Minnesota Nice

When we moved to the Twin Cities, we first heard this phrase, "Minnesota Nice." Wikipedia defines it as "the stereotypical behavior of people born and raised in Minnesota to be courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered." This is the culture we live.
In meditating on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I understand that Jesus calls us to be different than the culture we are surrounded; to create a new culture superior to (even) "Minnesota Nice." The bar has been raised for those who receive Jesus' gift of salvation.
You have heard it was said, [You shall not murder...commit adultery...divorce...take an oath...retaliate...]"You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends the rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You must therefore be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48
The norm of the culture may be "nice", but (like anywhere in the United States) it's centered on me, me, me and watching the news, it's pretty common for me to complain, complain, complain. But Jesus calls us to create a better culture. He calls us to a different standard; a standard of excellence.
All summer long, I feel like a broken record, "Girls, we're not going for perfection or quick and sloppy, we're aiming for doing our best: excellence." Sure, it would be easier and even "nice" to throw your dishes on the kitchen counter, but excellent to load them in the dishwasher and start the wash cycle. I want to train them to create a better culture that thinks beyond what's easiest and best for me.
Though we live mostly among a people that have yet to receive Jesus' call of excellence, we're still called to excellence. To love them more than expected; to be more than "nice." We need to constantly be asking Jesus, how can we love better, serve more, give more, meet a need, go beyond an expectation, make it less about me?
English theologian Matthew Henry in his commentary on Matthew 5 wrote, "It is the duty of Christians to desire, and aim at, and press toward a perfection in grace and holiness, Philippians 3:12-14. And therein we must study to conform ourselves to the example of our heavenly Father, 1 Peter 1:15, 16."
Truth is, I can't love others perfectly but I am loved perfectly. I will mess up, say the wrong thing; have the wrong motives; step on someone's toes when I'm trying to be helpful, but God loves me perfectly and calls me to be like Him. I will miss the mark. I could not even try, I can't do it perfectly anyway, but Jesus says, Be different. Aim for Me. Look to Me and let Me work through you.
Am I creating a culture where I'm continually asking myself what can I do for others? How can I do whatever is on my task list with excellence? God has done much for us and by creating a better culture than the "nice" one in which we live. I can show my world a snippet of what God looks like, for His glory.
...let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
I have a friend who encourages us on fast days by saying, "Ladies, this is a get to." What a privilege to get to be more than "Minnesota Nice." To love, serve and invite others into our lives with excellence.
How is Jesus calling you today to go beyond the culture of nice? Thank Him that you get to do more than others.


Cumulus clouds stand out in stark contrast against the intense red sunrise in the northern horizon. Different from the blanket of loose clouds above them, the way these hold their shape and definition captivates my attention. And I ponder, how would I be defined by appearance and externals? I met a lot of new moms yesterday at a field trip with the calculating one and wonder what these women saw in me. How would they describe me? What did they notice about me? It seems what's going on inside a person always finds a way to bubble to the surface (Luke 6:45; Proverbs 4:23).
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand... Philippians 4:4-5
Let my reasonableness be known to everyone. The NIV translates it gentleness; the NLT: consideration; the KJV: moderation. By definition, it means equitable, fair-minded, gentle. It's greek root words literally translate to copy over. What am I suppose to copy over? I believe it's connected to the next phrase: the Lord is at hand. To show the world what God looks like. He is near, fair, gentle and in control of every detail of my life.

If am conscious of God's sovereign orchestration of all things in my life for His glory and my good, this will be apparent to those around me. And Paul goes on to tell us what this looks like on us:
...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
  • Joy, joy, joy, joy
  • Absence of anxiety
  • Communication with God
  • Trust
  • Gratitude
  • Peace
If these attributes were true of one, that person would stand out against the normal culture of fear, anxiety, selfishness and complaint like the cumulus cloud in my morning sunrise.
But how do I start? Again, Paul does not leave us hanging, he says, start with your thoughts.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9
And so when adversity creeps my way and I'm tempted to chameleon to the world's pattern of complaint and self-centeredness, sirens of alert should be going off in my head. STOP! Change course. I want to stand out against the crowd, I want to copy Jesus. Guard my thoughts. In this particularly challenging situation, what is 

  • True
  • Honorable
  • Just
  • Pure
  • Lovely
  • Admirable
  • Excellent
  • Worthy of praise?
By choosing to direct my thought patterns, my reasonableness will be known by those around me so they can see what Jesus is like. Jesus is different than the world we live in. He is love, joy, peace, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and controlled. I choose to copy Him.
What situation are you facing today that you need to stop and adjust your thought patterns so that what's in your heart beautifully bubbles up to the top and mirrors Jesus to the people in your sphere of influence? 


After an evening of disappointment and loneliness turn anger, anxiety and fear, a box of Cheerios catches my eye on the kitchen counter. Still processing my emotions from the night prior, something within bides me to pay attention to that bright yellow box. Cheerios. A heart-shaped bowl filled with wholesome oats, milk and an adorning strawberries. What about that box? 
Cheerios. Cheer-ios. The Bible uses the word cheer. 
And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. Matthew 9:2 
(When Jesus' disciples were caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee and Jesus walks on the water toward them in the boat:) For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. Mark 6:50 
(When Jesus was with his closest friends:) These things I (Jesus) have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 
(When Paul was on trial and the Jews made a plot to end his life:) And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. Acts 23:11 
(When Paul was on ship headed to Rome to stand trial for his faith he directed the ship crew in midst of a terrible storm:) "And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, 'Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.' Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me...Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat. Acts 27:22-25, 36 
This greek word is a verb, an action that means to put in good spirits, gladden, make cheerful; to be joyful, be of good cheer, of good courage. The English Standard Version translates "be of good cheer" as take heart, take courage or encouraged.
What strikes me about these verses is they are commands or directions from the Lord. (Even if God speaks to others through Paul.) God the Father, Jesus the Son and God the Holy Spirit direct us to choose to be cheerful and they make cheer possible. God says to us in the Scriptures, "(My child,) in this world you will have troubles, but take heart, have good cheer, choose to be encouraged; I have overcome the world." In the morning, cheer is possible; He is present. In the darkness, cheer is possible; God is present.
Cheerios. The i-o-s resembles Theos, the Greek for God, the creator and sustainer of all things, the One who is with us. Theos is my maker and sustainer and shelter of my heart in all times, including the tough times; a place where my heart can cheer. 
Nothing else can give real, lasting cheer: not a paid off mortgage, not a relationship, NOTHING else. He is simply 100% Pure Righteousness, Faithfulness and goodness that cheers me. May I choose to only let Him fill my heart to the brim. And if other great gifts come along, they can be the adorning strawberries in my heart-shaped bowl.
How have you tried (and failed) to fill you heart-shaped bowl? Thank God for His ability to fill and satisfy you. He sustains you and He is with you. Choose cheer.