I do, in fact, Love My Shepherd


I like blankets. When I was little they were my comfort, with their fuzzy middles and their silky edges. They wrapped me up when I needed to feel safe, and warmed my toes and arms on winter nights. My mom knew that when I was sad, I needed a hug and my hole-y blue blanket, ragged and worn, so I could love it to literal pieces.

What speaks comfort into your life? What physical manifestation of God’s warmth and goodness has He blessed you with in this life? God encourages us to fix our eyes on the eternal, but He leaves us with the temporal as a bonus, small reminders that He is good. He is our comfort on cold days and in the dark of night.

God, throughout Scripture gives us a vision of comfort in the language of Good Shepherd. The Shepherd who consistently gathers His sheep. Please open to Isaiah 40:10-11 or read below –
10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
    and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead those that are with young.

He comes with might, but listen to the tenderness of it all. God is so fantastically perfect that He is complete in a way we cannot fathom. This mighty God, this powerful Shepherd goes out to defeat the wolves of this world, to defeat the devil who destroys… He also holds you in His arms. He gathers every part of you to Him and will never let you go. He gathers His people to His chest and loves, loves, loves, and loves some more. What a God we have!

How many of you would list Psalm 23 as a verse on your comfort list? Clearly I would! I named my blog after it. 😉

Let’s read it together today.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

He restores. He overflows. He walks with me. He pursues me with mercy. He provides for me. He gathers me around the table and He eats with me.

Let’s widen it a bit. Let’s think about gather in its fullest sense.

He restores us.

He overflows into us.

He walks with us.

He pursues us.

He provides for us.

He gathers us around the table. He eats with us.

We were made for gathering. We were born into a flock. We experience the fullness of Him within the gathering of His people.

I Love My Shepherd is about We Love Our Shepherd

…stretching my heart for my husband, Christ, and His Church. We are the comfort, dear friends, for our husbands, and those in our homes, in our churches, and in our lives. We speak Jesus into one another’s life in a way we wouldn’t experience walking this earth on our own.

Let’s pray Psalm 23 today for our own needs, but also for one another. Let’s thank our Shepherd for just being Himself in all His wonderfulness as well as giving us this life to live together.

So, here’s how this is going to go. Read Psalm 23 through 3 times.

Read through #1 – focus on who God is, as our Shepherd. When you read the Psalm, what do you learn about Him? Spend time in prayer proclaiming His character, such as provider, comforter, leader, etc.

Read through #2 – focus on what our Shepherd does for you as an individual. How has He brought His work proclaimed in Psalm 23 to bear in your real life? Where have you seen Him shepherd? Where have you seen Him lead? What do you need Him to walk with you through?

Read through #3 – focus on what our Shepherd does for His people or for other people in your life. Pray the psalm over anyone in need or ask for God’s provision, comfort, overflow into individuals and/or your church.

We are gathered, sheep into our Shepherd, sheep into the sheepfold. Loved on, cared for, mightily rescued, guided, filled to the brim with overflowing.

I love my shepherd. And I know you do too.

Exploration:

Share some of your prayer insights from Psalm 23 with us, fill in the requests you feel comfortable sharing for each prayer round or share some that stick out to you overall.

Round 1 – Who God is as our Shepherd…

Round 2 – What God does for you, as an individual…

Round 3 – What God does for His people, or the people in your life…

40 Date Night Ideas to Spice It Up

MSP-24

Recently I wrote a blog for Everyday Faith, over at Concordia Publishing House – 

Spicing Up Date Night (check it out here!)

Here I’d like to offer the list of fun and spicy date nights contributed by young and old alike at Sammi and Craig’s wedding. See photo of them above… #seriouslyadorable.

So, are you ready to Spice Up your date nights this summer? Dave and I are planning on using at least one of these ideas a month for the coming months. Which ones would you choose? What ideas would you add? 

