

But it’s also a trap. When people’s reactions become an overriding fear, the mission shifts away from reaching new people to keeping the people you have happy.

As a result, leaders:

Abandon change to keep people happy.

Compromise vision to try to satisfy the discontent.

Stop innovating to try to placate people.

These attempts at making people happy virtually never work (I wrote about the problems people-pleasing leaders face here).

What To Do

So what do you do to combat your people pleasing focus?

Focus on whom you’re trying to reach rather than on whom you’re trying to keep.

And when you’re communicating a change to your congregation, focus on why you’re making the change (to reach people) and far more people will accept what you’re trying to do (changing the style of worship).

If you want more on this subject, I’ve written more on leading change here.

2. You define ‘contemporary’ relative to how you used to worship.

Let me name the elephant in the room. Most of what passes for ‘contemporary’ worship isn’t that contemporary at all.

Sure, the church has changed. And there may have been some battles over the change.

But walk into many self-described ‘contemporary’ churches and it feels like 2004, or 1994, or even 1984. The church isn’t actually ‘contemporary’ (contemporary means ‘occurring in the present’).

Tony Morgan makes a great point in The New Traditional Church: If most churches truly wanted to be contemporary, Sunday would have a lot more hip-hop and R&B (have you listened to the Top 40 lately?).

But most church leaders don’t like that style of music or are afraid their church wouldn’t.

What To Do

Be honest. Don’t call yourself contemporary if you’re some paler version of it. Self-awareness and honesty actually matter if you’re trying to reach unchurched people.

Sadly, well-meaning self-deception runs rampant in church leadership today.

Be truthful about what you’re doing. If you are, it might just make you frustrated enough to make you change again.

In the meantime, realize that despite all the change, you might still be miles away from being relevant to the people living around you.

3. You’ve become stuck in “No Man’s Land.”

I learned about No Man’s Land in churches from James Emery White.

It’s a term that describes churches too contemporary to please the traditionalists and too traditional to reach people who connect with a contemporary approach.

I have no desire to ignite a furious debate about ‘blended worship’ (a combination of traditional and contemporary styles).

Can it work? I’m sure it can, done right.

But you don’t have to get too far into the conversation with most church leaders who are in a blended format to realize it’s not an overriding passion to reach the outsider that fuels the change, it’s fear that if they go too much further there will be an apocalypse.

What’s the bottom line? Most blended worship happens because leaders are afraid to go further, not because leaders think it’s the best option.

The attempt to make everyone happy usually makes no one happy.

In my view, the last 10 percent of change is the hardest. When we transitioned from traditional to blended to full-out ‘contemporary’ music a decade ago, the last 10 percent of the change was harder than the first 90 percent. I think that’s how leaders get stuck.

Again, I’m not saying blended services are a bad thing (we’ve chosen to not embrace that strategy at Connexus for very specific reasons). I’m just saying if you end up there, make sure that’s where you want to be because you believe it’s the most effective way to accomplish your mission.

What To Do

Don’t get stuck somewhere you’re not called to be.

Finish the change or make sure where you’re at is honestly the very best way to fulfill your mission.

4. Style has become an end in itself, not a means to an end.

Your style of music and service should serve the mission. It is not the mission.

Once again, this nails all of us: traditionalists, innovators and everyone in between.

Our goal is not to arrive at a particular worship style. It’s to accomplish the mission Christ has given us.

I love how our church does music.

But 40 years from now, I don’t want to be sitting around in a retirement home with my friends complaining that young people today don’t sing enough Hillsong “Young and Free,” play cover tunes at church or make pour-over coffee.

The church should always change, and it needs to change on your watch.

How do you address this? 

Be committed to constant change. Don’t rest.

Your style as church helps you achieve the mission. It is not the mission.

5. Older leaders make decision that belong to younger leaders.

Far too often in the church, I have seen older leaders make decisions that rightly belong to younger leaders.

There is a role for middle-aged leaders and older leaders. They bring wisdom to the table and a seasoned viewpoint almost impossible to find in someone who is starting out.

I’m not slamming others. I am almost the oldest person on our staff team.

Even though I’m fairly up to date on culture, music, and technology, I’m no longer the guy who should be calling the music, design or cultural shots at our church.

I’m not sure most leaders over 40 should be. Not if you want to impact the next generation.

Sitting around the table at our service programming meetings are leaders who are 10-30 years younger than I am (we almost always have a teenager in the mix).

I trust their judgment more than mine when it comes to how our services will connect with the people we’re trying to reach.

I have just seen too many leaders in their 40s, 50s and 60s make decisions that alienate younger generations and then sit around and ask where all the young people went.

