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Finding Your People

Finding Your People

It’s rare that someone will take the initiative in friendship, so quit waiting for that to happen. Everybody is busy, and few people are prioritizing deep connection. In other words, plan to go first.

Connection takes stepping out and being intentional again and again. If you’re thinking, I’ve done that for so long, and nobody is reciprocating, let me gently encourage you to be sad for exactly one minute and then to get over it and own that role. You will never have friends unless you are willing to consistently initiate. Be the one who reaches out. Initiate and initiate again. You can’t expect to have friends unless you get good at this. Even though it’s frustrating. Even though it’s awkward.

We see enough of Jesus’s life in the Gospels to know that He was an incredible initiator. He noticed people. He stopped for a conversation. He even invited Himself over to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner.

I have been blessed to be able to do some work in Israel, and the thing that surprised me most is the tight radius within which most of Jesus’s ministry took place. Israel is a small country, roughly the size of New Jersey. Only five miles separate Bethlehem from Jerusalem. Communities were located intentionally so that people could return easily to the temple. We could sit on a boat in the Sea of Galilee and see the various places where Jesus spent most of His life. Most of the disciples lived just a few miles from each other, and most of their travels were day trips on foot.

Jesus lived small and simply, doing life with those immediately around him, but those few people’s lives would affect the whole world. He prioritized proximity, His family, intimate meals, and fireside chats. That wasn’t revolutionary in biblical times. It’s just how people lived.

And it mattered. People in small towns, living life together, was essential to the way the Church would grow and spread. The entire Church was birthed from a few uneducated fishermen and their friends, and it reached to the ends of the earth. And yes, someone had to take the gospel to the world. Paul and the apostles would travel and spread the good news, but all along the way, they settled into community contexts, staying with families, being invested in and supported by local churches.

Community should, in its truest form, reflect aspects of who God is and how He loves. Which brings me to a question: Who has God put in your life—here and now and right under your nose—that you haven’t really connected with yet?

The enemy wants to shut you down, make you afraid to initiate, cause you to not prioritize the people right in front of you. He wants us to live surrounded by people but never deeply connected to them, so we don’t change, we don’t grow, we don’t even fully live—and we mostly end up stuck in self-pity about how we don’t have any friends when dozens of people in front of us certainly would welcome someone reaching out to them at the very least.

In case you need help seeing the people in your life from this perspective, the following list will get you started. Granted, it isn’t exhaustive. But hopefully it will put words to what you need in the little team you are gathering around you—and help you notice the people who may already be filling key roles. These individuals may be of varying ages and cross your path in various ways, but the point is to look for people with certain qualities to play different roles in your life, not just seek out two to three people who are exactly like you and expect them to meet all your relational needs.

A village of people meeting different needs and loving you in different ways provides a fuller, richer way to live. And these people probably exist somewhere around you already, maybe family members or neighbors or people at your church or your work? You just have to spot what gifts they bring to your life and also own the role you play for others. What do you bring to your friendships?

Here are a few types of people to look for in your life.

THE SAGE

This is the friend who listens, prays, and advises. They love for you to bring them a problem. They carry godly wisdom earned through study and/or life experience. They are safe and trust- worthy. The apostle Paul was a sage friend to Timothy.

THE ENCOURAGER

This is the cheerleader, the friend who believes in you. They see the good in you and call it out. It is easy for them to speak hope when you are discouraged. They see the best in life and people. This person oozes belief and support.

THE FOXHOLE FRIEND

This is just a good companion. This friend gets their hands dirty with you. If you have an idea, they are all in! They will fight for you and fight beside you. I have a friend, Jenn Jett Barrett, who calls herself a dream defender and has helped along almost every dream I have ever built. Your foxhole friend may not use words to express what you mean to her, but she’ll be right beside you and share in whatever trouble you get into.

THE CHALLENGER

This is the friend who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth. They won’t let you settle, and they will kick you in the booty if you get off track. They might not be your easiest friend, and you might have to work through conflict here and there, but they make you better every time.

THE FUN ONE

This is the friend that brings the party. They might not have a two-hour debate with you about a theological issue, but they will make sure you laugh often. They are spontaneous and pull people together and say something inappropriate that interrupts whatever bad mood you find yourself stuck in.

THE PLANNER

This is the organized and thoughtful friend who makes sure you get together and makes sure the bill gets split up correctly during girls’ night out. She starts the meal train email and remembers your birthday.

I’m certainly not suggesting that you rush out and start interviewing acquaintances to play these specific roles. What I’m saying is that within your sphere of influence someone is likely already playing one or more of these roles, even if you haven’t yet thought of them as a friend. No one can be your everything, but everyone has something to say, something to teach you, and something to bring to your life.

