Tag Archives: relationships

Marks of a Good Friend (Guest Post)

Good friends listen and share from the heart.
[Image courtesy of Pixabay]

Marks of a Good Friend

by Steph Beth Nickel

Who’s your BFF? Who do you love spending time with? Who can you call in the middle of the night when you need them?

I’ve found that good friends, genuine friends, are marked by several characteristics. Let’s consider five of these traits.

Good friends listen.

Sometimes we need advice. And it’s great when we have wise, insightful friends who will “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

However, there are other times, we simply need someone who will listen—just listen.

My husband of over 35 years is an active listener. He doesn’t just stay quiet and pretend to listen. He is my sounding board when I need to pour out my heart. It’s such a blessing to have friends like this—whether or not they’re also family members.

Good friends share from their heart.

Another mark of genuine friendship is trust and authenticity. When our friends trust us enough to share from their heart, it’s a good indicator that our friendship is solid.

While there may be many people we refer to as friend who don’t open up to us, it’s a privilege when they do.

Sometimes they’ll want our advice. Sometimes they’ll need us to listen. We have to resist the temptation to turn the conversation back to our own situation when our friends pour out their heart.

Good friends cheer us on.

Are you beginning a new adventure? A new challenge? A new battle?

Our very best friends are there to cheer us on when this is the case. They may be able to relate to our situation; they may not. Still, they’re rooting for us. They’re in our corner. We can depend on them and call on them whenever we need a boost.

Good friends facilitate growth.

While true friends are good listeners, open up to us, and cheer us on, they also challenge us to grow. They don’t so much demand growth but facilitate it.

Good friends have a way of making us want to become better people. They bring out the best in us. And they forgive us when we’re less than our best—even when we’re at our worst.

We want to become better people when this kind of person is in our life.

Good friends address hurts.

Do our real friends hurt us? Do we hurt them? Yes and yes.

Sometimes we hurt one another unintentionally. At other times, for whatever reason, we may be intentionally hurtful.

Our very best friends will address the issue. It may be hard for us to hear. It’s likely even harder for them to bring up. However, friendships that endure the test of time are often marked by openness and honesty.

When we get close to someone, when we open up to them, we risk being hurt, but it’s worth it.

I am privileged to have many such friends and I’m thankful for each and every one of them.

Now, that we’ve considered some traits of genuine friends, let’s take an honest look at ourselves. Are we this kind of friend? What steps can we take to become even better friends than we are today? Are we willing to do the hard work, the work that reaps rich rewards?

Tweetables:

When we get close to someone, when we open up to them, we risk being hurt, but it’s worth it. (click to tweet)

Good friends listen. They share from their heart. They cheer us on. Good friends facilitate growth and address hurts. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel (Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Steph Beth Nickel is a communicator who seeks to Nurture and Inspire in her many eclectic endeavours: editing, writing, podcasting, etc. Steph coauthored Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Steph and Deb are working on a follow-up, tentatively titled Keep Looking Up. Steph is also a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio. You can connect with her on Facebook or via email.

Overcoming Overwhelm (Guest Post)

Overcoming Overwhelm

by Steph Beth Nickel

Do you have a sense of anticipation when you wake up? Or would you rather pull the covers over your head, roll over, and go back to sleep?

Recently, I’ve found myself in the latter category—at least more often than I’d like.

So, what can we do about it if that’s the case?

Take a good hard look at our To Do list.

If it’s already full to overflowing, we must learn that putting off pursuing our shiny new idea, declining a request to take on another project, or rescheduling a lunch date with a friend just might be the right thing to do.

"Time to thin out your To Do list?"

Thin out our To Do list.

As much as we feel we must—or want to—accomplish everything on our list, wisdom may lead us to a different conclusion … wisdom and humility.

It’s not going to do us—or the people around us—any good if we allow ourselves to get to the point where, one day, we really do pull the covers over our head, unable to face the day. And even if we’re able to keep motoring on, do we become short-tempered with those around us? Do we neglect health habits? Do we fail to accomplish what is truly important?

Make choices according to right priorities.

I would say my relationships are most important: with God, with my husband, with our kids, with our church family, with my friends, etc.

