Looking to Advent

I have a special kind of love for a room lit by only twinkling Christmas lights.

The ambiance created by those lights just weeps with hope. Many of us connect it to fond family memories, a moment of peace and tranquility, and an eager anticipation for what’s to come.

That really sums up the whole season of Advent – eager expectation, hope, a little extra peace in this trouble-filled world.

This year we’d like to help you feed on that peace and hope that is only found in the One who came for each of us, to take a tiny moment each day to be satisfied with all that He is.

Above All Names includes very short devotions for each day for individual use, as a family, or use for your group or church. The entire series can be used electronically or can be printed.

  • Read the devotion on the blog or get it in your email inbox by subscribing to I Love My Shepherd. The subscription field is on the right side of the screen on desktop and near the bottom of the scrolling home screen on mobile.
  • Share each image, or just your favorites, on social media to add Hope to everyone’s newsfeed this Advent.
  • Print the Above All Names images and use as tree ornaments, a simple bunting to hang, reminders around the house or work or anywhere else, as notes to a friend, a Christmas card insert, etc.
  • Use the Above All Names Scripture Reading and/or Writing Plan if you’d like a little bit more to add to your Advent reflection time.

Here’s some ideas for using and sharing:

Here’s all the links you need:

Above All Names Advent Devotion PDF
Above All Names Printable Images
Above All Names Advent Reading and Writing Plan

Remember, all the devos can be found right here on ilovemyshepherd.com and graftedheart.com each day of Advent!

Love the Sojourner

We live in a world that bats around the term “refugee crisis.”

Actually, we batted that around a few months ago and now we’ve moved on to something different.

That’s how we roll.

But what about all the refugees? What about the people whose lives are turned upside down by war, government mandates, religious persecution, violence, disaster, and all of the other unimaginables that my mind can’t quite grasp in my comfortable home in Nebraska?

God’s Word is clear about two matters that we address in this podcast with special guest, missionary Kim Bueltmann:

First, there are those whom God puts in our path that are in need of refuge.

Deuteronomy 10:19 invites us further up and further in to the matter:

 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 

We ourselves are sojourners on this earth. Everything we have, we borrow. What a remarkable thing that God allows us to share what isn’t ours to begin with! As Kim points out, God, as always, brings beauty and light, where Satan would try to only bring destruction. The refugee crisis is no exception.

Second, God invites us in.

Kim reminds us that He is gladly yes, our Rock, our Redeemer, but also our Refuge.

He has also been there. As we round the corner to celebrate the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, we remember all that we have been given and mostly a God who deigns to come to us, as a sojourner, a refugee, a baby in need of a pillow, the Son of God in need of a place to rest his head.

I could make this more complicated. I could give infinite reasons to care for refugees and to reach out our hands in love and in relationship to those who are immigrants, strangers in a scary foreign land, but I won’t. I’ll leave it at God’s Word of Hope:

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)

We aren’t left to our own devices to love.

He is God of gods, Lord of lords, great, mighty, and awesome. Let’s see what He can do, in Germany and beyond.

*I believe in this verse so much I made a shirt about it. 😉 The Love the Sojourner shirt will be available until December 22nd, when our Products with a Message line closes. We will gladly be donating the proceeds from these shirts to Kim’s mission work in Leipzig, Germany.

Anxiety, Shame, and the Church

The weight of anxiety in this world today is palpable.

Is it any wonder?

We live in a world with so many homes shaken by loss, concerned for provision and mounting student and credit card debt and the constant barrage of should’s and would’s in marriage and parenting; a world with emptier churches and full addiction clinics; a world where terrorism knocks on the front door. In this world, the sheer amount of graphic images and social media we take in each day may heighten our internal anxiety meters to red alert all by themselves.

You may not struggle with anxiety yourself, but you see the fruit of it all around you. It seems like a problem with a pretty simple solution- trust.

So why does it wreck the hearts and minds of so many Christians?

It would seem that casting cares isn’t as simple as we’d like to make it out to be.

When someone is anxious we often share a small half-sentence found in 1 Peter 5:6-7. I’m sure you can find the familiar words below:

 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.

While this Scripture, is certainly applicable, what if this verse actually perpetuates the problem of anxiety for many anxious Christians and non-Christians?

What if it actually creates anxiety rather than relieves it?

The problem is not in the Scripture itself, but maybe in our application of the text. Just because it says anxiety, doesn’t make it the best verse on the topic.

Unintentionally, we may reach out to someone in compassion, but if all we do is share this verse, the silent undertone of the conversation is

“pray harder, believe stronger, have more faith.”

This verse is given in the context of community, church community in particular. Casting care is done in the safety of relationship, not individually, not as a directive, and not as a pat answer, but as an ongoing connection of two souls, bringing the anxiety of brokenness before the Lord…together.

More appropriately, every single one of us in this faith walk stand every day as the father in the book of Mark – seeking healing from the troubles of this world, from illness, from disease, from brokenness:

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Christ Jesus took on the cross for us, not so that we would have no trouble and all fear would be gone.
God uses even this: anxiety, fear, lack of trust, turmoil.

Anxiety, like all suffering, can be useful in that it points us to our own need for the Savior. It’s like little alarm bells in our bodies that tell us – You were made for more than this life. Heaven will come one day when all this trouble will be no more.

He took on the cross so that whatever fear we may have in this life may be given to Him, shared with Him, and cared for in the Body of Christ, where shame has no place, within the context of eternal life won, the tomb empty, and hope reigning. Allowing the church, the pastor’s office, or a simple conversation over coffee to be a safe place to share the burden decreases the shame of having anxiety for the one struggling. It makes seeking spiritual care, counseling, medication, or any other treatment so much easier and less shaming also.

We were made for casting cares, yes, but deeper than that, we were made for connection – sharing the Word, sharing Hope, being honest with one another about our own struggles, and sharing the grace of Christ in the midst of the mess.


Coming January and February 2018 – a new series on the I Love My Shepherd Podcast –

The Truth about Mental Health: Anxiety.

Episodes include topics such better defining anxiety, creating a framework of theology for anxiety, helpful passages in spiritual care for anxiety, and Embrace it or Escape it: practical suggestions for anxiety care. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher.