Anything but typical

I have a proposal.

Let’s throw out a couple of phrases from our vocabulary. We don’t have to be critical, but rather insightful, helpful, conscious of our words with one another. I bet you have some phrases you’d like to throw out and I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

I’m going to throw out mine…

“I’m not your typical…”

It’s so easy to say. We want so badly to make sure people don’t put us in a box. We want to help people understand that we are unique and different and very much an individual with our own thoughts, feelings, perspectives, and insights.

Of course we do! We are individuals. No one likes stereotypes. We aren’t clones. Labels aren’t always helpful, and many of us want those around us to look deeper, to see deeper when they interact with us.

No one is typical. No, not one.

We are all made of marrow and acuity that is knit in us, one from the other. We were created to laugh at different things, to prefer different beverages, to ache at the sound of different injustices.

We have different gifts, different perceptions, different abilities, different stories, and one Lord.

A creative God knit you together (Psalm 139:14-16).

Look around you, every single one of the faces you see – knit carefully, thoughtfully, uniquely, individually.

God in His infiniteness doesn’t need our understanding of individuality to be very and consistently creative. But your neighbor does.

When you look around you, do you see individuals?

When we use the phrase “I’m not your typical…” fill in the blank, we are assuming that someone else is the typical such and such. In fact, we are assuming that there is a typical of any kind.

Do we believe there is a typical

wife

soccer mom

pastor’s wife

teacher

leader

whatever?

Who is typical? I can’t think of anyone, because I can’t think of how a wife should look, or a mom should look, or anyone should look.

We rob the grace of individuality from others without thinking about it. In our desperation to be kept firmly out of a box, we put someone else in it.

It’s an easy fix- change the language. We value individuality when we ironically create a collective phrase.

“I appreciate that we’re all different.”

“I love finding out how other people think!”

“I never thought about it that way. Thanks for the insight.”

“It’s it great that we’re all unique and not stuck in some box!”

When we are confronted with situations where we feel a stereotype or assumption prick, using phrases that consider the individuality of every single person and not just our own, will go much farther in crashing those stereotypes and assumptions…

keeping my individuality secure and appreciating yours along the way.

Let’s celebrate individuality!

Listen in on I Love My Shepherd: The Podcast, episode 13, with special guests craft artist, Karen Groves, and bestselling author Colleen Oakes. We sat down to talk individuality, especially in ministry, in the Body of Christ, and in new places and spaces. There is so much good insight here, including:

What does valuing individuality look like?

Dreaming hard dreams

Being aware of what you truly like, and saying no to things you don’t

Balancing the value of community and individuality

How can the Body of Christ build up individuality?
Listen at the link below or on iTunes or Stitcher.

 

You, my friend are not typical. There is no one typical, no, not one.

Praise the Lord for His great and precious gift of individuality!

Easter Scavenger Hunt


Easter egg hunts were one of my favorite church memories as a child. Plastic eggs filled with chocolate and other treasures dotted the church lawn like they came down with the rain overnight. Hard boiled eggs were dyed by someone’s loving hands and then hid near bushes and trees. Let’s be honest, though, these were the slightly less desirable bounty, left by the big kids for wide eyed preschoolers and toddlers slowed down by wonderment.

Easter egg hunts meant our parents didn’t have to drag us out of bed bleary eyed for Sunrise service. All they had to say was “Happy Easter!” followed by that blessed phrase, “He is Risen!”

We knew what that meant- grace, joy, Easter Breakfast, and you’ve got it- the Egg Hunt.

Stuff like this matters for kids at church.

While the message may not be as overt as the Sunday School lesson or the Children’s Sermon, it does share grace with them in a way that I don’t think our adult brains can comprehend. Eggs-schmeggs, sure, but to a child’s heart this speaks something different –

“I matter in this place.”

“I am seen in the Body of Christ.”

“My presence is not just tolerated, but welcomed and invited here.”

“These people speak my language, and I want to be a part of it.”

This layer of care for our church kids guides hearts to be open. Those little ears (and big ears) hear the message of Christ from your lips and then see the love of the Savior in action. They connect the dots between real life, real truth, real action, real faith and His real Word.

Once I was involved in children’s ministry, as an adult, and then bringing my own kids to church on Easter morning, I found the Great Egg Hunt fun, but lacking. It was special, great for photos and joy-filled church memories, but not quite what I was going for as a teaching moment. There had to be, not a better way, but something different to help direct the kids to the Word in a fun way, with treats, because, you know, Easter. 😉

So, I googled and pinterested the topic to death. I found lots of great ideas and alternatives. Praises to the Lord for creating many ideas, minds, and a zealous Spirit!