If the items on my To Do list don’t further those relationships, then it’s time to re-evaluate how I spend my time and energy.

If I resent seemingly unimportant chitchat with my grown child or getting an invitation to spend the evening with friends because I’m weighed down by thoughts of what I’m not accomplishing, then it’s time to rewrite my To Do list.

Develop healthy habits.

As Christians, we’ve been taught that putting ourselves first is selfish, ungodly, and I would agree with that, but I’d add a caveat.

If we don’t care for our spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing, we will not be able to develop our relationships and accomplish the things on our To Do list to the best of our ability (click to tweet). And the temptation to roll over and go back to sleep will become a real possibility.

Exercise, healthy eating, and sufficient sleep energize us, help us think more clearly, and improve our attitude. Good reasons to make them a priority.

Give yourself a break.

Netflix? Video games? Surfing the internet? Maybe. But often these activities and others like them don’t recharge and invigorate us. They often distract us from what can truly do so.

How about …

Playing a board game with the family? Grabbing your camera and going for a photo walk? Picking up that book that’s been gathering dust for too long?

Is it time to rework your To Do list? I know it’s time to rework mine.

~~~

Tweetable: 5 tips on why—and how—to rethink that crowded To Do list from @StephBethNickel (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter.

Christian Creatives and Self-Promotion (Guest Post)

Christian Creatives and Self-Promotion

by Steph Beth Nickel

Marketing: Make authentic connections and overdeliver on promised content.

Image source: Pixabay. Text by @StephBethNickel.

As Christians who write books and pursue other creative endeavours, we all run up against the issue of marketing. Smacks of self-promotion, doesn’t it? And self-promotion doesn’t sit well with us when we consider the high premium God puts on humility and placing other people’s needs ahead of our own.

The very word sales brings to mind a pushy individual pressuring us to buy something we don’t really want or can’t afford. As Kirsten Oliphant of Create If Writing says, her books, courses, and other resources are for creatives who want to learn to market their products without being smarmy.

While we still come across smarmy salespeople, more and more creatives are practicing excessive generosity, “overdelivering” as it were. From those whose first book in a series is permafree to those who offer information-packed training online that is of great value, both to those who purchase their product—and those who do not. These are only two of the countless ways to market our work in a way we can feel good about.

Another way to make a connection with our fans and potential fans is to spend time with them. More and more readers want to feel as if they can develop a genuine relationship with their favourite authors. While not all creatives spend time interacting with their fans online, those who do can develop communities where members end up befriending one another as well as the creative who started it all.

Many creatives are introverts and developing a community in cyberspace is often far more appealing than seeking to do so in person. Still, doing book signings, speaking at conferences, and leading workshops are other good ways to connect with our audience. And even when not doing so in person, there are many online opportunities: participating in a virtual summit, developing a course and including regular “live” events where we spend time with those taking the course, periodically going live on YouTube or Facebook …

As Christians, we were made for relationship. As we seek to market our products by developing Facebook groups and other social media communities, we may find ourselves developing deeper authentic friendships and speaking into the lives of others in ways we never imagined. These relationships may lead to sales. But even if they don’t, we can have a positive impact on others’ lives, something we should all desire.

And when it comes to making the sale …

An insightful fellow author once said if he didn’t feel his book had value to potential readers, wasn’t worth the asking price to them, he had no business selling it. Wise words!

Let’s remember that our creativity is a gift from God. Let’s develop our abilities and endeavour to bless others. As we seek to effectively market our work, let’s remember that there is nothing wrong with doing so if we exercise honesty, integrity, and a desire to improve lives.

Tweetables

#Marketing for #Christian creatives: Make authentic connections and overdeliver on promised content. (Click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Highly Valued

So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock – his church, purchased with his own blood – over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.
Acts 20:28, NLT*

Let’s face it, church is a collection of sinners saved by Jesus’ blood, plus those still fumbling toward saving faith. Some are easy to love, but most of us have sharp edges, abrasive surfaces, or other sources of irritation.