                  40 DATE NIGHT IDEAS
  1. Rent a limo or car just for fun
  2. Paintball or laser tag
  3. Dance at a country hoedown & eat BBQ
  4. Take a mime class together
  5. Date night at home
    1. Grill pizzas, it tastes like wood oven pizza
    2. Have a bottle of wine
    3. A good movie or a card game
  6. Make homemade ice cream & watch a Disney movie
  7. Go to the farmer’s market & cook with your finds
  8. Go back to high school
    1. Go out for ice cream
    2. Go putt putting
    3. Go to a PG13 movie
  9. Drive In
  10. Take a sleigh ride & drink hot cocoa
  11. Roll in the hay #literally
  12. Muddin with an awesome off-road vehicle
  13. Make a dish from a cooking show together
  14. Zip line together
  15. Do a factory tour, especially any place with samples
  16. Try new candy bars and walk them off together
  17. Create your own cheese of the month club – buy 3 new and creative cheeses to share together each month…enjoy with wine! 
  18. Board games & local microbrews
  19. Go to a coffee shop one morning & get a beverage to share
  20. Ride a tandem bike & eat ethnic foods
  21. Go camping & eat s’mores
  22. Explore hiking areas or metroparks
  23. Recreate the first date you had together
  24. Go to a museum
  25. Pottery/painting or stained glass class- create something together!
  26. Sushi rolling class, followed by dessert at a restaraunt
  27. Breakfast Date
  28. Beach day on Lake Huron (or your nearest body of water)
  29. Taco Night with homemade sangria
  30. Shop for ingredients and build your own creative martini bar
  31. Build a birdhouse together
  32. Do a progressive dinner, try a few new restaurants
    1. Do one restaurant for appetizers
    2. Another restaurant for a meal
    3. Another restaurant for dessert
    4. Lastly a different restaurant for drinks
  33. Go fishing
  34. Go for a moonlight (or daytime!) canoe ride
  35. Go to the theater & watch a movie with popcorn, candy, and a giant pop! Try doing a double feature.
  36. Go to a concert & don’t leave until your feet hurt from dancing
  37. Find a magazine with the best restaurant list, see how many you can visit in a year
  38. Get some pillows, blankets and snacks for a midnight picnic & watch the stars
  39. Get a green screen & take pictures of yourselves in front of it. Then Photoshop really cool stuff in behind you. Like the Eiffel Tower, the sinking of the Titanic, a car crash, or prehistoric dinosaurs
  40. Create a Chopped basket for each other and get creative in the kitchen
 
*photo by Melissa Sue Ripke at http://www.melissasphoto.com/ 

Men Who Pray (and the Women Who Love Them) Church Work Edition

I’m so thankful for these men who meet and pray with my husband, taking the time to build one another up.



Last week I wrote a blog for the CPH website that addressed prayer in marriage. I suggested that it is one of the most important ways to build intimacy in your marriage. Key points included:

   I talk to women all the time who desire deeply for their husbands to pray with them more.
   Biblically speaking, we know prayer creates connection between us and God and us and one another.
   That doesn’t mean we are always great at making it happen. There’s a whole lot of Grace with the Spirit and Jesus interceding for us, but we also don’t want to miss the invitation to grow together!

The thing is, you would think the church work marriage would be different. I feel a little bad for ratting pastors and other church workers out, but the reality is that we are not praying with our families more than the general population. In fact, some statistics show that we may be praying with our families LESS than our lay members around us. Ouch.
Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t pray. It doesn’t mean we aren’t beseeching the Lord on behalf of the flock daily, or that we aren’t praying earnestly with the member dying of cancer or hurting from divorce. It does mean that we aren’t necessarily praying around our tables or at our bedsides with our wives and husbands and children in a way that allows us to share our heart, our struggles, and the myriad of joys God gives us in any given day.
I hear the following phrase all the time, and ladies and gentlemen, it’s just a bit real and Technicolor, so hold on to your hats.
“My husband prays with everyone else. How can I get him to pray with me?”
Double ouch.
Pastors, DCEs, missionaries, church workers near and far, hear my words knowing that I get it. I get the busyness of life. I get the draining of your heart and energy for a world in need and having only drops left when you arrive home. I get that our spouses and children could just as easily be the ones “responsible” for starting the prayer. I’m letting you know today, though, that there is a huge opportunity for you to share Jesus with the people who matter most in your life…pray with them.
Intimately pray with them. You can choose a prayer book or the Psalms or resource, but we get really blocked up in the finding of the resource and the digging it out, and the actually doing it, that I think it’s a hindrance at some point.
So here are my suggestions for church workers who pray….
   1)   Just start. It doesn’t have to be regular or epic or fancy. Grab your wife’s hand and start praying. Pray for her, pray for your children and your parents, and pray for your church. Pray for the aching world, and stop whenever you feel like it. Try it again the next day. It may feel weird and awkward; someone may even get a little bent out of shape because they are trying to make dinner. But forge ahead, friend!

   2)   Be creative. Add petitions to the family meal prayer, pray on the way to school or over the rushed breakfast table, leave post it note prayers to your wife or husband on the bathroom mirror. Text a prayer in the middle of the day when you are praying for or with someone else. Everyone has a communication love language, feel free to utilize it.

