It’s February -- the month of loooooveeee. If you look up on Google the definition of love -- you will get the response from up above. But I would say, the definition of love is not typically that clear and concise to fit in the boxes of those definitions -- as there are many different types of love. Even in Scripture there are three main words that are used to describe different types of love; Philia – friend bond, Eros – romantic love, and Agape – unconditional "God" love.
Love is something in scripture that we are called to do but how do we do it? Recently, I was in Bible study with our young adult small group and we were going over the book of 1 Peter. As we were reading a verse popped out at me, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love (philia) for each other, love (agape) one another deeply, from the heart,” 1 Peter 1:22. Look at the two different types of love that are stated within this sentence. First, the brotherly love is mentioned and then it dives into a deeper love -- an unconditional love that we are called to have for one another. Do you feel like our nation is lacking love? Do you feel like your life is lacking connection with those that you love?
Maybe, you are struggling to love those that God has placed in your life? I truly believe that we have gone away from the practice of loving one another with unconditional love. I don’t know if ever since the fall, we will truly ever get it right. We love people on conditions -- that they believe in the same things we do, that they support the same causes that we do, that they vote the way we do, act the way we do, and overall -- that they are the same as we are. But the problem is that isn’t unconditional love at all. When we look at the popular verse of 1 Corinthians it explains all that love is and what love is not; love is not self-seeking, is not proud, not quick to anger, holds no record of wrongs; it is patient and kind. Sounds like all the things that the world is replacing love with -- right?
We live in a world that is self-seeking, that is proud, that is angry, and that is displaying wrongs left and right. Now don’t get me wrong, some things are justified and we need to hold accountable people for their actions. However, what would the world truly look like if we loved people with unconditional love? If we stopped fighting over everything and just listened? If we were patient with people regardless of what we hold so dear to be true? What if we put down our agendas and looked into the eyes of the human (that God created, btw) and saw the love of Christ instead of what we want to get through to them? I happen to believe that the world would be a lot less messy of a place. However, we fall -- we fail -- we make mistakes.
That is where forgiveness comes in -- which is a part of loving people unconditionally. A forgiveness that was bought for us on the Cross. A forgiveness that cannot be taken away. I pray that as a nation -- we can love one another unconditionally with the love that Jesus Christ himself died for, poured into our hearts, and asks us to give to others. I pray that we can forgive one another -- truthfully, forgive -- and see how God’s resurrecting power is within us, our relationships, and our nation. We are not alone in this, for we have the perfect example in Christ. And if He is within us, for us, and leading us -- we can move mountains.
So how are you going to love better in 2021? How are you going to love with unconditional love? Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to ask forgiveness from? How can you follow Jesus in loving your family, your spouse, your children, your co-workers, your community, your nation in a more pure hearted way? I pray this for you in 2021. I pray this for me. I pray this for our nation. May the love of God rest in your hearts both now and always.
In His Love,
Winter is normally people's least favorite season, as YouGov states that only 7% of the population would say that Winter is their favorite season (especially if you live in the North where temps can drop lower than -30, YUCK!). I know that during the winter all I want to do is stay inside and cozy up with a hot cup of tea or hot chocolate and stay warm. Whether that be with a loved one, a book, or with my favorite tv show, I enjoy that part of winter.
However, this year has felt like winter on repeat - minus the cozy fire and warm drinks. So much time settling in our houses and having “quiet time” or if you have kids hiding in the closet ‘quiet time’”. A quote that I find to be true is, "Winter reminds us that everyone and everything needs some quiet time." - Katrina Mayer. Winter does have that reflective quality; it causes us to take time to enjoy those around us and the quiet moments of sitting by the fire or watching the Christmas lights glimmer. It captivates. There can be beauty found in the silence of winter.
Even the Bible reminds us that the season of winter was planned for a purpose (not just to make us cherish summer more). In Gen. 8:22, "As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease," and also in Psalm 74:17, "It was you who set all the boundaries of earth; you made both summer and winter." Often we can find the winter silence to be uncomfortable or depressing. As an extrovert and someone that drives off of sunlight -- winter is a hard season for me. It is hard because of its limits in socializing (especially in a COVID year), the slowness of things to do, the cold air that makes you want to not go anywhere or do anything, and the darkness that comes out right when you get out of work. So how are you doing this winter? Are you enjoying the quiet? Has this year taken so much out of you that winter seems even more depressing? Are you finding the joy in another changing season? How are you really doing?