Don’t be that leader.

What To Do

Ensure you have younger leaders around your leadership table and empower them to make the decisions that drive your organization.

It’s really not more complicated than that. (Quote source here.)

I love all kinds of music from old time rock and roll, to rhythm and blues, Motown, jazz, contemporary (80’s and 90’s and today), country–especially country rock–you name it and I probably like it (well, I must admit that I am not a fan of opera, but there’s still time to for me to acquire a taste for it). And in church I love both the old hymns and the modern worship music. In fact, I even sometimes sing in the shower to get my day started. That’s how much I love music.

So let us not go to war when it comes to worship music. Let’s just sing and enjoy it! I’ll end this post with the words from Isaiah 42:10

Sing to the Lord a new song . . .

And His praise . . .

From the ends of the earth . . . .

YouTube Video: “Amazing Grace” (1779)  by Il Divo:

YouTube Video: “Freedom” (2018) by Jesus Culture:

YouTube Video: “Moving Forward” (2008) by Israel Houghton and Lakewood Church (this song is a personal favorite of mine):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Going the Extra Mile

Three weeks ago I published a blog post titled, Loving Our Enemies.” It was Jesus who told us to love our enemies in his Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. Jesus also had a lot of other things to say about personal relationships which are found in a section of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:21-48. Here are those verses from The Message Bible (MSG):

Murder

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.

Adultery and Divorce

You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.

“Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump.

Remember the Scripture that says, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights’. Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are ‘legal.’ Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you’re responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you’re automatically an adulterer yourself. You can’t use legal cover to mask a moral failure.

Empty Promises

And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.

Love Your Enemies

Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift-wrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

We live in a very different world today then we lived in even three or four decades ago. Morals and values have drastically changed across the landscape of America, and there is a concerted effort to “silence” the voices of those who don’t “go along for the ride” of the current tide in our society today. And it’s not just a war against Christians in general, or other religious folks. It’s roots go much deeper and involve the history of the United States.

This backlash is very reminiscent of the days leading up to World War II in Germany when Hitler was in control, and continued in East Germany after the war during the Cold War years (1950-1990) in the form of the Stasi. Those who were part of the Stasi made a concerted effort at manipulating the masses and getting rid of those who didn’t “fit in.” The Germans sent them to concentration camps during the war. After the war the Stasi ruined the lives of many German citizens through deception, manipulation, intimidation, surveillance, coercion, serious breaches of privacy, and they operated “above the law” (source here). The following are a couple of quotes from two articles on the Stasi:

Living in East Germany during the Cold War (1950-1990) meant being watched. By your government. By your neighbors. And even, at times, by your own family. The East German secret police, one of the most intrusive and oppressive spying operations ever assembled, collected millions of files on people it suspected of being enemies of the state. (Quote source here.)

The Stasi (modeled along the lines of the Soviet KGB) became a highly effective secret police organization. Within East Germany it sought to infiltrate every institution of society and every aspect of daily life, including even intimate personal and familial relationships. It accomplished this goal both through its official apparatus and through a vast network of informants and unofficial collaborators, who spied on and denounced colleagues, friends, neighbors, and even family members. By 1989 the Stasi relied on 500,000 to 2,000,000 collaborators as well as 100,000 regular employees, and it maintained files on approximately 6,000,000 East German citizens—more than one-third of the population. (Quote source here.)

We have enemies in this life that we are not even aware of most of the time, which makes Jesus’ statement regarding enemies and how to deal with them even more important. How we live our lives and interact with others we come into contact with on a daily basis is crucial because, as you can see from the statements above, you never really know where they lurk in your life. That is not to say that we should become obsessed over who might be an enemy (they rarely show themselves for who they really are at least until after the damage is done, and even then they remain or at least try to remain well hidden). For the most part, we won’t recognize them. That is how the Stasi operated, and the stuff of the Stasi has existed down through the ages, too, and it is found in the history of other nations as well as the same tactics which are still being used today–covertly, of course, just like it has always been.

As an example, it’s might be easy to spot a colleague who is trying to get our job (especially if they verbally told us they wanted it), but it’s often not easy to spot the reason why we were fired if we had done nothing wrong regardless of that employee who wanted our job (and who might have gotten it after we were fired). Workplace bullying (see links here and here) is rampant with this type of stuff going on, and there is usually a concerted effort by other staff that is going on behind the scenes, too.

This life is so much bigger then just our own individual lives. There are always bigger agendas going on around us that we know nothing about. We like to think that we are in control, but the fact is that we have very little control over anything but own our attitudes and reactions to people and what they do to us whether it is good, bad or indifferent.

