Say One Nice Thing First


When I was in 6th grade I was a bit of a snit.

I liked what I liked and I didn’t like what I didn’t like.

I’m not so sure this is uncommon for middle schoolers. Part of building independence and developing past ego, ego, and more ego, is to experiment with all kinds of wants, needs, desires, and compassions, trying them on, getting them straightened out, and embracing them as our own. The question we should ask adolescents isn’t what they want to be, but who they want to be?

My mom was pretty wise. She knew I didn’t want to be someone selfish, hateful, and ugly. So standing by her bed one evening complaining about whatever unfairness occurred in my day, she stopped my words, looked straight into my eyes and said,

“Heidi, I want you to say one nice thing…

Not one nice thing right now, not one nice thing in a few days. I want you to say one nice thing before you say anything else, every time you speak.”

She proceeded to keep me accountable for three whole months –

“Did you say something nice first?

Did you think something nice about that person?

What went well? What was nice in your day?”

Common sense, right?

But not to a twelve-year-old, and not to most of the world before us it would seem.

I’m not saying that one nice thing will change everything in an instant, the way we communicate, the darkness of struggle, the intricacies of relationship, but it does change perspective that’s for sure.

Think of it another way, God disagrees with us all the time, but still talks nicely to us. What if we completely agreed with one another at all times and in all places and spaces of our lives. Sounds like world peace, but it also sounds like very little room or need for grace.

Instead we can partner with one another through words, words that sound different from one another, words that have different messages and different agendas. I super love words, but if we’re ever going to share in genuine conversation, genuine affection, genuine relationship, we’re going to have to disagree occasionally. Because I don’t look like you and you don’t look like me.

And isn’t that a really, really nice thing?

 

I’m over faking it, bring on the genuine. Let’s be ourselves. Let’s have opinions. Let’s do so nicely.

One nice thing, thought, spoken, shared, before every conversation. I think it may go a long way in loving each other and this great big world a little bit better.

One nice thing.

For more on this topic of Using Genuine Words see episode 14 of the I Love My Shepherd podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or the link below.

If you’re interested on more about Erikson’s Stages of Development, particularly ego-identity v. role confusion, here’s a helpful, simple link: https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

 

Casting Stones


3 years ago we went through one of the toughest seasons of our life.

I was angry. I was hurt and I was tired.

I turned to Scripture and demanded answers from God. What I got back wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t,

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

and it wasn’t,

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

These verses, and promises like them were helpful, but when someone shared them, I wanted to physically harm them. I didn’t struggle with why, I struggled with “What do you want from me, Lord?”

What brought me comfort was wisdom from a King, who was also struggling, who wanted answers to unanswerable questions, and found peace in laying it before God and honestly admitting,

“I am small. You are big. The answers aren’t mine. They’re Yours.”

I found hope in these three words…

A time to…

Ecclesiastes 3 introduces this idea –

God in His infinence gives meaning and purpose to every single month, day, hour, and year. I see good days and bad days. God see days that matter. I see storms and I see sunshine. I rue the storms and want to linger in the sunshine. What if God values both?

What if God sees difficult and declares it beautiful?

What if God loves me just as much when I’m shaking my fist, as He does when I’m lavishing Him with praise?

I wanted to know that this season wouldn’t be forever. That bottom of the pit wasn’t every darn day and that held was a real and true promise, not a made up radio song.

I found truth. I found the Savior’s affection. I found my joy again.

For one of the first times in my life I wanted to know who God really was, what He really valued and not the second-hand version I had settled for.

Then, I realized that my trial was a drop in an ocean of earthly trials. We all have them. We all have tears. We all have heartbreak. We all have triumph. We all have uncertainty. We all have times of wrestling. We all have times to build and times to break down.  We all have times to gather together, and times to cast away.

Casting Stones is my invitation to wrestle alongside, to open the Word and find truth in the trial and the triumph, as well as the ordinary day.

It has devotions for five days of study a week, questions for individual growth and discovery, or to discuss as a group, because community around the Word makes every day brighter and less daunting. Let’s cast together, let’s build up together, let’s wrestle together, let’s plant together.

Discover more by ordering through Amazon

Casting Stones Print or Kindle edition

or checking out our expanded resources on the Studies Available page.