January is a new month, the start of new year, new possibilities, and a new hope. If you are feeling down, depressed, trying to find the light... Make it your goal this January to reach out to someone. If you don’t feel like you have a place to go, contact us at Shepherd of the Hills -- we are here for you and willing to listen. If you are living the dream and loving this season, find time to spread some joy to those around you -- maybe with a card, phone call, or even a hot meal dropped off at their door-step. Winter is the perfect time to replenish and renew ourselves and to focus more on the Lord. Though the world may seem bleak and gray outside, we always have the love of Jesus to warm our hearts and homes and help us see the light in the darkness. I pray that however your new year is starting, that you are able to continue to grow in trust, love, patience, and hope that can only be found in the Lord.
Blessings to you this new year!
"How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?" - Dr. Seuss
It may only seem natural that my mind feels like it is in warp speed mode lately. So many things to think about, to plan about, to figure out… and it feels like time is just flying by. The other day, I sat thinking about how I am coming up on being here for an entire year! What a year it has been, right? Just like time has flown by at the same time it feels like it has been a lot longer with all of the changes, adaptations, new ways of doing ministry, and trying to navigate the un-navigable of a pandemic.
Time is a funny thing -- either we feel that it is going to slow or it is speeding past us. The holidays can be just that, speeding right past us and before we know it we are in a ThanksChristmas blur. Does this holiday season feel differently for you? Maybe you are feeling that this may be the most unhurried holiday season that you have ever had -- with canceled in-person Christmas’, holiday parties, and rearranged activities -- it seems to be turning out to be a very unhurried season. It may even make us long for the time that it was filled with all the plans and running around from here to there (I don’t think anyone thought they would miss that…).
I was reading a devotion about the un-hurriedness of the holiday season and how to achieve it -- granted this was before a pandemic hit. However, in this article, one part really hit me. The author was talking about the first Christmas and what the shepherds probably thought. They may have been in a hurry to probably see the baby that was born -- the savior, but when they arrived, I am sure like many of us when we see a newborn -- they settled down, they stood in awe, they marveled at the baby, and they stopped hurrying.
What if we stopped hurrying? What if we took time during this crazy COVID situation that we are in and gave thanks for the unhurriedness? What if we slowed down and enjoyed the moments around us? What if we stopped to take it all in? A quote from the Proverbs 31 devotion, “As a result we just might discover an unhurried holiday: a season that will strengthen us spiritually instead of sapping our energy and joy. How about it? Will we pause and purpose to hurry into His presence instead of rushing from task to task? Dare we linger long enough to be refreshed by the company of the One whom the holiday is really about? The tasks will wait while we do.” I think about this as the next several months pass by even without the holiday stress and hussle -- how will I stop and enjoy the moments instead of getting caught up in all the “have-to’s” and just settling in his presence each day?
I pray that God slows down my thoughts and tasks to truly bask in the presence of the blessings He has given around me, the miracle that He is creating inside me, and the miracle that He created so long ago in Jesus! May you truly be reflecting on the most precious thing of this holiday season -- Jesus' birth and the birth of Salvation. May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
In His Love,
“Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son
What a beautiful reminder, right? It always warms my heart to hear it and remember to give thanks. What could be more fitting for November and nearing Thanksgiving?
However, this year… has there been much that instantly comes to mind to be thankful for OR are you finding that this year you feel un-thankful? Un-thankful for COVID-19 and hardship caused because of it, for the election, for separation in our country, for family feuds because of the above, for financial issues that have put strife in your life, and couldn’t the list go on and on. That isn’t even mentioning the other medical issues, heartbreak, financial burdens, and issues at hand that don’t have to deal with the “state of the world”. There is always going to be a lot to be un-thankful for because we live in a sinful and broken world. However, that wouldn’t make a very good thanksgiving toast, right?
I love thanksgiving time and the purpose that it has served for my family and I. We would sit around the table and talk about what we were thankful for that year. Granted, most of the time, if not all the time, it would not be for the things that went wrong in our year… but all the things that went right. The beautiful things of marriage or being with family, a job raise or a healthy report back from the doctor, maybe even a new baby or a special moment with a loved one.
So, how do we do it? How do we refocus to having a thankful heart when it feels like the thankful parts are not there? The main question is, what are you focusing on? When I think about what to be thankful for this year -- of course, many things can come to mind. Time spent with my little family, refocusing on what truly matters, expecting a new child to our family, being able to serve God here at Shepherd of the Hills, and much more… But all that is the highlight reel of 2020 and could be taken away. So what can I/you be thankful for when all of that is not there and that won’t be taken away? Maybe you don’t have a list of things to be thankful for or are struggling to find the one thing.
