Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Same Team

The Same Team || Mary Carver | marycarver.com
My husband and I spent our 13th wedding anniversary with a marriage counselor. It was more romantic than it sounds. And while I can’t tell you we have a perfect relationship now, we will celebrate our 20th anniversary this year in a much better, healthier place than we could have imagined on that day seven years ago. What helped us most was our lousy counselor and the knowledge that we were on the same team. At first our counselor seemed nice, but eventually we came to the conclusion that she was actually a terrible counselor. She asked bizarre questions, focused on the least important part of our discussions, and assigned us ridiculous homework. And each time we met with her, we had to remind her about our background, our problem, and our progress. So the counselor we saw wasn’t great, but coming to that conclusion with my husband, though – Kind of great. Throughout our relationship, the thing that glued us together was the mindset of “we’re in this thing together; we’re on the same team.” And we’d forgotten that. Being on the same team meant we fought together, not fought each other. It meant we recognized the true enemy (hint: it wasn’t either one of us or even our counselor!). For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. - Ephesians 6:12 After years of unmet expectations and disappointments, we’d unknowingly worked ourselves into a combative relationship. It was me against him, and neither of us was winning. When we took time to reflect on our relationship – the good and the bad parts – we remembered that the times we felt the closest were when we worked together on a project, when we faced a common “enemy,” when we cheered for the same team. Nothing changed our attitudes faster or led to more healing than when we realized that the team we needed to cheer for was us. As teammates we began talking more, problem solving and coming up with ways we could fix our mess together. We turned back toward each other, linking arms and leaning on our faith, becoming as strong as a cord of three strands (Ecclesiastes 4:12). I’m not telling you that everything was roses and sunset walks after that. It was certainly a process and something we still have to remind ourselves occasionally, so we don’t fall back into old habits and turn on each other at the slightest provocation. We have to remind ourselves which team we’re cheering for. I’m thankful for that counselor, even though she was far from what we initially hoped. I’m grateful our sessions with her reminded us that we were in this together – and that we are fighting for this, for us – together.

DEEPER DISCUSSION: • What helps you remember that you and your spouse are on the same team? • What do you need to say or do that will make your team stronger?

Mary Carver is a wife, mom, writer and recovering perfectionist who lives for good books, dark chocolate and television marathons. After a lifetime of trying harder and doing more, she’s finally learning to give up on perfect and get on with life. Read more at marycarver.com

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Hospitality- Accepting Others' Invitations

Accepting Others’ Invitations || Alexandra Kuykendall | alexandrakuykendall.com

A blanket on the floor. A few cookies, goldfish crackers and carrot sticks sitting on a mishmash of plastic dishes. It all looked a little familiar. I knew where those cookies had come from and wondered how this little hostess managed to get to the package stored high up in the cupboards. Most important to this familiar scene was a girl dressed in her finest ragged princess dress thrown over the day’s regular leggings and long-sleeved T-shirt, wearing her most important accessory: a smile stretched across her face, proud of the picnic tea party she was offering. I’ve lived some version of this invitation many times in my house. I’m raising four hostesses who have spent some magic preschool years creating a “feast” and setting a table with me in mind. They’ve then approached me with “Mommy come see!”, “Sit with me!” or “I made this for you.” Turning down their invitations was never an option. I always needed to sit and admire all they had done, verbalizing my appreciation with every bite. To not, would have been to minimize their hard work in setting a space for me. Hospitality is a spirit of welcome - a posture of inclusion. It can be carried out in practical ways that often involve nourishing our bodies through food and a place to sleep. We see Jesus experiencing hospitality throughout his short life. He accepted many invitations of the mishmash sort, meals specially prepared, and places to lay his head. In most of these stories he was not the host, but the invitee accepting the gracious, yet imperfect invitation of others to welcome him in. As we consider the idea of setting the table for someone to come and join us, let us not forget to accept the invitations our neighbors offer as well. Because when we do, we acknowledge their hard work and their efforts to set a space for us. We see the special trouble they’ve gone to, no matter how humble the offering, to make us feel at home. Accepting others’ invitations is as much hospitality as offering them. Because it is the spirit of welcome we all long for.

DEEPER DISCUSSION: • When is it difficult for you to accept a neighbor’s invitation for hospitality? Why do you think it is? • Who would you like to spend more time with? How can you say “yes” to their invitations with more frequency? • How has Jesus set an example for you to accept others’ invitations? How can you bring your spirit of welcome to another’s space?

Alexandra Kuykendall, a trusted voice for Christian women, speaks on issues of how faith impacts everyday life. She is the cofounder of The Open Door Sisterhood, a community of women working to be world changers for good right where they are. She cohosts a podcast and retreat under the same name. Alex has authored four books, her most recent, Loving My Actual Neighbor. Alex lives in the shadows of downtown Denver with her husband, Derek, and their 4 daughters who range in age from 16 to 7. You can connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Perfect Advocate

Jesus – The Perfect Advocate || International Justice Mission | ijm.org

In Luke 4, Jesus returns to Nazareth to begin his ministry. In the synagogue, he reads from the words of Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. - Luke 4:18-19 We have no better model for advocating for the oppressed than Jesus. In everything he says and does, he champions for all of us; we all need rescue, redemption and love. On earth, he was never afraid to confront leaders on their shortcomings. And he willingly acted against laws that oppressed the poor, like not healing on the Sabbath, and criticized religious leaders for misusing the temple. Jesus lived a life of radical love to all those in need of a savior. His challenges to authority led to his death, but he never strayed from his message of love and justice. Christ is the perfect defender and advocate. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

- Hebrews 7:25 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. - 1 John 2:1

Let’s pray these things together: Pray against the powers perpetuating injustice and preying upon the poor and vulnerable. Praise God for his promises to bring freedom and restoration through Jesus Christ. Ask God to show you how to be his hands and feet for preaching good news to the poor, proclaiming freedom for the prisoners, and setting the oppressed free.

• Think about places in the Bible where you see Jesus as an advocate for the needy, the afflicted, the outcast and the oppressed.
• Read Luke 10:25-37 and think about how this story teaches us how we should stand up for the vulnerable.
• In what ways did Jesus model advocacy for the poor?
• How can we model the balanced attitude of justice and love like Jesus?


This study is based on a devotional created by Jessica Horner, an IJM Church Mobilization intern. Used with permission.