Do I Need to Climb Into the Pit to Understand You?

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 21:15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

 

“I don’t think anyone can understand what I’m going through, unless they have been there.”

“If you want to understand someone you have to walk a mile in their shoes.”

“You have such a good testimony. My faith has never been tested like that.”

 

I have heard statements like this for a long time and I didn’t realize why they make me cringe, until today. I state again, Jesus ate with sinners, but he did not become a sinner to understand our pain. I do not buy the idea that somehow, those who have not been touched in someway by suicide cannot understand my pain and grief. If you are in the flesh, you can understand. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

The effectiveness of our empathy for the broken comes from how closely we are relating to the love of God, not how much we relate to each other. I think I have just rebuffed about every method of psychology we use to address what ails us in that statement. If we really want to counter suicide and depression then we need to love like Jesus. Only then will we feed his sheep, sacrifice for others, take persecution and forgive our enemies.

The closer I draw to the love of my heavenly Father the more I love and am broken hearted for your pain and struggles. And, since there was no separation between Jesus and the love of God he loves us completely! This was the first truth I had to accept when I began walking with Jesus. Scripture is a love note from beginning to end, even the hard parts. From the beginning of creation God has loved us.

When Jesus asks you if you love him, what is your answer?

Perfect Loves Sweeps Out Fear

Perfectly loved, unafraid because

You make yourself

comfortable in my heart.

Wallpapering my soul

with scripture,

flinging open windows and locked doors

to the sunshine of your joy.

Removing stumbling

blocks

Removing doubt that clutters.

Lifting my face

to gaze into your

unblemished love.

Choosing

me.

Adopting me.

You are my mirror

Reflecting truth

I refused to see,

Showing me my heart

the way you see it, strengthening

my love to laugh again.

Giving Impossible Circumstances to the God of Possibilites

Edgar Allen Poe dug up Annabel Lee . . . or so the ghost tour guide in Charleston, South Carolina wanted us to believe. Often times we take bits of truth such as, Poe wrote a lot about dying women and he is shrouded in mystery and blow them up into legends. Behind Poe’s poetry on death was a real person, who himself may have been stuck in grieving and trying to figure out, is death the final blow. His father abandoned him, and his mother died when he was only 3. His siblings were split up and his foster family was tumultuous at best. He did not have guidance into a firm and secure adulthood and, I believe, became stuck in an impulsive and impetuous childhood as an adult. He tended to alienate others because he had a sharp tongue and used it often. Drinking and gambling became two of his fallbacks when life was not going his way. He could neither manage success or enjoy it. Poe’s life seemed set up to fail. His final words were reported to be, “Lord, help my poor soul.” (biography.com)

We have a real enemy who loves to attack our children. Jesus warns that the punishment is severe for those who harm our children (Matthew 18). Some of us have been born into abusive families, some of us have  hardship after hardship, and some of us have chosen our own destructive path. I am working on reading the Bible cover to cover this year and one thing is clear: GOD IS NOT LIMITED BY OUR CIRCUMSTANCES! From Adam to the end God turns the darkest of circumstances around. Rahab the prostitute is in the lineage of Jesus, Joseph the slave, saves his family who sold him into slavery, Roman occupation into the stage for a cross, a death and a resurrection.

Poe, like many of us could not see the possibilities beyond his circumstances. I tell you the truth, not even death can stop us! Jesus’ enemies thought they had cut off the head and that the disciples would fall apart. They were almost right, the disciples could not see past their fears or the grave. But, when Jesus arose and continued ministering and preparing the disciples, this band of rag-a-muffins became a powerhouse of restoration to the sick, poor, lost, hungry and all those whose circumstances seemed impossible! So, don’t think for a second that what you are experiencing is beyond hope.

http://tonynolan.org/3min-testimony-interview/

Love is a State of Being Not a State of Doing

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

4.  ____________is patient and kind; ___________ does not envy or boast; __________ is not arrogant 5or rude. __________ does not insist on its own way; ___________ is not irritable or resentful;b 6 ___________does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7___________ bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8___________ never fails.

Put your name in the blank.

1 Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter and is often quoted at weddings. But, what would happen if we put our name in the place of love? After all God is love. (1 John 4:8) How would it change us if we could say that love is not something that we do, but our state of being. Our very DNA is made of love!

There seems to be a clear shift in the disciples because they experienced first hand the love of God, through Jesus Christ. My first experience with God, he opened my eyes to his love for me. I could now see it in creation, in those around me, in scripture, in worship. The reason why scripture speaks of putting on our new selves is that love changes us, how we interact with the world, how we see ourselves and others. When someone loves at this level it is head turning!

So much of how we love is based upon what we do, not who we are.

Do you do romantic things for your spouse?

Do you speak kind words?

Do you provide encouragement for others?

Do you serve others?

Do you give to the poor?

Do you share your faith?

Paul is challenging the believer to stop doing, and start being love! Putting my name in the place where love is causes me to stop striving and start abiding in the love of Christ. Love does not just go out it is always coming in through our relationship with Jesus. Only then can we be love, rather then a to do list.