I would reference blog posts and idea makers here, but I really scanned about 47 different ideas and decided to create my own.For my own children’s ministry I decided to write my own Easter Scavenger Hunt. I do encourage you to look through Pinterest and search engines for similar blogs and ideas, however, since the origin of the idea for an Easter Scavenger Hunt isn’t mine.

This is an easy and fun alternative to help kids and families connect the treats they receive from your church or family gathering on Easter morning to the Word of Life. Each item in the Hunt is chosen for a specific reason that is linked to a Bible verse, for instance…

Betrayed with a kiss – Hershey kisses
Judas’s payment- silver coins
Romans 5:8 – chocolate cross

And more!

You hide the items for the Hunt around the church or lawn, your house, a park, anywhere, and give families the list of verses to read with the corresponding items.

 

I have attached the PDF of my own Easter Scavenger Hunt to make it easy for you- just print and duplicate!

Easter Scavenger Hunt PDF

If parents are still eating Easter breakfast, ask for volunteers or members of your youth group to help little hands find their treats. I wouldn’t necessarily disclude the youth from this hunt, though. I guarantee those bigger hands are going to want to get in on these treats, and they are an often forgotten age group who like fun and creative ways to learn the Scriptures as well. You could make them work harder to figure out the items by only giving them the verse list. This is especially fun if you’re feeling ornery. You could also give the kids an extra bag of the goodies and tell them to give it to a friend who didn’t get to go to church on Easter morning. You can trim your own hunt to make it smaller, or you could add to it.

Now I want to show up at all your churches and family events to see how you all used the hunt! Please share pictures or stories in the comments section so we can all share in the fun!

Easter joy to you all!

It is by His grace-filled death and resurrection that we are Saved, Redeemed, Set Free, Restored, and Made New. Let’s go share that message with big and little ones everywhere!

Who’s up for an Advent Photo Challenge?!

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I Love My Shepherd and GraftedHeart are teaming up this Advent season to offer you a photo challenge! This is a fun way to express your faith, get into the Word, and be creative this holiday season.

There are several ways you can participate.

First, download the Advent 2016 Devotions, found at the end of this post, or receive them each day in your inbox by subscribing to the blog. (If you are already subscribed, you are good to go!)  The devotion for each day is about 3-5 sentences long. Short and sweet!

Next, post your Advent 2016 Photo Challenge pictures on social media using #Advent2016, #ilovemyshepherd, and #graftedheart. Here’s some examples of photos you might post on any given day.

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a hot beverage or a mug #Advent2016 #ilovemyshepherd #graftedheart
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someone you love spending the holidays with #Advent2016 #ilovemyshepherd #graftedheart
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wrapping paper #Advent2016 #ilovemyshepherd #graftedheart

Participate as much or as little as you can. If you do decide to participate by posting photos for every day of the challenge and use the hashtags above, you will be entered to win our New Year’s Eve Prize Pack! Check it out…

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Do the challenge by yourself, as a couple, as a family, or offer it through your church or group!

More than anything, we want this to be a stress-free activity to enrich your Advent.

We pray this Advent resource helps you to reflect on the heart of the season and the love of Jesus Christ in your lives and families, as you Make Ready for His coming!

Here’s the link! Looking forward to sharing together  –

Free and downloadable Advent Photo Challenge – Make Ready!

Confirmation: Giving our middle schoolers the gift of celebrating


Our house is a bit of a hub-bub in this season of our lives. We have four beautiful children, with lots going on. My husband and I are both professional church workers with our own schedules. But much of the hub-bub has a little less to do with the everyday and a little more to do with what is to come.

We are preparing for confirmation at our house. Confirmation verses are being picked. Party ideas are being pinned. Food, and invitations, and attendees are being selected.

At first glance it may seem like a bit much, but we have been preparing for this moment our whole lives, as a family. We aren’t making it a big deal because we want every thing, every party to be bigger and better, which, let’s be honest, is kind of our culture in America. Holidays can’t be celebrated casually between a few friends. There must be crafts and over-the-top food and drinks. The decorations must be top notch.

This planning, though, is for a different reason. It’s not about the cultural expectations, or what people will think. It’s not for the “Ooooo-s” and Aaaah-s.”