Look for it.

Adapted from FIND YOUR PEOPLE: Building Deep Community in a Lonely World © 2022 by Jennie Allen. Published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, on February 22, 2022.

Jennie Allen is the founder and visionary of women’s organization IF:Gathering, the host of the top rated Made for This podcast, as well as the New York Times bestselling author of Get Out of Your Head, which was the #1 bestselling Christian book of 2020. Her latest book is Find Your People: Building Deep Community in a Lonely World. For more information, visit www.jennieallen.com.

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Jennie Allen’s new book, Find Your People”,  will be our next selection for book club in the LO Sister app! Be sure to grab your copy here and join LO sis today to be a part 🙂 Can’t wait to see you there, friend!

Freedom From Your Thoughts

Freedom From Your Thoughts

Community. Some of you might be reading this right now thinking there’s no hope in having this. But here’s the truth, friend. You could. You could dig into a local church. You could build a spiritual family. You could have friendships. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Living on mission and fighting the devil with the greatest weapon that we have which is each other. You could have people that make you love God more around you a year from now. And I promise you, you matter for the Kingdom of God.

We all come from a context. We all come from a story. We all come from struggles. I have yet to sit across from someone at coffee long enough that they don’t eventually cry. It’s like my superpower. Sit there long enough and I will make you cry. And the reason why is because somewhere in the depths of every single one of us are thoughts, insecurities, fears, anxiety. Am I alone when I say my anxiety has been worse in the last year than it has been in 10? I didn’t prepare a message for you. I prayed for what God had to say to you. Because the truth is, we don’t need a show. We need healing, powerfully, in the places that we’ve never shared. And I can’t make that happen. So here is my prayer to the One who can: 

Jesus, you are here. There were prayers prayed that the enemy would have no foothold here. So, you are here and the enemy is not. This is a safe place because you are God. You know the innermost parts of us and you know us and love us. And you want more for us. That we would live so free that other people want you. God would you show us the parts that we love more than you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

I’m going to ask you to pull out a notebook. I want you to be as honest as you can with this. What I believe is that until we’re honest with ourselves it’s really hard to change. So, let’s start here:

  1. What are you longing for?
  2. What are you grieving?
  3. What are you anxious about?

Once you’re done, find someone and tell them the hardest answers to share. I guarantee you’ll get a head nod. Because we are all in the struggle together.

Here are a few of the things people say they’re longing for: a Godly husband, to feel worthy, loved, and purposeful, clarity in the unknown of life, Godly friendships, strength.

People are grieving for: past sins and brokenness, broken relationships, unknowns.

People are anxious about: failing as a mother, changes, inability to turn from sins.

We are really good at recognizing these things. But I’m afraid it’s because life has not been easy for us. And there is a lot going on in our heads that’s heavy and even sometimes toxic. My kids started school this week and for the first time, on the back of the card they have to wear around their necks, the school added the number to call if you’re tempted to commit suicide. There is a war for your generation unlike any generation before. The enemy got a bunch of weapons in this generation. The internet, anxiety, isolation. Then there’s a constant stream of pressure being thrown at you every single minute. And you need to know that’s not how people have always lived. Three in five people describe themselves as lonely. We are the most anxious and lonely generation documented.

I spent a portion of my life studying the brain and I loved it. In the last 20 years they’ve learned more about the brain than they have in 2,000 years. And what we know about the brain is that we can change our thoughts. If you didn’t already know that, it’s great news. So, I wrote this book called Get Out of Your Head and a lot of people read it. It’s been amazing and lives have been changed. But it’s funny because I keep hearing this theme. Why do I fall back even though I know I have God-given power over my thoughts? Why do I fall back into anxiety, depression, doubt, and self-loathing? Why do I fall back into these patterns still even though I know the truth? Which is that we can “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Why do I fall back into it?

So, I spent the last two years of my life looking at what is called the greatest weapon which God has given us outside of His word to fight the enemy. The brain. Let me tell you about the enemy. Great battlefield is the brain, especially to a lot of you who feel isolated right now. If you’re alone in the dark with the devil, he can tell you whatever the heck he wants. And guess who he is? Jesus said it five different ways in a few verses in John 8. Most defining characteristic: Liar.

“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

Alone in the dark with the devil, who’s a liar. Why do we keep going back to that dark place? Whatever it is that the devil has been telling us, it’s time we know that it’s the devil. And if the devil has been luring you to empty cisterns that are never going to fill you, then it’s time we call things what they are. Now, let’s stop talking about what the enemy’s trying to do and start talking about what God wants to do.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:6-11)

This is a good story. And in many ways, I believe we’re telling it well. But I also believe that if the enemy gets us alone in the dark, we’ll forget that story and end up living for another one that won’t last long. How do we change? That is the question. We will always be people that grieve and worry about things. Honestly, there is plenty to worry about in today’s society. But we are not in bondage to those things.

