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!

Mercy Pursues You

I’m not the only one with good ideas. Obviously.

It’s one thing I love about Bible study. When we open the Word, insights come flying of the page, and your insights will probably look different than mine. The same message will apply differently depending on the given day, moment, season, or struggle in life, along with the sure and certain message that transcends time and space – that hits home for the hearer in the First Century and is exactly the same for the hearer 2000+ years later.

I am convinced that one gigantic benefit of the Body of Christ is the gift of connection and insight. When we gather to be vulnerable and share what we hear from the Word for our own lives, we also reach across the table in a way we cannot completely understand to touch the life and offer insight for the person in study with us.

Last Fall, one of the women in our Bible studies at I Love My Shepherd shared with me a simple insight, passed along from her pastor to her years before, to those of us in the Word that day –

Mercy pursues.

Open your Bible to Psalm 23:6 –

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever. (ESV)

The Greek root word for follow here is radaph. It can mean to follow, to pursue, to chase, or even in certain circumstances, to persecute. Context helps translators choose which are most usable in Biblical translation. Look at the character of God, according to the Psalm as a whole:

He shepherds.

He leads.

He disciplines. 

He comforts.

He prepares.

And it is in His nature to pursue, as well as follow.

How many of you have had a situation in life that you can point to and say, “Mercy pursued me? He was after my heart, my mind, my soul, all of me.”

God is patient. He is loving and kind.

He is also jealous for His children. He sent Hosea to chase after Gomer. He sent the spies into Jericho for Rahab, among other things. He handed His mother to John from the cross. He found Saul on the road to Damascus.

He has a plan. He has a great big awesome plan that involves Mercy in your life, with a capital M.

Sometimes He sits and lets us do our thing. Sometimes we wonder what in the world He’s doing, where in the world He is. Sometimes we wonder if He’s even listening, but He has a plan. He is active, when we cannot see Him. He is active when we cannot feel Him.

His plan is for our good, for mercy to come in, for loving-kindness to infiltrate, and He knows just the right time. His plans are always best and oh so worth the wait.

In all of this He is always, always pursuing us; never for a moment are we not on His mind and in His heart.

Some days, friends, I need to know that I’m worthy of pursuit. Because God calls me Child, He also calls me pursued. When I look to other people to seek after me, to honor me, and deem me worthy… I can look around and find His mercy, which was the only thing that ever mattered all along.

So, what do I do with this insight? I shared it with my friend, Melissa, and we created a reminder. This Summer we’ll be coming out with the Mercy Pursues line on the I Love My Shepherd Products with a Message page.

Someone needs to know Mercy pursues them, so let’s tell them.

Here’s a downloadable Facebook Cover, which is also a sneak peek at our new line. Orange suns, grey and white goodness – clean and simple.

Free downloadable Facebook cover

 

Christ Jesus pursues me.

Christ Jesus pursues you.

Today, know that Goodness and Mercy is after you, because you are worth chasing after. Radaph

Mercy pursues.

 

My slightly crooked Crown of Life

*image made with the retype app

My oldest daughter, Macee, and I are avid watchers of the Netflix original series, “The Crown”, which depicts the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II in 20th century England. It’s a lovely show with deep emotion and tenderness. It is careful to show many and various perspectives, but highlights that of a brand spanking new queen.

The queen at the time of the first season is young. Shockingly young almost, since in my entire lifetime I remember Queen Elizabeth as a classy lady of at least retirement age or older.  The young Queen has immediate responsibilities, expectations, budgets, and the needs of a nation. While this is just a show, it brings to mind all kinds of monarchs throughout time and the weight of the crown, any crown.

It sounds like a nice idea to be a princess, a queen, a king, royalty of any kind, but we would be fooling ourselves if we didn’t also think it was hard. A crown, even when ceremonial, bears with it the weight of a thousand and some expectations.

James tells us in James 1:12 that we also have a crown.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

But our crown isn’t a crown of expectation – heavy, overbearing, laden with the jewels of what we need to do and how. In order to understand the crown of life James references, we need to broaden our Scriptural vantage point. My study Bible encourages me to consider all of James 1 that leads into James 1:12, first. James 1, remember from week one of our study, is all about the faithfulness of God, the impartiality of our Savior, His wisdom, and His generosity. All those characteristics, James suggests, are first and only found in our Creator and Redeemer God, and then He shares them with us.

Listen to James 1:12 again…

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Christ Jesus remained steadfast under trial. He received the crown of life on Easter morning. He is Love itself and loved us first. But He never keeps it for Himself. That is not part of His character. I think this is part of James’s message-

God does not want to keep His gifts to Himself.

This week, we’ll settle on the gift He gives us called a Future. Today, that future comes to us as the crown of Life. Our crown can be gifted because of that particular crown worn on Good Friday.

Look at the following verses that use the same Greek word for crown – stephanon.

Matthew 27:29 – and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

John 19:5 – So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

Revelation 14:14 – Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.

All these crowns are the same Greek word, although to us, they seem a million miles apart. Isn’t He so worthy? He took the crown that was full of the weight of death so that we could have life, and really, really LIVE.

Yes, we will have trial and fears, struggle and temptation, but we see life from a crown bearing perspective. The Queen on the show “The Crown” had to practice for weeks before her coronation. She walked halls and stairs wearing this gigantic crown on her head. It didn’t make her less Queen when it shifted to the right because she wasn’t an “expert” crown-wearer.