This party is for our child’s moment to proclaim what she has learned, what her foundation is, what Jesus has done and will continue to do and be in her life. This moment is HUGE, in and of itself.

And it deserves to be celebrated as such!

My thirteen year old is beautiful – inside and out. She is a precious child of God. I know that every mother of a daughter reading this feels exactly the same way.

So, I would like to take this moment of her confirmation to celebrate that fact. More than that, to celebrate the beauty of Christ in her.

Preteen life can be really difficult. Our world is beset with challenges for every preteen child. Purity is real spiritual and emotional struggle. Students in these years face questions of identity and independence. Who am I? What matters to me? Are my values the same as my parents? Years 11-14 may seem like an emotional roller coaster for everyone in the house, if you have a preteen there. Even from 9 years of age, girls and boys can struggle with physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual changes. This is normal and natural, even if it’s not always pleasant.

How can we help them hang on to what matters in these rough and slightly chaotic years?

First, we can be Christ to them. Whether they are our own child, or someone else’s. Preteens often feel dismissed, by their peers and sometimes by the adults around them. They aren’t old enough to be seen, culturally, as people with valuable opinions. In the church, we can show them differently though. We can say and act as if they matter. We can strike up conversations and find out about their interests. We can believe that they have fun things to share in worship and at LWML and around our tables.

Second, we can make big milestones important. We can hold them up in honor and say “Look at God working in you!” “How exciting is growing in the faith? I can see that happening in you!” We can celebrate and hold banquets and feasts and party.

So, now you can understand why we are getting ready for confirmation at our house. I want my child to know without a doubt that confirmation matters. I want her to know that her faith growth is more precious than jewels, Jesus in her is a priceless gift to be celebrated and acknowledged and treasured.

My sweet Macee chose Jeremiah 17:7-8 as her confirmation verse because she loved how it reflected a firm trust in God, with roots planted deep and God growing her each day of her life. There will be trees and water and fresh lavender in her decorations and sweet friends to share the day with. There will be laughter and celebrating and a lot of eating.

This moment is priceless and we will lift it to the Lord, praising Him, thanking Him, and celebrating His amazing work in our precious treasure

Confirmation. A milestone worth celebrating!

Celebrating is lovely

*when we celebrate at our house, we celebrate! Buckets of ice cream anyone? 😉


Session 5 – Celebrating is Lovely
Luke 15 gives us a different take on lovely. For our final day of discovering all things lovely let’s reflect back on the root of lovely being in relationship, or more specifically, friendship.
Luke 15 is a chapter of Scripture packed with parables. These are known as the “Lost parables”, not because someone found the manuscript in a decrepit cave, but because each parable in the chapter has to do with something that was lost, but was found. I personally love the resolution in the parables. In each parable the lost item is found! There is so much peace and joy in knowing that God has His grip where we feel we have lost ours. God’s resolution is complete and enduring.
Let’s read Luke 15 and underline the words “friends” or “neighbors” in the chapter. It’s a bit of a longer passage, but worth it:
15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
  
“He calls together his friends and neighbors…”
“She calls together her friends and neighbors…”
Now underline in another color the words “rejoice” or “celebrate” or a form of those words.
Do you see it? Do you see the joy overflowing from each person who reserved what was lost to them? Completely and utterly lost?
“Rejoice with me!”
“Let us eat and celebrate.”
Community, real and enduring friendship, is a vital aspect to our faith walk. God created the Church to be in community, not just on any given Sunday morning, but Life Together. Laughing together, crying together, rejoicing together, eating together, and hurting together. These people in the parables are living life together.

This is a huge advantage the church has in this difficult world. Real, and true, and authentic community. Community surrounded and filled and connected by a God who cares greatly about the lost things of this world. A God who came into our lives, who held hands with us, who prays on our behalf, who eats with His friends. Who offers us a thousand opportunities to celebrate that joy with one another every day. God has given us a gift in one another that the world doesn’t even know they are longing for – connection.
Let’s call together our friends and neighbors. Let’s have a lovely party. Let’s celebrate. The Father has run out on the road, robes flailing around Him. He has killed the fatten calf, offered the best food and wine. We once were lost, but now we arefound.

Lovely.




*I’m going to offer a challenge to share one of your favorite study posts from this blog with a particular friend. You can, of course, always share it! But I would love for you to send one of the blogs from the past 5 weeks, that has a message you would like to share to a particular friend. 🙂

*passage taken from the ESV translation