So, what does it look like to live free? I love this story that Peter painted. He gets it. He understands how we need to live. But he also gets grace. And he also gets that he is never going to obey God all by himself. There was a reason Jesus didn’t just pick Peter. There’s a reason He didn’t just go with Peter into the sunset. He brought a whole entourage. Jesus could have shown up on stage with a microphone and the Spirit come out and all the people’s lives change. Why did He gather a posse? Because Jesus didn’t just come to die for our sins. He came to show us how to live.

And you wonder why life feels so hard. Let’s go back to this question: How do we change? When I did the neuro research I learned this.

Our brains have emotions which move into thoughts, then behaviors, then relationships, then consequences. And it feels like this circle that sometimes you can’t get off. And Proverbs would say, “For as a man thinketh within himself, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)

Let me give you a little bit of brain science here. 80% of what people think about is negative. 95% is repetitive from the day before. We are thinking the same dark thoughts minute after minute until the devil can sit down and fold his hands because our thoughts are on repeat. But the interesting thing about the brain is that we can actually interrupt thoughts.

The way I do it is reminding myself that I have a choice. I don’t have to dwell on this negative thing. I can interrupt the thought. Now, the last two years a lot of people were reading the Bible in the midst of Covid and I got a lot of messages asking, “Why can I still not change? Science and scriptures say we can.”

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)

It seems that our mind can change everything. Except, where are we when we’re in our thoughts? All alone. If you know anything about the Bible it’s all about people who mess up. People who love God and who are angry at Him. People hurting people. And yet, how do people change? Jesus. I guarantee there are plenty of you reading this who love Jesus and are still anxious. This past week I went on a retreat where, to my surprise, there was a counselor. It was difficult, but I shared that all my life I have felt like I am nothing. A storyline I picked up by the age of 12. A road that led to an eating disorder and self-condemning thoughts. All I wanted to know is that what I was doing mattered to God.

But during this retreat, my life changed. Because it turns out, we don’t need all the right answers. We need people sitting in the hard with us. By the end of my share time at retreat, I was in a ball crying and repeatedly saying, “I feel so much pressure. I just wanna quit.” Something in my soul was held by Jesus through people. The assumption of the Bible is that we’d be doing life with people. Yet, we’re more isolated than we’ve ever been. There is a war for us. And the enemy wants nothing more than cause you to check out from the purposes God has for you. God has a beautiful picture to paint for us. But it’s not easy, because the very place we’re supposed to find healing, for most of us is the very place we found hurt. And it’s not easy when God calls us to go back to the places of brokenness to find healing. Jesus wants healing for you.

We’re at war and we’re all fighting alone. But we don’t have to. Longings, griefs, and worries. What do we do with them until heaven? Share them. That is the easiest line to say but hardest to live. We share them with each other so that we can carry them together. However, it’s hard to need people. We change with interruptions. We change by sharing our lives with people that love us. If you’re reading this and saying, “I’m the loneliest of all and I’ve tried this and it has not worked.” I’m going to tell you another one-liner that is very simple. Try again. And if it fails, try again and again. My friend on the retreat said, “We come into the world looking for someone looking for us.” This is where the Gospel gets so sweet. We have a God who chased us down from heaven to earth and went to the cross. And what he got out of it is us, because he loves and cares for us. And the story of God is that we have an enemy, but we have an army fighting with us and for us. The problem is, we don’t let people fight for us. We think all these thoughts and never say them out loud. So no one can fight for us. But this is the moment that changes. The light doesn’t stream in until you open the door.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have it all figured out. You say the thoughts, and that is being free. Let people fight for you. Are you missing the story God has for your life because you don’t have teammates to run with you? We need those people to remind us there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus. But guess what? They’ll still hurt you. And because of the blood of Jesus you forgive them anyway.

We need community. It’s not about not being lonely. It’s about not missing the few years we have here and what God wants to accomplish through you. It’s not easy, but I promise you it makes life so much better.

He wants to set you free. He doesn’t want you to be alone in the dark with the devil. He wants you to burst out into the light with people who know Him too. He has a plan and it is good. Trust in Him.

Jennie is an Arkansas native but Texan forever, Bible teacher, author, and the founder and visionary of IF:Gathering. A passionate leader following God’s call on her life to catalyze this generation to live what they believe, Jennie is the author of Restless, Anything, Nothing to Prove, and her most recent book Get Out of Your Head. Her Bible studies include Stuck, Chase, Restless, and Proven. Jennie has a master’s in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and teammate, Zac, and their four children, Conner, Kate, Caroline, and Cooper.