Jesus showed us how to live in order to navigate this world and our relationships with others in the midst of battles that are often unseen (e.g., and that are other people’s agendas), yet they go on behind the scenes of our lives and directly affect us. This does not mean from the world’s perspective that we will always “win” according to the world’s definition of “winning.” Martyrs down through the ages are a clear indication that “winning” as the world views winning is not always the case for believers. It’s about perseverance, endurance, and genuine love for others including those who have done us great harm, and who couldn’t care less about how we feel about what they did to us or how it damaged us. That’s a hard pill to swallow but it’s a reality about this world in which we live.

I visited a church this past weekend, and there was one song that they sang at the beginning of the service and again at the end of the service with a chorus that states, “There is Power in the Name of Jesus” (the song is titled Break Every Chain). The world laughs at stuff like that but for those of us who truly believe, there is power in the name of Jesus. So when Jesus makes statements like he did in his Sermon on the Mount, we should pay attention. He’s not trying to be a “killjoy” in life; he’s telling us to live this way for our own protection and for the benefit of others, too.

When I was growing up there was a lot more talk in the church about this world being a battleground. The Bible in both the Old and the New Testaments state that fact very clearly, yet so often in the past several decades we treat this life like it is a playground. We rationalize the way we live by saying things like, “God wants me happy.” Or we tell God what we want him to do for us and ask him for his blessing. And we don’t pay much attention to the Sermon on the Mount or anything else he has stated in how we should live, but we expect his guidance and protection anyway. In John 14:15-18, Jesus said:

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

“Keep my commands” isn’t an option. We can’t excuse off the way we live if we are trying to get over on someone else by spreading gossip about them, seeking revenge, or trying to destroy them in any way, and then expect Jesus to give us the Spirit of truth as we’ve already rejected the truth by our actions. It is the antithesis of Christianity to live like that.

There is one particular verse from the verses quoted at the beginning of this post that I want to focus on, and that is  Matthew 5:41. Here is that verse from the NIV:

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.

The following information is taken from an article posted on March 29, 2016, on Linkedin on the topic of Matthew 5:41 titled, The actual meaning of walking the extra mile and what I learned from it,” written by James D. Anand, Associate Dean, Media & Entertainment, Business Design at WESchool (in India):

Walk the extra mile. That’s an expression I have heard the most in academics and realm of management, I think. It is usually meant to go beyond one’s ability or to make a special effort to accomplish. As they say, stretch oneself. Walk the extra mile is not just to walk more than required.

 It is a biblical expression. Biblically, Jesus is believed to have used it during his sermons as per the book of Matthew 5:41, “whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” Scholarly versions of this verse refer to a practice of impressment by the Roman law on Jews. Any Roman soldier could order a Jewish civilian on the way to carry his baggage, mainly containing armory, for one Roman mile. A Roman mile is roughly 1.45 kilometers. This was a painful task, as the poor unlucky fellow would carry 40-50 kilograms of weight [between 88-110 lbs]. Once the mile is over, the servant could drop it and get relieved. I guess a protest might have lingered over this rule by many. This surely was of a concern to the Jewish community and that’s the reference of Jesus in the context of teachings on human behavior.

In the process of disambiguation of this expression, I learned 3 things.

Lesson 1

Even if others treat you unfairly, how you behave is more important. Treat them generously is the message. We could walk with the soldier one more time, one more mile, generously.

Lesson 2

This walk would result in a rapport with the soldier who is actually a servant of the people. Walking that extra mile with implied patience would let us know about him more. One could walk conversationally. This is more useful in personal life.

Lesson 3

It’s one of the very impressive management learning. The extra mile would be the walk of a business designer with his customer. Walk of a consultant with the client. Walk of a designer with the user. It is the customer service. It is user study. It is unconditional. This is the building block of a star.

To walk the extra mile is not exactly to walk extra. It is actually more than an extra mile’s walk. Generously. Conversationally. Unconditionally. (Quote source here.)

And, it is during that second mile that we might be able to turn an enemy into a friend. The result is not up to us, but if we act generously, conversationally, and unconditionally with an enemy, who knows but that it could turn around the relationship. And even if it doesn’t, we have done our part according to how Jesus would want us to interact with any enemy; in fact, with anyone.

So, let’s be people who are willing to go that extra mile…

Generously . . .

Conversationally . . .

Unconditionally . . . .

