Tag Archives: love

Not Alone

Today, instead of our home church, we attended a church with our youngest son in his college town, as we were visiting him and watching his weekend basketball games.

We joined together with strangers with whom we share a common bond of desiring to honor God by going to “His house” on Sunday mornings.

As we left the service, we heard reports that today in a church in Texas, an evil, reprehensible man carried out an evil, reprehensible act.

We may never know or understand why it happened, but we can be assured and we can assure others of what we DO know: God IS with us through absolutely every moment of our lives. We sang about it, as you can see on the screens in the photo: “I am not alone. I am not alone. You will go before me. You will never leave me.”

Other lyrics from this powerful Kari Jobe song remind us we need not fear. “In the midst of deep sorrow, I see Your light is breaking through. The dark of night will not overtake me. I am pressing into You. Lord, You fight my every battle, and I will not fear.”

And another line of the song is, “You bring healing to my soul.”  Oh, so many hurting people are in need of healing because of this senseless, horrendous event, but we know the Healer. The hashtag, “PrayersForTexas,” is thoughtful, but empty, if not accompanied by the actual act of lifting these victims’ loved ones to our Heavenly Father.

If this isn’t the time to share the love of Jesus with others, and to earnestly pray for Him to make Himself known to those that doubt Him, I don’t know when is. Love others. Pray for others. Assure others. God is here, He will never leave us, and He heals.

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Who Determines the Value of Life?

I cannot begin to know the feelings and emotions that are experienced when a medical professional states that a baby is not going to be born with the “ten-little-fingers-ten-little-toes perfection” that one initially expects. But one thing I do know: from His heavenly view, God does not look down upon newborns in hospital nurseries and ever once utter an “Oops.”

When a baby is not born how we may have originally envisioned, questions sometimes arise regarding the quality of life, but it is human-defined quality. We look at potential future and gauge it in human terms and measures.

A couple of particular families who have children with special needs have been on my mind lately. Their lives will never be the same, but their growth, maturity, and love has increased dramatically through this unexpected turn in their lives. These situations do not have to mean the end of a dream. They can signify the beginning of a new one.

Years ago, a couple brought their son to our apartment door to trick-or-treat for Halloween. He was dressed as an adorable pumpkin, and to my knowledge was unable to walk or speak. The smiles on their faces as they participated in a special family moment together are forever etched in my mind. Numerous times in the few months we lived there, I saw the father, who had a rugged and rough exterior, interact in a beautifully gentle manner with his son. I watched the mother show devotion and dedication to her boy whenever they were out and about. I will never forget the bond I observed between those parents and their cherished son. That extraordinary family modeled what genuine love looks like. And any questions in my mind about the quality of life for people who are not deemed ideal by this world’s standards disappeared forever.

In similar circumstances all over the world, we can see precious children who touch others in remarkable ways. They bring out in others the capacity to love and nurture in ways they previously did not know were possible. And parents experience a strength borne out of a love that they maybe never realized they were capable of.

The One who knit us together in our mother’s wombs gave us life. Every life is a gift from God and a gift to others. Every life is sacred, and the life lessons we learn through others are sacred. Every life is valuable and adds value to others’ lives.

God is the One to go to if we are wrestling with a question concerning quality of life. After all, He not only sees the value in all of His children, He is the One who places it there.

 

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Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;  Jeremiah 1:5a
For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

Enjoy the Ride

IMG_2734When I was a young mother, I remember being appreciative of some advice that experienced parents shared with me.

“Sleep when the baby sleeps,” “Pick your battles,” and “Time goes by quickly, so enjoy every moment with your children.” I wholeheartedly agree with these words of wisdom and have passed them along to others from time to time.

I went into motherhood armed with that short list of recommendations found above, but the list of things I didn’t know yet was much, much longer. A couple of decades of parenting has given me new insight. I’m crossing my fingers that a couple more decades will only increase the amount of knowledge! (Well, I’m praying it will, because the finger-crossing trick isn’t very effective.)

This is not a list of advice, as much as a list of “Things You Won’t Realize Until…You Realize Them.”

I now know being a mother is the most exhausting, emotional, educational, enlightening, and extraordinary experience known to mankind.

I now know that you are going to want to give anything to go through the sicknesses and injuries your children are facing in place of your child. Anything. If there was a way to do some sort of Disney-style Freaky Friday movie flip-flop, this mom and every mom I know would have found it by now.

I now know that you will want to shout it from the rooftops (and all of your social media accounts) when your child wins an award or is recognized for an achievement, but the moments when they stand up for themselves or others, stretch out their hand in kindness, or step into bold faith make you beam with an even greater pride. And those instances make you attempt to think of ways to shout from rooftops and post on social media about what an awesome human being your child is without sounding like “that mom.”