Follow Jennie on Instagram @jenniesallen

God Likes You

God Likes You

My son was born in Africa. We adopted him from Rwanda when he was four years old. And that first year he spent a lot of energy worried we were not going to keep him. If he got in trouble, he would often ask,

“Are you going to send me back to Africa?”

Poor guy. Our hearts broke for him.

But the truth is we live that way sometimes too–wondering if God is finished with us.

While you are fearless and full of passion, there’s also something I’ve noticed about this generation that I’m not sure is true of any others. You are under extreme pressure to perform.

You are told that the number of likes and subscribers and DMs matters more than your identity. More than ever, you are facing anxiety and depression and suicidal thoughts. Every time you think you might have finally reached a finish line, it moves.

And it’s EXHAUSTING!

The enemy is real and he wants nothing more than to convince you that you are insignificant. He would rather distract you with Instagram and numb you with Netflix than for you to believe that you have worth and purpose. While I cannot change your workload or your parents’ expectations or the failures you have faced, what I can do is tell you the truth. And remind you of who God says you are.

One of my favorite people in the Bible was Peter. He was just this loud, ambitious guy who loved Jesus. As Jesus’ death approaches, we see Him with his disciples, washing their feet and He tells Peter that Peter is going to deny knowing Him. Of course, this sounds crazy to Peter at the time:

Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. (John 13: 37-38)

What Jesus said was true. After Jesus was arrested, Peter was asked three different times if he was one of Jesus’ disciples and all three times he said, “I am not.”  The same Peter who just earlier said he would lay down his life for Jesus no longer claimed to know him. Talk about a big fail.

But listen to this.

We fast forward a bit to see Jesus has died and three days later has walked out of the grave (hallelujah!). This is in his final days on earth before He ascends to heaven. He’s yet to see Peter, so as some of the disciples are out fishing, Jesus heads their way:

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. (John 21: 4-7)

When Peter reached Jesus was he scolded? Do you think Jesus ignored him and told him he was done with loving Peter?

You want to know what Jesus said? “Come and have breakfast.” Jesus invited him and the other disciples to have breakfast! He made a fire, cooked the fish and got bread. Why? Because He likes them. That’s our God.

Do you think you’ve messed up so badly or not measured up enough for God to not want you? Think again. One of his closest people denied knowing Him not once, but three times and Jesus did not walk away. Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

So this weight you are carrying, this pressure you are giving into…give it to God and let it go. Rest in the fact that God not only loves you, He likes you.

My son, Cooper, has been home for six years now and you know what? He’s quit asking if we’re going to send him back to Africa and instead just comes downstairs every morning and asks what’s for breakfast. Because he knows he’s loved!

I just recently spoke to some of the girls at Baylor University about this very topic. We talked about Romans 8:1 and why we feel so tied down and locked up by our sin. When the Bible tells us we are free and there is no condemnation in Jesus, then why don’t we live like we’re free? I challenged the girls to just shout out what they’re struggling with and bring into light the dark hell they have been dealing with, and, to my surprise, one by one they started standing up. In the middle of their campus, they stood and shouted one struggle after another.

This went on for minutes and I listened, just asking God what He wanted to tell them next. So we prayed. I had them get in groups and pray over each thing that’s kept them from being free. This is when one of the students came up to me and said, “I think you should tell them this no longer has power over them.” Instead, I told her, “You tell them.”

I gave her the mic and she shouted, “Dishonesty no longer has power over me! Dishonesty no longer has power over Baylor’s campus!” Lines began to form around her and one by one students took a turn shouting in the mic that their sin no longer had power over them. They stayed there for hours. Actually, they stayed there for days! Night after night the students decided to keep meeting there to worship and pray, because they knew they wanted God and they were not afraid to live like it. I have never seen anything like it!

God can make that kind of breakthrough happen anywhere and with anyone, but you know who He chose that night?

College students.

I believe in your generation and I believe you are going to be the ones to help spur on the rest of us.

So this shame? This fear? This doubt?

It no longer has power over you!

Jennie is an Arkansas native but Texan forever, Bible teacher, author, and the founder and visionary of IF:Gathering. A passionate leader following God’s call on her life to catalyze this generation to live what they believe, Jennie is the author of Restless, Anything, and her most recent book, Nothing to Prove. Her Bible studies include Stuck, Chase, Restless, and Proven. Jennie has a master’s in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and teammate, Zac, and their four children, Conner, Kate, Caroline, and Cooper.

Follow Jennie on Instagram @jenniesallen

 

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