YouTube Video: “Break Every Chain” by Jesus Culture:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Let Freedom Ring

I read a brief devotion two days ago that got me to thinking about the topic of freedom. The devotion is taking from Our Daily Bread and it is titled, Tight Circles,” by Mike Wittmer:

Tight Circles

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.Galatians 5:1
Today’s Scripture Insight:Galatians 5:1, 4–14

A classmate gave my family a registered collie that had become too old to breed puppies. We soon learned this beautiful dog had, sadly, spent much of her life inside a small pen. She would only walk in tight circles. She couldn’t fetch or run in a straight line. And even with a large yard in which to play, she thought she was fenced in.

The first Christians, many who were Jews, were used to being fenced in by the Mosaic law. Though the law was good and had been given by God to convict them of sin and lead them to Jesus (Galatians 3:19–25), it was time to live out their new faith based in God’s grace and the freedom of Christ. They hesitated. After all this time, were they really free?

We may have the same problem. Perhaps we grew up in churches with rigid rules that fenced us in. Or we were raised in permissive homes and are now desperate for the security of rules. Either way, it’s time to embrace our freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1). Jesus has freed us to obey Him out of love (John 14:21) and to “serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13). An entire field of joy and love is open for those who realize “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). (Quote source here.)

After being confined in a small pen for years and only able to walk around in small circles, the poor collie described above had no idea what to do once she was freed from that small pen and given a large yard in which to play. She continued to walk in tight circles and she had no concept of how to play, and she continued to live as if she was still fenced in.

I’ve thought about that collie over and over again in the past couple of days. How often do we feel “fenced in” by circumstances beyond our control that, for example, might be partially caused because they depend on the good graces of others in order to move forward. My own personal search for affordable senior housing is an example. Repeatedly, for several years now, no matter what affordable (as in low income) senior housing complex I’ve shown up at or inquired about online or by email and/or phone, I get told that there is a long waiting list, and even when I get put on a waiting list, I never hear back from anyone. Ever. And even when I do call to inquire where I am on the waiting list a year or two years later I get no response (usually I get voicemail, leave a message, and no one returns my call).

That’s a cause for feeling pretty “fenced in,” don’t you think? While I haven’t been offered a “large yard” like the collie in the above story, I certainly understand her plight when she was finally given a large yard; however, after years of being conditioned to living in a small pen, one doesn’t just change their habits overnight (even if one is a collie).

Some fences we build ourselves, but this particular fence is controlled by others who never call back and offer me an affordable senior apartment in an affordable senior apartment complex, and I’m still stuck living in “limbo land” as I have been for five years now. It’s frustrating with a capital “F” (and I’m not referring to that four-letter word, either).

I want to break out from being fenced in for five years now. Unfortunately, like the collie above, I feel like I’m walking around in tight circles in a big world with housing all around me wherever I go. However, most of it I can’t afford especially long term unless I die really soon (and that’s not in my plans at this point in time).

I ran across an article published in 2010 titled, Feeling Fenced In?” (perhaps you can see from the title why it piqued my interest) by Tiffany StuartTeaWithTiffany.  Here is what she wrote:

Sometimes I feel fenced in, like I’m in some tall, invisible cage. I want out! I can’t explain it well, but there’s a sense that I’m being held back from the greater things of life.

Are you there? Do you feel fenced in?

If so, you are not alone. I understand the battle all too well, and I believe God does too.

There are times when being confined is good for our souls. There behind the fence, we wrestle out our emotions and hand over our dreams to the One who created us. In that small space, God reveals Himself to us in a deeper way. We learn to be content in Him all over again. We feel His compassion and love. It’s a good thing.

Other times, the fence needs to be knocked down and destroyed. The fence is only in our minds and it stops us from experiencing joy. We doubt we have permission to live differently. We feel unworthy of more. We question what life would be like outside our fence. And if we were honest, we’d have to admit we fear what’s on the other side.

The truth is God is calling us to live life to the full. Today! Read John 10:10 which means all make-believe fences must go. We have full permission to open His gate of grace and walk out. [John 10:10–words from Jesus–states: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”]

Take comfort in these words (see below) from the Apostle Paul. If I read this correctly, this means no more fences. Starting now!

You are free, friend. It’s time to walk. . . He’s got you.

“Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!” 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 (MSG). (Quote source here.)

This article refers to “internal” fences we create within ourselves, but the point about fences in general that confine us is well made. Behind the fence we do wrestle with our emotions and, in my case, also our circumstances, and eventually we hand over our dreams to God, and we learn a contentment in God’s provision that we often can’t learn in any other way. However, there comes a time when the fence needs to be knocked down and destroyed.

This post isn’t long, but it’s long enough. I’ll end it with these words from John 8:36:

So if the Son sets you free . . .

You will be free . . .

Indeed . . . .

YouTube Video: “Let Freedom Ring” by Abby Anderson: 

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here