I now know that kids can bring you so much joy that the risk of being “that mom” is worth it.

I now know “mother’s intuition” is real and “perfect mothers” are not.

I now know that kids are quite forgiving of parenting mistakes, and staying mad at yourself is pointless and damaging. Decide to do better and be better. When we screw up again, we can decide to do better and be better. Again. Repeat as often as necessary.

I now know that being in unknown territory as a parent is a real feeling, but it is not a reality. God is there through it all. I mean, honestly…He is already there – the territory is not unknown to HIm. He is ready to ride along with you.

Motherhood is full of moments of triumph and turmoil; satisfaction and sorrow: glee and gloom. It is a roller-coaster ride evidenced by the fact that you will scream, throw your hands up in the air, brace yourself, laugh, hold on to your loved ones, and just when you think you can’t do it anymore, find yourself in line to get right back on and continue the ride.

Remember not to ride alone. Through every twist and turn, God is eager and willing to sit beside you, hold on to you, and guide you through unknown territory.

Singing Over You

Ever since I can remember, music has had a profound effect on me. Certain songs seemingly transport me back in time, lift my mood, and even motivate me.

Singing, songwriting, playing the piano, and leading music in my church are all activities that I treasure and consciously find time for in my life. When my life lacks music, my life feels as if it’s…lacking.

Zephaniah 3:17 is a verse that has always intrigued me…it says, “The Lord your God is in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” The entire verse is an incredible picture of Who God is, but the part that fascinates me is that He sings over us. It is so intimate; so meaningful.

I wrote a song entitled, “Singing Over You,” inspired by this cherished verse.
The lyrics are: “Feeling alone again in a crowd. Sick and tired of being left out. When tears start falling, I pray You’ll hear Him calling. May you believe His word to be true. That your God is singing over you. I see you questioning again. When will this feeling ever end? His arms are open. Bring to him a heart that’s broken. May you believe His Word to be true. That your God is singing over you.
Your Heavenly Father takes delight in who you are. He draws you closer, and He heals your wounds and scars. Give him praise. He is a God who saves. And He renews your strength. May today be the day that you hear His glorious song.
May His perfect love overwhelm you. May you believe me when I tell you: that your God loves you just the way that you are, and He sees who you can be, His love transforms us amazingly.
Your Heavenly Father takes delight in who you are. He draws you closer, and he heals your wounds and scars. Give Him praise. He is the God who saves, and He renews your strength.
May today be the day that you hear His glorious song. Over you. His glorious song.”

When a mom sings a lullaby to soothe her baby or a group of carolers lift the spirits of the disheartened with their Christmas tunes, there is an unparalleled sincerity and sweetness in those actions. This sweet sincerity can be seen, heard and felt. The song brings a sense of peace to the listener’s ears.

The verse in Zephaniah reminds us that God is a personal God. God sings over us. What a loving act by a loving God. He showers us with unequalled tenderness, devotion, and safekeeping. If you are feeling alone, lost, or less-than, remember that God is truly in your midst. As He sings over you, may the beauty of His melody and His love bring you His matchless peace.

So I Have To Love Them?

Love done right is about giving. Giving and not expecting anything in return. Basically, love done right is about loving for the sake of loving. And therefore giving others a glimpse of Jesus in a world that is in desperate need of Him.

If you were to ask me if loving people is a challenge for me, I would immediately say no! I persistently strive to love regardless of the level the love is reciprocated at. Well…as long as you are referring to family and friends and people who treat me well. In fact a pretty impressive list of people comes to mind.
But then there is that one Scripture passage that also comes to mind. You know, the passage we could all do without? The one that if it was somehow removed from the inerrant, inspired Word of God, we would not raise too much of a fuss? However, every Bible I have checked still contains these words found in Matthew 5, from the Sermon on the Mount.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”
I can proudly proclaim that I am killing it when it comes to loving those that are easy to love. (Which by the way, is not much of an accomplishment.) But when it comes to enemies?  That is another story.
In this world where rebellion is revered and absolutes are avoided, it is a good idea to remind ourselves of the good old-fashioned truth that if God tells us to do something, we should. Period.
Loving our enemies is a bold example of loving like Jesus does. It is most certainly a time when you can safely not expect anything in return! It is against our human nature to show love toward those that have hurt us and treated us badly. ESPECIALLY when we know or suspect that the love will not be reciprocated.
I have pondered spending a little time trying to find a Biblically-based teaching on NOT loving our enemies; one that justifies gossiping about, giving dirty looks to, and silently wishing bankruptcy or a mildly sprained ankle upon my enemies. However, I would be wise not to waste my time looking for a loophole…The bottom line is: God says we need to love our enemies. Oh, and pray for them too. He does not command us to do something, and then NOT give us the ability to do it. You know what that means, right? We cannot use the excuse, “I have tried, but I just can’t do it…” when attempting to justify why we aren’t following the “Love your enemies” command. If He tells us to do it, then it is possible to do it!
With God’s help, we can love others. ALL others. Imagine: love done right can come from us. What a blessing. What a responsibility. What a gift.
Lord, help us love like You. Help us give others a glimpse of Who You are by showing this world love done right. Amen

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What About Love?