   3)   Start a prayer journal. List prayers and leave it on your spouse’s nightstand or Bible. Ask them to list some prayer of their own and return it. Pray, give thanks, confess together. Its like a secret prayer spot just for the two of you.  Every once and a while look at the journal together and pray the items out loud.
Prayer is a major work of the Church. Martin Luther shared his wisdom,
Prayer is a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a goodly Christian weapon.”
Let us build strong walls in our homes, strong reinforcements for our marriages. This, friends, is no less ministry than preaching and teaching and sharing the faith.
His mercies are new every morning. Let’s start this one recalling them together. God be with you as you tend and feed and care for your beautiful marriage.

Dessert Night

A happy heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.
                                                                                                                                          Proverbs 17:22

I’m still feeling filled up! While the physical satisfaction from some good food, good dessert and good wine is long gone, my heart is happy, my spirit joyful. Why?

Dessert night.

It’s easy. Invite a few friends, everyone brings a dessert. Kids play, friends chat. I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this for years. Our circuit of pastors and families is great. We have a Christmas party and a summer picnic, but it just isn’t enough for me. We have friends and gatherings, but I need time with people who get where I’m coming from, to hear that they are struggling with the same things at their churches or at least have struggles with their churches. It’s a time to say, “I love this life, but it’s hard.” And, “It’s not just me?! I’m not the only one!” 

The thing is, I kept waiting for other people to create this kind of gathering. I spent time mumbling to my husband that we didn’t get together enough, assuming everyone’s life was too busy. I was intimidated by the prospect of cleaning my house enough, so that I wouldn’t panic when people walked in. And making up scenarios where there were toys everywhere and I had stacks of dishes on my counters for days. 

And then, life happened and I simply needed people. 
The isolation couldn’t go on any longer. So I sent a group text, and told a few couples to bring a dessert. Do you know what happened? They showed up. And I realized something – that was my biggest fear. That no one would show up. That’s why it took me 10 years to invite my fellow workers over with any kind of regularity. Deep down I didn’t want one more rejection, one more too busy, but here’s the truth – it’s worth it. It’s worth the risk for connection and growth and life together. 

After one evening with these friends, I was filled up and ready for life. Ready to reach out and continue to fill up others. You will be too, I promise. Isolation is a tool of Satan to tell us we’re all alone in this journey, that no one understands. 
But I guarantee that someone does. That’s how God created it to be.

So… dessert night, bonfire night, grilled cheese night, Uno night. I don’t care what it is- just do it. 🙂 Open your calendar, your home, your willingness for God to create community for you. This risk is worth it. It is His medicine for a happy heart.




What kind of night (or afternoon!) would you or do you host? Does your circuit or group of friends hold any special gatherings to connect?




Index card notes and never ending Love

Romans 8:39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What a beautiful way to end a series of devotions.  No mountain you have to climb, or valley deep and dark can separate you from Christ. Nothing in creation- no person, no place, no danger, no toil, no frustration, no job, no broken relationship – nothing can separate you from your Father, who loves you.
In the marriage relationship, love waxes and wanes. It changes and grows, certainly, but you will have seasons when love is vibrant and seasons where love is dull and even seemingly lifeless. Because of the one-flesh relationship being the most intimate one we will ever experience on Earth, we often relate God’s love to our experience within the marriage relationship. This happens without even thinking about it. In the times we feel unloved and devalued by our spouse, we wonder if there is a God who finds us valuable, who loves us no matter what. We can learn two things from this.
First, this verse speaks truth into our lives. God does love us, come what may. He always has and He always will. Nothing in creation, nothing around us or in us, or happening to us, can change His love for us. We cling tightly to these verses as Christians for a reason – our basic need to be loved, to be known and loved in spite of all of it.
Second, what can we do in our lives to help our spouse know the truth of this verse? What are we doing daily to grow in love together, so that God can speak to them through us? This may be one of the primary means that God uses to speak His love in to the lives of those around us. If our marriages were unbelievably strong, others may take notice of a God whose love is so deep, so wide and unfathomable, that divorce rates and life challenges and petty arguments have no hold on our marriages. It would be obvious that He is clearly the one at work. This model may be more valuable to the life of the church than anything else we ever do.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Thank you, Lord, for your inseparable Love. Thank you, Lord, for being perfect in our imperfect marriages. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

I’m a big fan of index cards. I buy them in bulk. One thing I do in our house is leave “index card notes” for everyone. On one side I write a Bible verse that I want to share with them and on the other side I write a small note. Sometimes it’s just encouragement, sometimes it’s to apologize for something, sometimes it’s a thumbs up for something specific.
It’s easy and not something I have to do every day, but just as the Spirit guides.
What ways do you share God’s love funneling from you to your spouse or those you love each day?
I’d love to hear them!