Love Brave with Us

(Exciting news! This blog is co-written by Heidi Goehmann and Matt Schuler. Words in bold are written by Heidi. Words in italics are written by Matt. Everything else is co-written. Matt and Heidi will co-author this Fall’s online study, Love Brave.)


Loving brave is something I’ve had to learn.


Loving brave is something I’m still learning, every day. It feels like loving brave has a million teachers. I learn from my wife, from my kids, my parents, and everyone around me.

The fool says loving brave comes naturally. And the fool lives up to his name.

Natural is tucking yourself into your own little life. Natural means pretending we like one another with a smile and a wave, but never knowing one another’s stories. We naturally put up walls, and peek out from our parapets, reluctant to reveal our true selves out of fear.

Natural is playing it safe and keeping thoughts and feelings locked inside because sharing means maybe rejection, maybe shame, and we have plenty of that in our world to go around already. We naturally avoid real relationships because real relationships come with drama and sometimes the only drama we feel like we can handle is handled in sixty-minute chunks on TV.

Men and women alike walk wounded for lack of community and real relationships. Our hearts hurt, we have no idea how to respond to issues like school shootings and mental health struggles. We might be surrounded by people, and might even have one or two real, deep connections, but we want more, not just in quantity, but in quality. We want more for ourselves, for our families, our friends, our churches, our neighbors, and our world.

There are better answers than going it alone. It’s time to learn to love brave together. This is the place where the I Love My Shepherd Fall Online Study comes from.

Join us for a six week online study:

Love Brave: Risk and Real Relationship

We will open challenging conversations about what love is and does, what real relationship is and does, and discover how connection to God and one another offers real healing, real hope, and real meaning.

This study will offer both women and men a place to have real conversations about how we can share truth, faith, and hope together and Love Brave with our families, friends, classmates, coworkers and each person we meet.

Love Brave is meant for all people in all walks with Jesus, those who share life with Him every day, those who don’t quite know where to put Him, and those with an eye on Him from afar. We’ll be asking honest questions, and seeking truth in conversation, empowered by God’s Word. You’ll find the same depth and practicality of all I Love My Shepherd studies, with care and attention for those who are open to having a conversation about God, but are cautious because of accusations and assumptions. We’ll wrestle with truth, love, faith, and hope together here.

What to expect — Six Weeks of study starting September 16th, including:

Videos

Matt and Heidi will start every week with a video of honest conversation addressing an everyday topic and the challenge of loving brave, particularly the balance between sharing God’s love and God’s truth with one another. Videos will post every Sunday of the study at 6am on the I Love My Shepherd YouTube channel but you can watch them any time.

Blog posts

We’ll walk through 1 Corinthians 13, words that may be familiar about active faith, hope, and love. There will be blog posts Monday-Thursday to wrestle with ideas involving love and bravery, loving when it’s easy, loving when it’s hard, and the uncomfortable sacrifices love requires.

Groups

We’re encouraging you to invite two or more people into deeper relationships with you and with God. Gather people you know and want to know better. Eat, drink and be merry, and use the time to love brave together. Talk about the challenges of life and where and how you want to love brave. Cheer one another on and pray for each other. Use the blog posts or videos to spur discussion, or share the real-life moments you’re walking through together.

Extras

Every week, we’ll have resources designed by teacher and artist, Jennifer Carlisle, for taking notes, sharing encouragement, and recording your brave thoughts and moments. Look for samples with sign up in early August. Sarah from PiecefulJoy will also have some optional reminders we can use in our homes and places. We all need as many reminders as we can get on this road to bravery, don’t we?

Summer Recess

To prepare for Love Brave and to make the resources and community at I Love My Shepherd more accessible, we’ll be taking the summer off of writing new articles and podcasts to do a website redesign. Look for an all new, beautiful, and easy to use website come August. You can still find I Love My Shepherd daily on our Facebook Page, Instagram, and Twitter throughout June and July. Go follow us and say hello!

A Final Thought

Are you hungry for something real for yourself and the people in your life?

How do we get past living anonymously near one another and arrive at the place of sharing our true selves and our real lives?

What risks in love, life, and relationships scare you?

How can we our relationships grow from love instead of frustration, in our homes and our communities?

Share your thoughts in the comments, or a simple shout out to let us know you can’t wait until September.

This fall we’ll learn, gather, talk, love, and be real.

Prepare to Love Brave with us this Fall.

See you soon!

The Truth about Mental Health: REST

Rest, we know we need it…sort of.

If the world isn’t telling us that the winners are the ones who get in there and get it done, then they’re reminding us that it’s a sign of weakness to sleep too much, take too many days off, and leave our phone on silent for too long.

Somewhere in there we also got confused about rest Biblically.

Somewhere maybe we got the idea that rest was for eternity.

Somewhere maybe we learned rest is ok, but we only need it because we’re weak sinners in a broken world.

Somewhere maybe someone taught us rest was a good gift even…but forgot to show us they in fact needed it by taking days off, leaving time for conversation, and occasionally letting other people handle the problems of the world.

