Encouragement for Parents

How are you moms and dads? If you were to use one word to describe how you have been the past couple of weeks what would it be? Here are the words I have been hearing lately: busy, stressed, tired, frantic, frustrated, irritated. Do you ever feel like that? In the middle of the parenting race do you ever feel alone or like you are pulled in every direction with no end in sight? Spring seems to do that to us. School is busy, sports are starting up, winter is winding down and our kids’ are wound up from being inside for so many months. I just want to take a minute and share three little bits of encouragement with all of the tired and worn out moms and dads or caregivers out there.

1. Jesus wants to give you rest. Are you weary? Let Him carry your burdens today. Let Him lighten your load. How do you rest in Jesus? Is it in His Word? Take time to read a Psalm. Is it in prayer? Spend a few minutes on your knees today. Invite your kids to worship with you as you dance to some praise music. Take 10 minutes to reflect on God’s goodness as you scroll through pictures on your phone. Take a walk and let God’s creation nourish you today. Whatever it is that lets you rest in Jesus – make that a number 1 priority so that the King of Kings can sustain you today.

2. Enjoy your child today! Do you ever feel the burden of what you “should” be doing as a parent? Or expectations of who your child “Should” be? Is your calendar dictating how you show up as a parent today? When we know God’s grace and understand the freedom that comes with His love, we are released to do that with others – especially our children. Can I give you permission today to release yourself and your children from those “shoulds” for a period of time so you can just enjoy each other? Your child is God’s handcrafted masterpiece – knit together and given to you as a gift. God wants you to enjoy that gift! What amazes you about your child(ren)? What causes you to delight in them? Make a list – and then share that list with them today. Then, kneel down (or look up if you have a teen!), look them in the eye, and say “I really like you.”

3. Finally – just know that you are doing great, mom and dad! God gave you your child because he trusts you. He wants you to be the unique parent you are to the unique child he created and entrusted you with. Together with God, you’ve got this parenting thing. You are doing just fine, and you, too, are immensely loved by God.

Do you have encouragement you want to share with other parents or caregivers? Send that to me at epowers@livelifetogether.com.

 

Pause Your Agenda for Better Listening

 

 

Is your personal agenda getting in the way of listening well to your neighbors?

Relationships beg for authentic lifestyle (our talk and walk match up), transparency (a view into our lifestyle), and vulnerability (the willingness to share bad with the good). The idiom "garbage in, garbage out" holds true in our conversations with our neighbors. If we want our neighbors to be defensive, we'll hit them over the head with what is right. If we want to understand our neighbor’s core issues, we'll pause our agendas and listen intently.

Love for our neighbor trumps our agenda every time.

 

3 Ways to Pause Our Agenda

Make Relationship, not agenda, your top priority. For all of us this requires a shift in mindset. A relational mindset pauses our agenda, because without relationship, we have not been given license to talk about our neighbor’s core issues, or our own for that matter.

Key Question: Will this conversation end quickly, depending on what my neighbor thinks of my agenda, or will it last however long is needed to lay the foundations for an authentic relationship?

Be truth first, speak truth later. If our neighbors perceive inconsistency between what we do and what we say, we create a distraction that renders our message moot. The saying "actions speak louder than words" has no better application than when Jesus followers listen to their neighbors. Of the kinds of noise that can enter a conversation, a mismatch between what we say and how we act diminishes trust the most because we are not perceived as trustworthy.

We can pause our agenda by bringing our words and actions into alignment. Doing so creates a platform from which we can launch long-lasting authentic relationships – the kind of relationships that allow us to discuss with our neighbors the meatiest, most core issues of life. If we will be truth first, we will have opportunity to speak truth later.

Key Question: Is how I behave congruent with what I say?

Listen as a Learner. We can pause our agenda by listening as learners. Learners have many qualities that make them exceptional listeners. Here are four…

  • As learners, we understand that every conversation is part of a larger context that either muddies or adds clarity to what is being spoken and heard. We understand how the context will shape the meaning of conversations we have with neighbors.
  • As learners, we value the contribution of our neighbors and will actively listen for our own transformation as much as for the transformation of our neighbors. We see the difficultly of pursuing our own agenda when we recognize that our neighbors have something to teach us as well. This levels the playing field, allowing more authenticity and vulnerability between us and our neighbors.
  • As learners, we are slow to judge because we know that the more quickly we reach judgement, the more quickly we stop learning. Without learning, we will not have relationships. Any relationship we have, be it with friends, family, or neighbors, requires constant learning on our part. When we stop investing in people through learning about them, our relationship with them evaporates. Judgement is the great terminator of relationships.
  • As learners, we make the effort to listen even when what is said is disagreeable or offensive to us. This can be hard work and tiring. Learners will hang in there, always seeking to understand. Our neighbor will know whether we are listening by observing our non-verbal communication.

Key Question: What qualities do I have that suggest I am a learner?

What to do now: Have a conversation with a neighbor in which you pause your agenda and listen as a learner. Make an effort to understand your context, be slow to judge, and appreciate your neighbor’s contribution.