We’re in the process of spiritual growth, and what God sees in us is not always visible to those looking through human eyes. But He’s building us into the Body of Christ, and into His Temple.

He sees value in us. Enough that Jesus died to redeem us.

He commands us to love one another. (John 13:34-35) He’s not asking us to do anything He hasn’t done first, and He offers the Holy Spirit within us to produce that love for one another. We just need to choose to obey, even when it’s hard.

Is there someone in your church who’s impossible to love? Pray for him or her. Regularly. If you ask God to grow His love in you – and persistently choose to cooperate with Him – He’ll surprise you.

Most times it’s not that extreme, but may we remember to ask what He sees, instead of focusing on what we see. May we remember the high value He sets on us – as individuals and as His flock.

God our Shepherd and our Saviour, we dare not dismiss any soul You love. Please help us see what You see, and grow Your love in our hearts for each member of Your Body. Show us what You see in us, as well, and help us surrender fully to Your cleansing and growth.

Matt Maher’s song, “Instrument,” made a powerful difference in my life during a very difficult time in my own church life.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Guest Post: Connecting in a Dusty, Used Book Store, by Jennifer Slattery

Connecting in a Dusty, Used Book Store

by Jennifer Slattery

Jennifer SlatteryMy husband and I are newly empty nesters, and that’s been an adjustment. Actually, considering he, our daughter, and I are all introverts who largely stay to ourselves, I’ve been surprised at what an adjustment this new phase has been. There’s just something about having those you love around, right? Whether they say a word or not? Needless to say, our daughter’s recent absence has been felt.

Man, do I miss her! But I try not to push, not to guilt her into seeing me, because I truly want her to launch from our nest and embrace her new life at college. So, when I learned her schedule would be relatively light one Thursday a few weeks ago, I sent her a text.

Me: Want to meet for lunch?

She proceeded to tell me her schedule. We could meet before or after a couple of her classes, but she’d have to be back by 4.

Honestly, I would’ve been pleased with thirty minutes, or even a quick phone call, so I was more than thrilled with the chunk of time she offered. But I still wanted to give her an out, just in case.

So I shot her another text: Are you sure you have time? I don’t want to make you feel stressed.

(College can be crazy tough, and I certainly don’t want to be an additional stresser!)

My heart swelled at her response: Nah.

That’s young adult talk for, “I want to see you.”

At least that’s how I chose to interpret it.

The events that followed were absolutely precious. I parked outside her dorm, and, upon her suggestion, the two of us walked toward Lincoln’s historic Haymarket so she could show me a used bookstore, one of two she’d found.

Jennifer Slattery and her daughter, in the used book store

And had we ended there, the entire day would’ve been awesome. Because there’s just something about books, right? Especially about going to a bookstore with the child you remember reading to, all those years ago, and perusing shelves filled with books from printed during that period of time.

It was our special connection, and a memory I won’t soon forget. The rest of our day was great, filled with getting lost, laughing, talking, and, of course, eating, but that bookstore was the highlight, and not just because it was cute and quaint and homey, but because through it, I was reminded of a special connection my daughter and I shared, one we’ve shared since before she could talk, and that’s our love for stories.

If you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming there’s a good chance you’re a book lover. Do you have any memorable bookstore moments you can share, maybe of going to the bookstore with your parents or taking your child or grandchild to one and spending a lazy afternoon flipping through crisp pages? Share your memories with us in the comments below!

~~~

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and connect with her on Facebook.

Intertwined, by Jennifer Slattery

Abandoned by her husband for another woman, Tammy Kuhn, an organ procurement coordinator often finds herself in tense and bitter moments. After an altercation with a doctor, she is fighting to keep her job and her sanity when one late night she encounters her old flame Nick. She walks right into his moment of facing an unthinkable tragedy. Because they both have learned to find eternal purposes in every event and encounter, it doesn’t take long to discover that their lives are intertwined but the ICU is no place for romance… or is it? Could this be where life begins again?

Intertwined, part of New Hope Publisher’s contemporary fiction line, is a great reminder of how God can turn our greatest tragedies and failures into beautiful acts of love and grace. Readers will fall in love with the realistic characters and enjoy the combination of depth, heart-felt emotion and humor that makes Jennifer’s novels so appealing. Readers will be inspired to find God in every moment and encounter in their own lives!