I Don’t Need Fifty Shades Of Grey: Just Give Me One-Of-A-Kind Black And White Love

I have had enough shades of grey in my life, it has left me lost, confused, afraid, and depressed. Seems to me that our world keeps trying to sell us cheap grey imitations of love when what we crave is black and white love! I have only found that kind of crisp, clear love in one place–the arms of my heavenly father. It may have involved a cross, but that was his choice for me, and again added depth and dimension to my life that is like nothing I have ever felt before. Agape love is unconditional, and it is something I can count on for a lifetime! Jesus’ love enables me to reach beyond my grief, to hold you, encourage you, and to keep writing my story no matter what. God’s love is not stored in a “room” for only a select few, but is sewn into the very fabric of creation. Look around you, it isn’t hidden!

Are you craving some black and white love? Check these verses out:

1 Corinthians 13

1If I speak in the tonguesa of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,b but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Romans 8

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,k neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 1

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to
do with punishment.

Romans 5

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Jonah 2

8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.

Psalm 52

8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.

Getting Ready Completely: Putting on our spiritual wardrobe

‘You have me ready, completely.” Natalie declared, as I put her hat on her head; completing her winter assemble.

Her statement struck me as I drove them to school. Do I have my children ready completely? Do I dress them spiritually with all they need to fight the enemy? And what do I clothe them in?

Colossians 3:12-15 gives me some clues:
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Looks like a long list, but Paul boils it down to love, which binds all of the others together in perfect harmony. You might call love our tuning fork. I realize that right now my love is out of tune with Christ because Jonathan’s death dominates my thinking, my body, and my spirit. So as I lean in to Christ’s character, my his love bring me into tune.

I completed our journey to school with prayer for the teachers, my kids, husband, and myself, and felt an ever so slight shift in my spiritual wardrobe for today. May your day dressed in the splendor of God’s love so that you are complete.

Hitting the Mark: What is affecting my aim?

Turn the Page:

John 7:16-18  16So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17“If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. 18“He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him

Which eye is your dominant? Our instructor had me point at the target bull’s-eye and then shut my left eye. It now looked to me like I was pointing to the left of center. Then right eye shut and left open. I now was again dead center. I am left eye dominant.

Sometimes we think we are aiming correctly, but something is getting in the way of our accuracy. I’ll define hitting the mark as being in the center of God’s will and knowing it. It is important that we take a step back and check our view of the world, our neighbors, our friends and Christ. Many times when I find that I haven’t hit the mark it is because something besides Christ is in control of my focus. Often I’ve gotten too entrenched in my own thoughts and will to see clearly what God’s will is.

There is nothing like hitting the bull’s-eye. Daniel got his first 9 yesterday and he was jumping up and down. When we are hitting the center of God’s will consistently then mountains move, and lives are changed. How can they not when God’s will is, none should perish! Check what is dominating your life. If it isn’t Christ, then we’ll miss the mark every time. Agape love always hits dead center of God’s will.

Remembering to Give Thanks

1 Peter 4:7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

My name is Greek, and it means grace or thanksgiving. This morning as I was hunting, once again, for my daughter’s glasses I wasn’t very filled with grace. Peter reminds me that these earthly moments will come to an end, what lasting impression do I want to leave on my daughter and son? This morning could I have covered her messy room and buried glasses with a grace filled attitude? I was certainly grumbling. To love earnestly means that my energy is burning brightly; some translation use the word fervently.

So where is all our energy spent, is it in noticing all the negatives in our lives, or the hurts others have caused or is it in giving thanks for all that we’ve been given, and that we don’t have to share this journey alone? Do we celebrate the fact that our cups overflow, and our bellies are full. Do we notice that we have warm clothes and a pillow to lay our weary head?

Celebrate each other, and be filled with hospitality towards one another as you spend time with family.

Out of love springs humility. Through grace I develop awareness of my generous God, then the slights experienced, or my daughter’s lost glasses are minor in comparison! Besides, I seem to remember a brown-haired girl thirty-two years ago who buried her glasses under her stuffed animals a time or two.

Grandma’s Perseverance Lessons

Psalm 105:8 He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations . . .

My grandmother on my father’s side laughed like a teenage girl. I loved to hear her giggle. One summer I got to spend several weeks with her and heard stories that she never shared with me before. Behind that giggle was a whole lot of suffering. It was impressed upon me that she had a resilience, that at sixteen I did not have, but longed for.

Grandma’s father died when she was a little girl and when her mother remarried her step-father wasn’t so interested in the baggage of a daughter. So my grandmother was passed from relative to relative until her siblings started arriving and then she was brought back home to be a babysitter. She did not hold a grudge! When she was older three of her sisters died because they got caught in a whirlpool and drowned. My grandmother, who could not swim, stood on the shore and watched the whole devastating moment. She lived through the great depression, wars, and a husband who was a very harsh and unforgiving man. As a grandfather he had softened and I only caught glimpses of his stubbornness. She loved him with every fiber of her being and I got to witness that love. She lost a grandson, whom lived with her for a while when his own parents discarded him, and then suffered, like me, the loss of him through suicide.

Yet, despite all of these experiences, she laughed and celebrated life to the fullest. She shared her faith with me at a little white church in the country. She played cards with me and taught me how to make butter milk toast when she was sick. I loved her tea, her stories and everything about this five foot nothing, curly red haired, now turned grey with wisdom grandmother.

I was always struck by her quiet perseverance. As I persevere through my own loss and tragedies, I too learn to laugh, celebrate and live life to the fullest, what ever circumstances may come. Thank you grandma!