We are not called to be superheroes of the world and save everyone each day. We have a Savior, that job is not up for grabs.

We are called to be real people, in a real world, with real gifts, one of which is the gift of rest:

Beautiful stillness, sweet sleep, time away from people and their drama, a deep breath, and God’s Word to fill our lungs, our life, and our hearts.

On today’s podcast we learn from Rest Expert Brenda Jank at runhardrestwell.com. I call her a Rest Expert half jesting, but also serious. She has studied Biblical rest and the science of rest for years and we get to soak it in through her lively spirit and wise words.

 

The Truth about Mental Health today:

We are called to rest.

It’s good for our minds, good for our bodies, good for our relationships, and most importantly…God calls it good and He seems to know best.

Listen in and then tell us how you find real meaningful rest.

Which of the four rhythms of rest are the hardest for you to work into your life?

What have you learned on your journey about rest and the gifts of God surrounding work and rest?

Male-Friendly Feminism and the Value of Father’s Day

Mother’s Day has all kinds of weight and expectation wrapped up in it.

It can be fun.

It can speak value into someone’s life and vocation.

It can be a giant bust.

It can be a reminder of grief and hurt.

No matter how hard we try, there are expectations that surround the day and around motherhood in general that we can’t quite shake.

One day we have little expectation for is Father’s Day.

In fact, culturally we lack appropriate expectation for fatherhood in general, keeping silent about it or we pour criticism onto fathers and men without giving tools for change. We vacillate between wanting them to “be better” at the vocations of husband, father, brother, neighbor, boyfriend, and friend to setting aside any responsibility and claiming “boys will be boys.” Culturally, we perpetuate situations unsafe for women and unfair to men:

We embrace or at least are ambivalent toward a casual sex culture that holds no honor towards sexuality. We avoid conversations that openly encourage responsibility and practicality in relationships alongside fun and entertainment. We do not discuss the reality that sex is far more pleasurable in committed love in the shape of marriage.

We wait until boys are men and fatherhood is at their doorstep to let them know that fatherhood is to be taken seriously and their role is absolutely vital in the life of a child, as well as a mother.

We become so wrapped up in the mother’s gift to feed and nurture that we don’t leave room for dads to do this work, and when they do, we tell them they do it wrong. (Totally guilty over here.)

We do not create television shows that reveal great qualities of many men and fathers, but rather present one of two versions of men and fathers:

the goofy gallant who can’t think to tie his shoes, and is either mostly unengaged, or is rude and a jerk

the masculine superhero, who doesn’t cry, has no ear hair, and oozes confidence

These are broad generalizations and maybe a little too harsh. I am happy to see more good, more authentic-ish stuff coming out of Hollywood. I see a small cultural shift to tolerating, if not embracing complicated emotions. And there are organizations with awesome initiatives for manhood and fatherhood – working to open the conversation, mentor, and learn alongside.

Still,  I really think we leave fathers in second place of importance after mothers.

In our fight for women’s rights (of which I am an active participant) we can be so zealous that we stomp out any male voice, rather than just the ridiculous ones. We do need to be heard, but I don’t want to be heard at the expense of grounding out what good God is doing in someone else who doesn’t look like me, and that includes men.

Dearmen, this is me saying, I want to be honored in the way men are in this country, simply by station of their sex. I want to be seen to have skills, to be strong and able, and I really want to stop having to be so used to various breeds of sexual harassment and demeaning humor.

But I also don’t want you to be less honored as part of the process.

Maybe I should call this male-friendly feminism.

With all of this as background, here is a call to action to rise up on Father’s Day:

Good men are worth celebrating.

Who have been the good men in your life?

What men have changed the world with their kindness, their strength, their skills, and their generosity?

What gifts do the men in your life bring to the roles of husband, brother, father, uncle, grandfather, neighbor, and friend?

Father’s Day is just as important as Mother’s Day, for its own reasons, just as fathers are just as important as mothers, for their own reasons.

We can give them more than steaks on a grill. (Churches, in particular, I’m talking to you.)

We can tell the men among us that they are valuable and necessary. We can build them up. We can point out all the things they are doing well. We can have some appropriate expectations of what relationships with men and fatherhood itself should look like. We can leave space for them to engage and not be critical of every attempt. We can have conversations with the boys and young men in our lives to say,

“Hey, I see your classy qualities. You matter. We need more of these qualities in our world. We need you. See these issues over here – taking advantage of women, men not coming to church with their families, violence – those things are terrible. You can be the difference maker.”

This year, let’s not let Father’s Day fall off the map. Let’s not be afraid that in celebrating men, we’ll take three steps back in celebrating women. Moms work hard. We can expect more and cheer on dads working hard too.

What are your plans this Father’s Day?

What can you do to cheer on the valor you see in manhood and fatherhood around you?

Leave a note to share your ideas for cheering on in the comments. You can also print and share the graphic below, or send it via social media, email, or screen shot to a man or fourteen men in your life.

Men, just keep being you, but aim for the best version of you, not the culturally acceptable version, because you make this world a better place.

Look for more resources on men’s mental, emotional, and relational health on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook page through Father’s Day!