Buy it:

Bring Out the Best

Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.
1Thessalonians 5:15b, MSG*

Most translations render this verse as “always do good to one another” or “always follow after the good for one another.” I’m not entirely sure looking for and bringing out the best in one another is the same thing, but it’s definitely one way of doing good to another or working for his or her good.

Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.

This begins with a Christian’s responsibility to pray for open eyes and ears to see and hear what God wants to reveal.

Look for the best… for God-given potential, even if faintly visible. For spiritual gifts and natural talents. For signs of Jesus living inside.

Bringing it out in the best way starts with prayer: asking God what to say (or what to pray without even approaching the person). Asking God what He wants to do, and waiting for His timing.

Then, maybe pointing out the ability or potential we see, and encouraging the person to volunteer at the level of his or her ability. Maybe introducing a beginner to someone experienced in that area.

Beginner or seasoned worker, everyone is still a work in progress. How do we bring out the best? We celebrate the good, we are careful in correction, we encourage growth.

“The best” here doesn’t mean perfection in performance; God is more interested in the heart. Quality of work matters, but a genuine and God-serving heart is an essential part of “the best”. So let’s encourage one another’s hearts, spiritual lives and attitudes as well as the outward working of one another’s potential.

Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.

In our relationships with non-Christians, this would also include being alert to signs of spiritual seeking or longing for truth. The best way to bring it out will be by living our own faith authentically and sharing a word or two as God makes a way.

Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.

What better way to follow Jesus in our daily lives?

God who formed each one of us and who planned a good purpose for us, who gives talents and gifts according to Your own wisdom and for Your glory in building up of the body of believers, thank You for what You want to do in and through each of Your children. Open us to recognize the best in one another, and show us how to best bring that out. Forgive us for the times we look at one another through human eyes, short-sighted and biased – and sometimes grumpy. Help us to see what You see, and to desire what You desire.

Russ Taff‘s song, “We Will Stand,” celebrates the unity of believers working together.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

When Marriage isn’t what You Thought it Would Be

Sherri Wilson JohnsonI’m excited to welcome a guest poster to the blog today. Sherri Wilson Johnson is an Inspirational Romance novelist, a speaker, and a former homeschooling mom who’d rather have laugh lines under her eyes than worry lines across her forehead. She lives in Georgia with her husband, her two children and her Chihuahua, Posey. Her favorite thing to do when she’s not with her family is to curl up with a good book or work on her current work-in-progress. She loves to dream of visiting romantic places and is passionate about the Lord, motherhood, homeschooling, and writing. Sherri is the author of To Dance Once MoreSong of the Meadowlark, and To Laugh Once More. She is a columnist with Habits for a Happy Home and Choose NOW Ministries.

And now… the guest post:

When Marriage isn’t what You Thought it Would Be

by Sherri Wilson Johnson

As a little girl, I dreamed of being a wife and mother. I was born in 1966 and there wasn’t much else for a little girl to aspire to be. I loved my Legos and built houses all the time, complete with a room for all the babies I’d have one day. I played with Barbies and pretended to be Ken’s wife. Of course, when I got my Barbie airplane, I have to admit, pretending to be the flight attendant (or stewardess, as they were called then) was a guilty pleasure of mine. My dad didn’t let my mom work even after we were grown and it was pretty clear that he thought I’d start an occupation after graduating while waiting for my prince charming to come and sweep me off my feet. Although I wanted to be the next big nightly news anchorwoman, I let my mind settle on “just” being a wife and mom.

Along came my prince charming a few years later, and I couldn’t wait to be his wife. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to jump right in and start having babies, but I could definitely see what our future was going to look like. We owned a company and worked side-by-side every evening cleaning office buildings. We spent late nights at Dunkin’ Donuts, came home, and snuggled until the morning light. In less than a year, I became pregnant (surprise) and the lazy days of hanging out together and the carefree nights of working alongside one another until 2:00 a.m. came to a grinding halt.