Back to my refocusing idea, what is it that we are focusing on? Is it the one thing that no matter what we can be thankful for? The gift that God gave in His Son. He did that for you. He planned that for you. He did and planned that for all His people! He made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live with Him. So while you sit around your family table and ask the question of what are you thankful for… I hope you think of what He has given us -- not in material needs or health needs, but in the spiritual need that you and I both have. I know it is easier said than done to have a grateful heart with everything going on around. I hope this helps to encourage you to keep refocusing on Christ; as the devil will try to distract us from that joy that can’t be taken from you or I. That joy in the gift that is given to us in Jesus Christ dying and rising again for us! Something we can surely be grateful for this holiday season and always. I leave you again with the lyrics of this hymn to reflect. “Give thanks with a grateful heart. Give thanks to the Holy One. Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son. And now let the weak say, "I am strong." Let the poor say, "I am rich.” Because of what the Lord has done for us. Give Thanks.” May you give thanks this season!
In His Love,
You know those moments that stop you in your tracks and make you think. You know those people that seem to always do that for you. Well, about a year ago, my best friend wrote something on Facebook that still has stuck in my mind today. He shared this story and it captivated me that I wanted to share it with you all,
Hearing his story and reflection on his experience truly got me thinking about how easy it is to be distracted by the voices of this world and hard it is to truly hone into the word of God. I think it is important to remember that Satan poses as an angel of light trying to convince us that what he has for us is beneficial to our lives; when it is not. Now my friend never found out if that ladies intentions were true but I have had friends who have been swindled by people who have seemed to have “good intentions” when in the end it was false. Does that mean that we stop giving to the homeless or believing people who are going through rough times? Does it mean that people asking for money in front of Walmart for children in other countries are all swindlers? No, it doesn’t mean that.
However, it does mean that we need to be aware. Not only in front of Walmart or another store we shop at but in our everyday lives. We need to be alert that the devil will try to sway us out of our joy, peace, clarity, faith, trust, and hope. In those moments, who are you listening to? When is the last time that you stopped to listen to what you are being told or what you are telling yourself and checked to see if it is God's voice or the World's? I challenge you to stop and do a heart/ear check… who is guiding you? And then call out to God, ask Him if that voice you have been listening to is the wrong voice or His voice. Talk with Him about giving you the strength to discern His voice. Spend time in His Word -- listening to His voice. Ask that He guides you if you have been listening to the wrong voices back to His voice. God is always listening, always there, and calls us by our true name -- Child of God --the devil has no victory over Him. Trust in that victory and lean into His discernment. I pray that you are able to be guided by His voice and trusting in His promises each and every day.
“If only I could just prepare for…” You fill in the blank. Ending with, “I would feel a whole lot more….” Again, you fill in the blank with something like -- peace, secure, comforted, trusting, etc. I feel like my to-do lists are mounting up and my brain is in a whirlwind as we figure out how to “prepare for” all the different situations that could arise. For some of us right now, we don’t know how to prepare or what to prepare for. How do you prepare when you don’t know what is up ahead, advice is different on all sides, and you don’t know what is true? Trust me. I get it.
I feel for those that are trying to prepare for students to go back to school -- whether that is administration making policies and procedures, teachers having to figure out online/in-class learning, parents trying to get themselves and kids ready for these new changes… If only someone could give me the to-do list to make this easy, I could be better prepared and then I would feel…. Do you see where I am going here? What I am saying is -- if only I could have control of my life -- everything would workout. However, we know as Christian’s that it can be a recipe for disaster. We know that if we are driving, we will either 1. Go straight into a ditch from exhaustion or 2. Go straight into a ditch because we will get distracted rather than focusing on the road up ahead aka God.
There is a quote from Jesus Always that I have saved in my prayer journal and it seems fitting that I was looking over my prayers the other night and was reminded of my need for this right now -- “You are looking ahead at uncertainties, letting them unnerve you. Fear and discouragement are waiting alongside your pathway into the future-- ready to accompany you if you let them. Yet I am always with you, holding you by your right hand. Because I live beyond time, I am also on the path up ahead -- shining brightly, beckoning you on, encouraging you to fix your gaze on Me.” No matter what is up ahead that I can’t see and even in those moments that I try to plan out what will happen -- God is in control of it and He CAN see it. He knows the twists and turns of the future -- for me, for you, for Shepherd of the Hills, for our Nation, for the COVID-19 virus, for schools starting up, for Racial Reconciliation, for families, for marriages, AND let it be know-- He is guiding us along the way.