A quick check of trending Twitter topics often include hashtags that involve the word, “love.” There are memes about love and movies about love. Music has a whole genre devoted to love. Songs tell us that love, sweet love, is what the world needs now, that love will keep us together, that love is a battlefield, and that love can build a bridge.

We have all heard sentences begin with, “If he loved you, he wouldn’t do such and such,” and “If she really loved you, she wouldn’t have said so and so.” Maybe you and I have started some our own sentences with something very similar.

Love. The word itself gets thrown about quite liberally, and so do opinions on it. Beliefs abound on what it should look like and sound like. How it should act and react. Unfortunately, we get bombarded by several worldly views and versions of love. Take just a moment to determine how many times you hear made-up definitions of love that are not drowning in self-centeredness and superficiality?

Recently, this thought has occurred to me: what if we quit assigning our own meanings to love and instead went directly to the Originator of love to determine what it truly is? Can you imagine what would happen if we would decide to immerse ourselves in God’s Word, which so wonderfully displays His pure and perfect love? If we would learn it and then live it? We would do well to educate ourselves on His definition, espouse it as our own, and strive to excel at living it out.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is arguably the most popular passage in the Bible regarding love. It reads: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

That is quite a list! If we strive to adhere to that list of verses when we love others, then the first three words of the very next verse (1 Corinthians 4:8) will show itself to be true: ‘Love never fails.’

Conversely, the worldly views of love that we are seemingly inundated with are prone to failure.

The instructions on how to give true, unfailing love are found in God’s Inspired Word, which we have wide-open access to.

Therefore, we can choose to research the real meaning and choose to reject the world’s meaning. We can choose to show the real meaning and choose to shun the world’s meaning.

Lord, with Your help, please help us live out true, unfailing love. Amen.

Only One Said, “Thank You”

When our children are small and they receive a gift or some sort of treat, what do we almost always hear ourselves say? When my children were little and were standing there with a new treasure, I remember saying, “What do we tell them?” or “What do we say?” to avoid any awkward, empty silence that should be filled with a sincere, “Thank you.”

The story of the ten lepers in the Bible has always aroused my curiosity. I remember the flannel-graph version when I was a child sitting in a Sunday School room in a small, red rounded-back children’s chair. I remember reading a devotion based on it when I was older. And I remember just recently being reminded of this story found in Luke 17, when a long-time prayer in my life was answered and I went about my day without even murmuring a quick, “Thank you” to God.

When my prayer request was granted in a wonderful way, I felt relief, excitement, and joy. Somehow, however, my mind skimmed right over thankfulness.  When I realized I had forgotten to thank God, the picture of the ten lepers jumped right into my mind.  Out of ten completely healed and restored men, only one came back and knelt at Jesus’ feet in gratitude for healing him of this horrible, life-changing disease.

The Message version says, “He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank Him enough.” The Living Bible version says, “He fell flat on the ground in front of Jesus, face downward in the dust,” and the New International Version says, “He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” Genuine appreciation is definitely sensed when the one receiving a gift is face-down, kneeling at your feet!

In Luke 17:17, Jesus asks where the other nine healed men are. He speaks about it with grace; in the only way Jesus would. If I were Jesus, I would most likely be saying, “Did that just happen? I miraculously made those men whole again. Did nine of them seriously go on their merry way without even a wave or a smile in my direction?”

There is a humility and a sincerity that is expressed in the simple two-word phrase that we work so hard to try to teach our children to say without reminders. “Thank you,” may seem like two simple words, but the impact made by those two words is not simple.

I am sure that you can think of a time when you felt especially validated after someone took the time to thank you for something you did or said. I am also sure that you can think of a time that you felt your kindness was taken advantage of when there was no ‘thank you’ offered.

If gratitude has been absent in your life, it is never too late to count your blessings and give thanks to others and most importantly to the ‘Ultimate Blesser’!  God is so very worthy of hearing a sincere, heart-felt “Thank You” from us. Let us take our cue from the one healed leper who knelt at His feet and could not ‘thank Him enough.’

Lord, we realize that all good gifts come from You. We thank You and we praise Your holy name. May we never take the blessings You give us for granted. Even more importantly, may we never take You for granted. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.