Join us for study snippets by catching the archive on the I Love My Shepherd YouTube channel. (Prize opportunities through July 9, 2017!)

Casting Stones… we’re in this life together. Every triumph and joy, every affliction and sorrow, He is right there with us.

Ministry Moment: Loving those Newlyweds

Marriage is good and marriage is hard.

The more we say it out loud the more we edify the thing that is marriage, as well as those enjoying and slugging through it each day.

Marriage is GOOD.

Genesis 2:18 reminds us that God calls marriage good.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Something God calls good, let us not call blah or outdated, second rate or defective. If He says it’s good, it’s good. Even when it feels not so good.

What is good in marriage –

support

affection

two heads and two hearts for all of life’s problems

sexual expression

knowing and being known intimately

safety

Marriage is hard.

Marriage is imperfect.

Marriage involves two sinners, two wills, two personalities, two ways of processing, two of everything.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reminds us that two, however complicated, has its benefits:

Two are better than one…Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Two sinners, saved by grace, willing to let Him work in all that is hard, and let His light shine in the dark places, that’s marriage at its best, folks.

We need one another.

For some reason we have entered the last centuries with an ever more conscious idea that marriage is a private thing, that in order to keep intimacy, we need to keep our marriage triumphs to ourself, and our marriage troubles out of sight.

There are private things. There are things just for the two of you, but when God created the Body of Christ, He also may as well have sent us a giant flashing red light that said, “You need each other!”

God knows.

He knows we need others to build up our marriages, just as they build up our individual selves.

He knows we need safe and caring places and people to confide in, to get wisdom from, to turn us around, and to help us see our own sin in the matter.

He knows we need people who stand on the sidelines and pump us up for this wild marriage ride. People who will cheer us on as we get to mile five of the marriage marathon, and then will throw water in our face and yell at us to Never. Give. Up. at mile 23.

But all of this isn’t just common knowledge. Newlyweds need people in their lives to reach out and say it out loud –

Marriage is good. Marriage is hard.

They need people to open the conversation, and to keep it going, a safe space for advice and ideas, and someone to rip off that Band-aid of privacy even a little, so that encouragement can come in and heal.

Here are a few ideas for loving on and encouraging the newlyweds around you:

Be a marriage mentor, intentionally.

Mentors are a great idea, but we all tend to have a hard time finding them. Offer yourselves, not as an expert, but as a couple to walk alongside another couple. The difference between a mentor relationship from straight up friendship is that one person is more seasoned than the other and both parties are honest about that. Mentor relationships should involve a certain reciprocity, however. There is intentional love and intentional learning, in kindness and safety. Most people would love a mentor and have no idea who to ask. Offer yourself in humility and kindness, with genuine affection. Couples- seek mentors out. Just do it. Churches – consider creating a marriage mentor situation for couples who are newly married or in pre-marriage counseling.

Invite them to dinner

Take a newlywed couple out to eat or invite them into your home. Nothing creates good relationship like good food and good conversation. Love on them, literally. Shower them with a meal they probably can’t afford, show them what date night wow looks like, or feed them hearty food and hearty affection through your open door. Celebrate the good and the hard of marriage together.

Ask questions

What is marriage like for you?

What surprises you about marriage?

What differences do you see between yourself and your spouse? How are they helpful?

What is good about marriage for you?

What is hard about marriage for you?

Cook together or make freezer meals

Imagine if every newlywed couple in your church was invited by someone to make freezer meals – they leave with at least six meals, some good conversation, and a fuller heart. Or imagine that every newlywed couple from your church receives six meals with devotional cards attached and an encouragement to take it easy and just spend time together one night. This obviously could have nothing to do with “church” the organization. Find a newlywed in your life and love on them with some food prep.

 Give them a surprise gift card for date night

Teach them confession and forgiveness

Ask them what they need and remember what you needed

More on all of this in the podcast, on the I Love My Shepherd podcast, episode 7, Ministry Moment: Loving on our newlyweds, linked below, or found on iTunes and Stitcher.

Do you have an idea to share? Please do so in the comments of this blog post. We’d love to hear your wisdom and suggestions!

Now, go to it!  Loving on our newlyweds is a team effort.

Let’s rejoice in the good and hard of marriage together, every day.