If you are feeling discouraged right now while trying to prepare, feeling overwhelmed, feeling like you don’t know what way is up or down -- please remember, Christ is there. He is with you in this and walking alongside you in the messy. He knows what is up ahead and how wonderful is that peace to know that we won’t ever go a day without Him; even when this life comes to an end. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8. I pray as you are making decisions and plans for the future -- that you pray; that you take time to reflect with God, that you give over your fear and worry to God, and then that you listen. That you still yourself long enough to hear what He has to say. That you open up His Word and rest in the infallible truth that is within it. I also urge you to pray for Shepherd of the Hills, as we continue to plan, prepare, and carry out ministry here in an uncertain time -- may God continue to guide us, like I know He will.
In His Love,
Last month, I celebrated a start to a new decade in my life. I was looking back on the last decade and have been amazed at how much has happened since -- I have graduated college, moved to a different state, met the love of my life, got married, had a baby, moved back to Wisconsin, and bought a house. Let’s just say that all sounds really impressive and very inspiring but what people don’t always see is the journey to get there. It wasn’t always impressive, it wasn’t alway perfectly written out like above.
The past decade had its moments of confusion, doubt, depression, loneliness, questioning, fear, sadness, and much more. It is funny when looking back, the first things that come to my mind are the joys -- maybe it is the same for you. Maybe when looking back on something you are able to smile and laugh and find all the good memories and milestones that you had. However, you look at it -- I survived another decade and I am sure that this next one will have its own share of joys, milestones, and also heartbreaking moments. I don’t know what will happen, but what I do know is that no matter the decade, no matter the year, no matter the circumstance or situation -- God has been with me and will always be with me.
He promises it in His Word. He was there with me when I got my bachelor’s and he was there with me while I struggled with being away from family and friends. I don’t know what challenges that you are currently facing -- I don’t know what the next decade of life holds for you and me -- but I will always point to the one that does, God! I pray that this can be said of my next decade, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate,” Proverbs 31:25-31.
I pray that I continue to share the One that gives me hope, the one that keeps me in His hands, and the one who guides my steps. I pray that for you too! How do you plan to spend the next decade? I pray that we are able to enjoy being together figuring it out and am so happy to be spending the starting of this next decade of life with you here at Shepherd of the Hills.
Director of Family Life Ministry
Cha·os /ˈkāˌäs/ noun
Calm /kä(l)m/ adjective
I put these definitions before you because I am guessing that you have heard/read both probably 200 times today. We hear these words on a typical basis with the world that we live in but definitely in a time like this. It is pure chaos at the grocery stores, in our government, in our homes, at work, in small businesses, in large businesses, in our schools, in our churches, and the list could go on and on. It is an exhaustive list of chaos. For us at the church, none of us can say that we have ministered through this type of chaos before. Sure, there has been chaos in our lives before, in the church life before, and in our community -- but none like this. Atleast, not in my lifetime. In the chaos -- there is fear, anxiety, worry, trembling… it is almost stilling the amount. We are worried about ourselves, our families, our brothers and sisters in Christ, about our community, our nation, our economy, our nurses and healthcare professionals, etc. I am sure all these thoughts have run through your mind, as they have mine. But here lies the truth -- there is A CALM in the chaos of any disaster, trial, disease, and especially COVID-19.
So how do we do it? How do we amidst all of this, find the calm in the chaos? How do we rally together when social distancing is pushing us apart? How do we create community and encourage one another when face-to-face is not an option? I don’t know all the answers but I do know one -- we have the same God yesterday, today, and forever(Hebrews 13:8). We have a God who loves His people and is with us in all of this. We have a God that is seeing His people struggling and is hoping instead of turning to everything else that we turn towards Him! We have a God that has given us incredible people, resources, and abilities to get us through this time. I pray for our doctors, nurses, and those in the medical and research fields that God uses their talents to find something to help cure, aid, and prevent this virus. I pray for our community in all ways that we are able to rally together in this (with social distancing) by calling each other, reaching out in prayer and love, and helping where we can. I pray for the Church as we navigate how to minister to those from a distance. Something that I know Shepherd of the Hills has been actively doing these past few days. We want you to know Christ, to receive Christ, to grow in Him -- and we want to help you do that always. So with that being said, I have come up with a list of resources and things that I will be doing till we are able to meet in person again for our families, youth, and children ministries. Please take a look at the letters below pertaining to your family needs. We will have the opportunity to grow together through this (all while keeping our distance). If you have an idea, if you have a thought, if you would like to see something -- please let me know. I want to help you!
