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.

Tending Friendship: Judgement and Hot Dogs


“Thank you for not judging me for eating a second hot dog.”

We recently met up with a friend at Coors Field for a fun night of baseball. Behind me sat two women, also enjoying the fine May weather and a win for the home team. I spent most of the night passing out snacks, because that’s what I do, as a mom. And it was stadium food after all – yum, just yum.

These women behind us knew that baseball and stadium snacks went hand-in-hand. But this one phrase caught my attention above others. It was sweet and it was tender, an expression of genuine gratitude between two young women, living in a world full of judgement and condemnation.

“Thank you for not judging me…”

Her friend was struck by the phrase too.

“I like hot dogs,” was her simple response, with a shrug of the shoulders.

It was the words left unspoken which spoke grace to her friend.

Why would I judge you? Who cares if you want two hot dogs? Even if I thought hot dogs were disgusting, it’s your life and you can eat hot dogs if you want- loads of them. Because I love you. I don’t love you because you only eat one hot dog. I think I love you more because you ate two.

This is tending friendship with non-judgement.

So often we haphazardly apply judgement because someone’s choice is different than our own-

“I wouldn’t do that.”

“I wouldn’t eat that.”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

Of course you wouldn’t. That’s fine. I don’t eat fresh tomatoes. I don’t drive the speed limit. I don’t always make my kids pick up after themselves.

You probably do. That’s awesome, because you’re not me and I’m not you.

Friendship is where lives meet and we say “Me too!”

That same friendship is tended when we continue to meet and say, “I’m so glad we’re different!”

Our best peeps are the people who understand who we are, but also help us to be better versions of ourselves with the help of their unique insights and ideas.

This cannot happen in the midst of judgement.

We get enough of that. We scroll through Facebook or Instagram and see all the opinions people have and the ways they live differently than we do. We go to work and hear how we should do things differently. We look at our kids and pray they turn out ok, even when we make all of our finest mistakes on them.

Judgement is all around us and judgement just is. It exists. But it doesn’t have to seep in to friendship.

Friendship is a safe place. It’s a place to be honored and cared for, and to honor and care alongside. Friend is in fact one of the highest honors we can bestow on someone because it shows us that we are chosen and loved.

God chose us through His Son, Jesus Christ; despite our weirdness and despite our sins. Creating us was an act of love from our Father, but the Son chose us as friends on that cross.

Christ freed us from judgement and tells us that it is finished. If our own judgement is completely righteous in Christ, than why would our friendships be any different.

So today, grab a good friend. Sit around and laugh about what you have in common and what you see differently. Eat two hot dogs. Drink something festive, and tend to that friendship with grace – judgement free.

Tending friendship with my peeps. 😍

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!

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