 

Campfires and Connections

I love campfires!  Sitting outside around a firepit and watching the flames, it can be mesmerizing.  There is a very basic truth about fire, if you take one of the logs out of the fire and place it alone off to the side, it quickly burns out and grows cold.   When I think about lifeGroup, I think about how important it is to stay connected to others to stay on fire in my faith. To sustain the life giving habits of following Jesus we need each other.  

 

In John 10:10 Jesus says: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

 

Satan is the thief and part of how he comes to steal and kill and destroy is in keeping us isolated and alone.  Thinking we can be just fine on our own. Convincing us that it is just easier to not get involved with other people. Those are lies. And Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). He works overtime convincing you to not make the effort of a weekly lifeGroup gathering.  

 

The truth is we are better together than we are alone. We were reminded recently in the sermon about lifeGroup that it is a beautiful mess.  No one has said that it is an easy commitment to make. No one says that every time you gather it will be amazing.  We have however said that it is of great value. Risking knowing people at a deeper level than just hello on Sunday mornings allows for relationships you can depend on in time of need, people you can genuinely celebrate with, and brothers and sisters who really care.


If you are currently experiencing the beautiful mess of living life together with others, who could you invite to join you in lifeGroup?  Who do you know either in the Church or in your neighborhood that would benefit from growing closer to Jesus as they would grow closer to others?  If you are not currently in a lifeGroup, contact me and let’s see if we can connect you to a lifeGroup.  Or check out the leaders on our website and contact one of them.
 

Boldness and Doubt

I am such a mixture of boldness and doubt; courage and timidity.

Jesus is so patient, so gracious.

In Matthew 14 Jesus invites Peter to walk on the water. It’s a simple invitation: “Come!” Peter gets out of the boat. No hesitation. He set his sites on Jesus, out on the water, and takes the risky step forward. Such boldness. “But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (vs. 30) Oh, Peter, such a mixture of boldness and doubt.

Standing in front of the Annual Meeting on December 13th and introducing our God-sized initiative for 2016 was a bold move. The initiative has two major benchmarks:

  • 200 people making 16 invitations to friends, neighbors, family to join them where they are enthusiastically involved in the Church’s strategy.
  • Raise our annual revenue by 16%

So, being the mixture of boldness and doubt that I am, almost immediately after that meeting in December, I began to ask: “Will our people invite? Will they step up and give?”

My courage was tested when the first monthly financial report came in a few days ago. Where was the boldness? Where was the confidence that led us to set the bar high for 2016? Staring at the email which contained the January financials, I was confronted with my own doubt. I was timid. Hoping for the best, yet pessimistic, I opened te email.

$51 more in revenue than we had budgeted.

Come on, really? Really.

And, Jesus reaches out His hand takes hold of mine and says to me, “You of little faith, why do you doubt?” (vs. 31) Exactly, Lord! Why do I?  Please pray for me as I make this Psalm my affirmation for the day:  When I am afraid, I will put my trust in YOU. Psalm 56:3

And, may our gracious, patient and all-powerful Lord continue to multiply His gifts in us and through us to the glory of His name, and the success of our shared mission to connect people to life in Jesus!

P.S.  As of the writing of this article we have counted (that we are aware of ) 55 different people who have made a total of 160 invitations.  Wow! Yay, God!  Lord, I believe. Help me with my unbelief!

 

 

Small Shift, Big Blessing

Let me share a story with you and a lesson I recently learned. I was looking on Facebook and noticing all sorts of pictures of beautiful sunsets that people were capturing from one particular evening. I had noticed the pretty sky that evening as well, but from my living room window my view only has a small slice of the western sky. I found myself being a little envious of those people who have a wide open view of the sun setting each night from their home. Instead of complaining, or coming up with excuses the next evening I checked what time the sun was going to set and I intentionally got myself to a place for a perfect view of God’s amazing artwork. I was not disappointed as I sat on the grass at the top of a hill and watched the sun set.  

It didn’t take much for me to move from my living room to a place where I could see the sun set better. It was a small shift in location, and I was intentional about following through on my idea.

Is there a shift that you need to make to take part in the blessing of living life together with others in lifeGroup?

Perhaps there is a shift in your calendar of activities that needs to be made. Is there one night a week that you can set aside as a family to put lifeGroup as a priority? What do you need to be intentional about following through on? Has someone invited you to lifeGroup but you have come up with all sorts of reasons why you can’t go? Maybe you could be intentional about saying yes, or contacting them and asking if you could come check it out. If you are in a lifeGroup, who could you invite to join you?


I have been blessed over and over again by gathering weekly with other Jesus followers. There is encouragement and challenge and laughter and prayer support. There is depth of relationships that goes far beyond “Hi, how’s it going?” on a Sunday morning. They are people that I care about and they genuinely care about me. They remind me of God’s promises and his faithfulness. Living life together with others and connecting in lifeGroup is a gift. Being able to multiply those groups so more and more people can take part in them is a privilege and a joy.