Lastly, I want to talk about the calm. I know that this is not a calming time for many. I know that me saying to be calm or breathe is not something you haven’t tried to do or thought about doing. I know that it is not as simple as that. But another thing that I know is that God is with us even in the times where chaos seems to close in. God is fighting for us even when we feel like the fight is too much. God knows us and the struggles that we face and He calls us to trust in Him. Last month, I wrote about baby steps -- maybe you take baby steps day by day in releasing this worry and fear… just know we have a God that sees that and is with you every step of the way. “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
In His Love,
Director of Family Life
The past couple days, I have been reflecting on this past year, as my daughter will be turning 1 in March. Most days, it blows my mind that a year has gone by looking at this beautiful little girl and how much she has grown. How did a little baby that use to be so small that my husband was worried that he would break her to now holding her in a football hold with no problem. She is growing into her personality and it has been beautiful to watch.
Each day of her life, she has made baby steps -- to eating big girl foods, to crawling, to standing, to babbling, to clapping -- baby steps. I feel like in any part of life, in any season, in any change, we are still continuing to take baby steps. Maybe, you took baby steps in getting healthy by going to the gym or eating healthy food. Maybe, you took baby steps financially by putting a part of your paycheck into savings or paying off debt that accrued. Maybe, your baby steps were of a spiritual nature by starting to read your bible everyday or going to church for the first time in a while. Whatever your baby step in life may be -- they are all important and foundational.
Last month, I wrote about how we are focusing on building this year with our 2020 vision -- but in order to build and keep building there will be a lot of baby steps along the way (and maybe a large leep or two); and that is okay. We have a God that wants for us to follow him -- even if it takes us a few baby steps to get us to running full speed after him. How are you taking baby steps to grow closer to him? My daughter is not walking yet but soon enough she will get there.
I have heard stories from people who say that once they start walking -- get ready, your world will change forever. How fitting! Once we start taking those small baby steps and learn to walk with the Lord -- our world is changed forever. After the baby steps, we can find ourselves on full run with God -- not saying that we won’t stumble a few times here and there; which we will. However, that is where our loving God picks us up, dusts us off, and walks alongside us. Scripture often paints a beautiful picture of this in which David talks about in the Psalms, “When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me,” Psalm 94:18.
We have a God that sees our baby steps. He encourages us. He supports us. He is with us! We shall not fear taking a step forward for He is our guide. So, what steps are you taking? Where is God leading you to grow? Is it financially, spiritually, physically, emotionally? As a husband, wife, daughter, son, sister, brother? How can you be intentional with planning those baby steps? Maybe, that is the first step of it all -- planning the step you will take. I challenge you to take a look and plan the next step, wobbly and all, and I pray that God continues to guide you in each step you take.
One of my favorite things to do with my daughter is playing with blocks. She really doesn’t know how to play with them yet but we are learning. I make these beautiful tall towers and spend time making sure that everything is in the correct place and then my daughter comes in and…. knocks it all down!!! Then do it again by creating another tower, she comes and again knocks it all down!
This becomes a continuous theme and she giggles and smiles as she fast crawls towards my beautiful tower like a defensive player ready for the tackle. It is joyous for her to tear down my beautiful tower but in turn is a bonding moment for us as we learn how to play with blocks and to build back up. Shepherd of thre Hills is in a time of rebuilding and the focus of 2020 is just that -- building.
Even though tearing down and starting new is something scary, something unknown, and can be tough process; there is a beauty that comes from building back up. There is a beauty in the unknown, the tough stuff, the scary. A beauty that lies just beyond what is safe and predictable. It gives Shepherd of the Hills the chance to focus on what are our goals for the new decade with this new 2020 vision that we have.
The thing is building takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen alone. In my past month of being here, I have been blessed to be meeting with people from all areas of ministry and in the congregation. I have loved seeing the people of God coming together to continue to build the ministry here at Shepherd of the Hills. I have enjoyed learning where the foundation is and figuring out where we build from here. It takes a lot of people to make ministry happen and I am happy to say that Shepherd of the Hills has pretty fantastic and faithful people.
Building won’t be easy, it is going to require compromise, listening, loving, forgiving, educating, and communication. It is the body of Christ doing what God has called the body of Christ to do -- build each other up in love. 1 Thes. 5:10-11 talks about this, “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Being new here, I am excited to see where God is going to take this building year.
I pray that we are able to reach out into our community by building connections, building our new building that more may join us in worship and praise, building the staff as we continue to pour into each other and the people we bring Jesus to, and building the generosity as we learn to give our time, talents, and money to growing the kingdom. It will be a growing year. I would love to learn from you. Thank you for the warm welcome and I look forward to continuing to build on that foundation that is set in Christ.
Director of Family Life Ministry
Jessica Tibben was installed as Director of Family Life at SHLC in December 2019. She was previously working in Denison, IA as Director of Youth and Family Ministry for the past 5 years. She loves being able to serve both youth and families and bringing them to know more about Jesus.