Neither are we. There are no experts at life and “winners” who receive this crown. We don’t get it because we lived our challenges better than the guy next to us – we receive it because it is a gift. Crowns, like crosses, occasionally “feel” heavy, but we have a Savior who says,

28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This is the crown of LIFE, after all. LIFE! The Greek word for life here – zoes – insinuates not just present life but a fuller life that includes the future. Every time we undergo trial, a deep and personal struggle or even a trial of the everyday variety, we remember our crowns and remember Whom it tells us we belong to. The crown has been won, the victory secured.

Straighten that crown, friend. Look to the future. God is already there. He has this day and every day before us under His care.

My crown may be slightly crooked, but it’s 100% secure.

 

Discussion:

What things happen in life that make you most aware of your crooked crown? (This is an imperfect metaphor, but what in life makes you very much aware that you are less than perfect?)

What burdens are you most thankful that Jesus carries for and with you in this life?

Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-26. How does knowing you have been given the crown of life in Jesus’s death and resurrection change the way you run the race?

Redefining Good

We all want good. Bad is, well…bad.

But what is good? Is it universal or different for everyone? Is there a secret to getting what is really “good”?

More importantly, what does God say is good and is it the same as what I think is good?

In this week’s video lesson we’ll dig in to Scripture so we can begin to redefine what is good, based on God’s Word, rather than our own fleeting feelings and opinions.

You can find the video link for the lesson here:

 Good Gifts Live Week 1 Video Link

Share the following meme with friends on social media, during your church announcements, or through a method that is private to share the burdens of life together and offer them up through the Good Gift of prayer.

No one sits in the corner: the gift of impartiality

“No one puts Baby in a corner.”

Maybe this makes me sound old, but I’ll lean on the world’s general love of cult classics. This line from the movie Dirty Dancing is familiar to many of our ears. If not, you can easily Google this reference and see it for yourself.

Often, life feels like that corner. We feel less than at work, at home, in our families, our communities, even at church. On our bad days our internal dialogue goes something like…

Do I matter?

Do I have anything worthwhile to contribute?

Would anyone miss me if I’m gone?

This pop culture staple maybe stays with us so well, not because Patrick Swayze was often found on “Teen Dream Boys” magazine, but because we ourselves want someone to reach out their hand and bring us out of the corner.

To feel special. To say, “You matter.”

The problem comes in that in our concern to be told that we matter, we end up seeking, “You matter…more.” In our sinfulness, we take it too far. We need other people to matter less in order for people to see our worth.

James hands us the mirror and says, “It’s not working for you.”

Read James 2:1-7 and see this struggle played out in the Christian church during the first century. They were sinners too, redeemed by the same God.

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

James is going to have none of this sitting-in-a-corner business. First, he calls out the hearer for what he is, what we are. We are followers of Christ. Pay special attention to the words of verse one. Underline the words, “as you hold the faith” in your Bible, if you are willing.

Christ in us makes things different. Christ always shakes things up. We do not exist as the world exists because of Christ in us. We hold to Him, hold to faith in Him, rather than whatever praise or honor or lifting up the world would offer. It’s another kind of “fixing our eyes.”

Look further in at Hebrews 12:1-3 in the NIV translation to understand more of why holding to the faith changes our perspectives:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

It’s easy to lose heart, to feel like we’re sitting in a corner and no one notices. Jesus does. Jesus offers us the very best seat in His heart, as cheesy as it sounds, and so the other stuff, the need to be better than or higher than someone else, in order to be noticed, can be thrown off or as the ESV puts it, lain aside. You sit over here, selfish need of mine. You aren’t welcome to this party.

You see, if Jesus is invited, all that other junk isn’t, and isn’t needed. He fills in everything. He is the author and perfecter…Son of the good, good Father of all good gifts.

Now read James 1:9-11 to cement this idea, to help you hold the faith, rather than holding on to the titles or favors or specialness this world offers.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

We really are all just grass on this earth. We will perish in the blink of an eye. Whether we’re seen a beautiful, wonderful, the most fun, the it person of any event or time and space in history, it doesn’t matter. We’re the same in Christ.

Christ puts no one in a corner. He raises people up in His death and resurrection.

Who can we also raise up? How can we make a difference by holding the faith, rather than holding on to our own need for “special”? Christ is seated in the best place, so we can invite others to come near to His throne rather than taking a back seat.

No partiality, brothers and sisters. No one sitting in the corner. Christ rolls out the banquet feast and aren’t we blest to hand out the invitations?

Who’s coming to Good Gifts Live tonight? I hope to see you at 8pm CST on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook Page! Ask questions, interact, comment and share together in real time. Click here to go to the I Love My Shepherd Facebook Page.

https://www.facebook.com/ilovemyshepherd/

The video will be archived on youtube and available Friday morning on the blog.

 

Discussion:

What kind of things are you good at, have you received recognition for? We want to know! We all have skills and talents to share. (Remember, this is not shameful. Recognition is great! It’s when we need it for validation or when we diminish others that it is a problem.)

Can you remember a situation in which you wish someone would have noticed you? or you felt left out?

Who can you reach a hand out to and bring from the “corner”? Who in your life (or even a people group in the world) is God calling you to stand up for because they are getting the back seat?

Bonus work – How are wisdom and impartiality connected? Look into 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 and compare this passage to James 1:9-11 and 2:1-7.