Totally unprepared for motherhood, I kind of freaked out. I felt alone and wanted to go back to being a couple. But being a strong-willed, second-born child, I sucked it up, put on my big girl pants, and gave it my all. The only problem: I didn’t know how to divide my attention between my husband and my daughter and I didn’t know how to ask him for help without looking like a wimp of a mother. Life was not turning out to be as fun and footloose as I’d dreamed it’d be when I was a little girl.

In my latest novel, To Laugh Once More, a Victorian Romance set in the South, Lydia, the heroine, suffers from this same kind of disillusionment. She thought marriage would be one big happy whirlwind of romance, complete with travels around the world and a houseful of children, all of which her governess would tend to. But three years in, she realizes that she feels no different than she did when she was a young debutante on her father’s plantation waiting for a beau to sweep her off her feet. Married to the man of her dreams, she’s still childless and is often left at home for days at a time while he travels on business and “lives the life”. She pitches quite a few hissy fits trying to get her way and life doesn’t do her any favors.

What do I have in common with Lydia? Well, we both suffered from a heavy (not healthy) dose of selfishness in our early years. We also didn’t take into account the plans God had for our lives. Instead, we had an idea of how it was supposed to go and when it didn’t go that way, well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. While I’m not one to act outwardly in a dramatic fashion, pitching fits and screaming and letting everyone know how I feel about a situation that didn’t go my way, I’m still guilty of getting my point across. I just often do it with silent treatments or huffing and puffing for a day or two.

Throughout my twenty-six years of marriage, I’ve learned to ride the tide a little more. Take everything in stride. Stay calm when the raging waters wash over me. I’ve learned to hold my breath and to keep my eyes focused upward because every storm passes. Once the storms pass, it’s easier to see the blessings that have been placed in my life. I’m able to see the treasure it is to be “just” a wife and mother.

How has it turned out for me so far? Well, my daughter is now twenty-three. Her brother is twenty. My husband is still with me, and that makes me happy. We’re back to being the carefree couple we were years ago, although we don’t work alongside each other in our own company. Maybe one day. I’m not an anchorwoman, but I am a published author, which was truly my dream all along.

Do I have the picket fence? Sure. But it doesn’t look like what I thought it would forty years ago. There’s splinters. There’s a few nails poking out that might stick you if you’re not careful. It needs to be updated and sprayed with a fresh coat of paint every now and then. But the One who built the house and who built the fence that keeps us safely tucked in each other’s arms keeps us set on a firm foundation with a solid roof over our heads. I’m thankful that we let God build our marriage from the ground up. I’m thankful that He stood in the gap on the days I didn’t much feel like being a wife and mother. When you build your marriage on the Solid Rock of Jesus, you can endure and even flourish throughout all of life’s storms.

To Laugh Once More, by Sherri Wilson Johnson

To Laugh Once More is a Victorian Inspirational Romance set in Georgia in 1895. The War may be over, but the battles still rage.

A dissatisfied wife. A misunderstood husband. Three tragedies will alter their path forever. Will their choices tear them apart, or will they allow them To Laugh Once More?

Three years after her marriage to Hamilton, former debutante Lydia Barrington Scarbrough is dissatisfied with life. She has yet to have children, and she spends most of her days sitting in a circle of women chatting about homemaking. She thought life would be more than what it’s turned out to be. Hamilton travels on business and never takes her with him. What’s a lonely wife to do when she has no children to raise? She longs for adventure and romance, and really, she longs for the fulfillment of her purpose in life. A purpose beyond being a wife and raising children.

Lydia faces a series of hardships that stretch her faith beyond capacity. Leaving her childhood home in Florida for Georgia proves to be more difficult than she ever imagined, and her marriage may not survive the trials. Lydia’s own personal battles drive a wedge between them. What will it take to make Hamilton attempt to save their marriage and draw Lydia back to him?

As Lydia strives to etch out a place for herself in a new world full of unfamiliar prejudice and attempts to overcome her private battles, she must help Hamilton understand her deepest longings and learn the true meaning of joy. Will she surrender her will in order to find her purpose? Will her future hold a happier marriage, motherhood, and a calling greater than she could ever have imagined?