I Love My Shepherd: The Podcast

Releasing today Thursday, May 18th –

I Love My Shepherd: The Podcast!

The goal of the I Love My Shepherd podcast is to get the Word into your life by offering our resources to you in short listenable segments. The podcast will include discussions of some of the articles and topics you find on the blog, very short audio segments of the online Bible studies, and special episode series like:

Written in Iron Ink: Ministry Stories – hear from people in the trenches of life together, sharing the Word and the work of our Savior every day, from their context and their perspective. Normalize some of the struggles of life lived in ministry and with God’s people, rejoice in the victory of God’s work and testimony through unique settings, trial, and restoration. Some of the interviews we’ll do include topics like individuality, diversity, cancer, leadership, infant loss, and more!

Ministry Moments – ideas, ideas, and more ideas. We’ll share usable ideas and thoughts for reaching out with Hope and Word into the lives of those around us.

Stuff that matters – genuineness and authenticity, mental health, building community, marriage, friendship, all those big words that are on the fringes of theology and spirituality but have a practical understanding as well.

Look to subscribe on iTunes by searching I Love My Shepherd. Look for the album art with the I Love My Shepherd script logo and the green border. Send a review our way (pretty please!), and share and comment away! You will be able to subscribe on Stitcher soon as well. When you comment, review, or share, not only am I encouraged, but others are much more likely to find us to hear our message of Hope, and find our articles and resources about all that good stuff that matters.

Here’s a preview of Episode 1: What is I Love My Shepherd?

This is what I Love My Shepherd is all about…

Intensely theological, while intensely practical

One more woman in the Word every day

Jesus in everything

People matter more

Hear more on Episode 1 today!

Subscribe on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/i-love-my-shepherd/id1236987559

or

Subscribe on Stitcher:

http://www.stitcher.com/s?fid=139423&refid=stpr

Love the Sojourner

First of all, this is not a political post.

Second of all, this is a Jesus post.

Neighbors, brothers, sisters, friends, immigrants, refugees….

The truth is, we are all sojourners. We are strangers in a strange land.

Our land never quite feels right. We don’t quite fit in. We don’t know where to put things like loss, heartbreak, hate, anger, fear, doubt, pain, grief, war, shame.

Just like the children of Israel slugging it through slavery in the land of Egypt, we look around, we see sin and its consequences, and we know the truth – we are sojourners traveling through a land briefly. Our home is eternal. Our home is comfort in the arms of our Savior. Our home is the feast to come, the victory of heaven, not the blackening landscape of a home that passes away.

We get glimpses of this land through His Word, His sacraments, and through one another.

For this reason, Deuteronomy 10:19 speaks His Word of direction to us:

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

God gently reminds Israel and us of all we’ve been given, of the freedom that has been won, of where we have been, of where we are headed, so that when we look in the eyes of our neighbor, we’ll see our own experience as the sojourner far off…the sojourner who was once a stranger to God, welcomed with open arms, by a neighbor named Jesus.

We GET to be part of all of that. We get to be welcomers into the Body of Christ and the kingdom, because we ourselves have been welcomed, not because we have lived in Haiti, or Germany, or Africa but because we have eternity. We have a home with no shame, a new home of grace that will one day be full and complete.

We have been brought out, so that others may be brought in.

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

Who are these others? Look around you. Who is on the outskirts looking in? Who are those that do not know what we know of grace? We can reach across our lawns and we can reach across our oceans and love, love, and love some more.

God does not limit Himself to what is visible in providing for our needs. There is always more room, more trust, more mercy, more comfort, and more provision in the economy of Christ. Where do we doubt His ability to keep us safe, to provide resources for us, and to give us strength when we look at the sojourner in need?

Just as God answers the fears of the people of Israel proactively, He answers ours in the same Word.

Deuteronomy 10:20-22:

20 You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.

He is your praise. Look what He has done! Can He who raises the dead provide what we need to love? Why yes, I think He can.

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

A tiny little command, tucked inside a whole lot of promise.

We raise our hands in Praise to Him who can, and simply ask Him to point us in the direction of where to send all the love.

 

Free Love the Sojourner iPhone Wallpaper

Look for the Love the Sojourner line coming out in May 2017, on our Products with a Message page. #surroundme #starttheconversation #productswithamessage