You can find out more about the book at Sherri’s website: sherriwilsonjohnson.com/sherris-books/to-laugh-once-more/. To Laugh Once More is available for Kindle at Amazon.com and worldwide. The print version will release shortly.

Spending Our Time

We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.
Psalm 39:6-7, NLT*

Deep in our spirits, if we pause long enough to listen, don’t we know the truth of these verses?

Whether we’re heaping up wealth like the psalmist’s example, stacking up accomplishments, or just trying to keep ahead of the demands of the day, we can be caught in this frenetic cycle of producing more.

At the end of our lives, what really matters? (Click to tweet.)

Yes, we need to provide for our families, be faithful to our employers or our callings, but aren’t these means to an end?

Isn’t it really about the relationships: with family, friends, strangers… with God?

The Shorter Westminster Catechism speaks to me even though it’s not part of my denominational heritage. In part it says:

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

We were made for activity, work and responsibility, but not to worship these things. (Click to tweet.)

Let’s pray with David, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.” (Psalm 39: 4a, NLT*) And, Lord, open our eyes to the best way to spend that time—and with whom.

In each day, Lord, each moment, remind us that You’re present. Help us learn to love and enjoy You—and the people in our lives—in the process of doing life. Help us learn to be, not just to do.

Here’s a song from Third Day to remind us of our focus: “My Hope is in You.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Working Together

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.
Romans 12: 4-6a, NLT*

In late 2011 I had a short-term job as part of a small team. Sometimes we were two, sometimes three. We had the common goal of distributing Christmas help to needy families.

There were a lot of details, loose ends, and sometimes a flood of volunteers needing direction. My supervisor could stop, look at the big picture, and direct traffic. Time and again, she turned a chaotic group of people into focused workers, each with his/her own task contributing to the whole.

I’d have been hiding in the corner, whimpering.

But I could handle the paperwork details. And she balanced my details and kept me from focusing on one tree and missing the forest.

We worked together in unity, each appreciating what the other did. There was no competition or self-pity that we weren’t the best at everything. Nor was there resentment of the other for not having the same abilities.

In our families, our workplaces, our churches… we have different gifts and we need each other. The problem is, some gifts can come wrapped in argumentative, competitive or just plain difficult packages. And sometimes we get difficult, feel unappreciated… “Why am I always the one who has to do this? Couldn’t someone else take a turn?”

God who formed us and who is patiently shaping us into who You designed us to be, thank You for our differences. Forgive us our impatience with one another. Forgive us our resentment of one another’s shortcomings, real or perceived. Help us see how we fit together, especially as families and as the church. Help us submit to You and to one another, help us to love one another and to give grace to cover the difficult spots. Help us value unity more than getting our own way. Make us one, as You are one.

I couldn’t find a video of Geoff Moore’s “The Body of Christ” (from his Saying Grace album) so here’s something a little different that the Lord provided for me. Please don’t look for accurate theology; take what’s true and applicable and remember that the power behind our oneness is Jesus Christ. This is from Disney’s Lion King 2: “We Are One.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


Built into God’s Home

God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.
Ephesians 2:20-22, MSG*

I love the way The Message puts this: God building a home, fitting each brick and stone, each of us built into it.

The individual bricks and stones may be a variety of sizes, shapes, colours and textures, but each one has a place and we need to cooperate with God as He fits us into our spot. As the builder, God applies the mortar to join us together, but first He cleans us. You wouldn’t stick a dirty brick into a wall, either for aesthetics or for optimal adherence.

I’m challenged by how much dirt floats around a construction site and what that might look like in our congregations and other Christian groups. Irritation builds up, we start noticing that others aren’t doing things our way. We focus on weaknesses instead of strengths.

Creator God who loves and saves us, thank You for building each of your children into a holy temple where You can dwell. You’ve cleaned us and you’re building us, but help us remember our ongoing need to keep clean. Forgive us for the gunk that accumulates so quickly, and help us keep working at it. Thinner layers are easier to scrub off and don’t dim our shine as badly.

Brian Doerksen’s song, “Welcome to the Place of Level Ground,” reminds us we’re all equally dependent on God’s grace.

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson