Tag Archives: love

Worship Wednesday – Is It Luck or Is It Love? – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong

Photo Credit: Pinterest

“…Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:38-39

Who wouldn’t love a surgeon who calls to  check on you himself after you go home from surgery? That was my experience this afternoon. He had just removed 6 lesions (creepy word) from my face. Too much sun exposure in my reckless 20’s. I will know next week whether each is cancer or not (hopefully the non-scary type).

Some doctors are almost too professional – aloof, reserved, choosing words carefully, but this one is excellent at his work and also very human and approachable. Before we went into surgery, he sat down with Dave and me to review my medical history. In a few minutes, he would be doing multiple cuts and wound closures on this old face of mine, leaving me a bit Frankensteinish in appearance. Temporarily.

In that talk, he puzzled out loud at how I got lung cancer not ever having been a smoker. “Just bad luck…” he surmised.

All afternoon, I have thought about that odd observation. He didn’t know the whole of that medical workup which delivered a lung cancer diagnosis and surgery (Stage 1, by the way…sigh of relief). He would have considered it “good luck” then.  Another health issue had driven that workup, which turned out to be nothing. The testing, however, had fortuitously revealed the lung nodule. Luck…if you believed in that. I knew it was something much more.

What this latest favorite surgeon of mine casually observed as bad luck, I see as a good God. A good and loving God. Even when the diagnosis isn’t Stage 1…even when our calendars are filled with way too many doctors’ appointments and our hearts full of fear…the character of God shines through all that…if we look for Him.

Whether life is good or not so good, God’s care for us is unaltered.

These last several months have settled that in my heart over and over again. When we go through difficulties, God uses them in our lives in at least three ways.

  • To show us His love and faithfulness as we cling to Him through the scary unknowns.
  • To deepen our grasp of and wonder at His purposes for our lives.
  • To embolden us to extend His love to those around us, as He’s purposed us to do. To be His hands and feet to others, as He’s multiplied grace to us in our own hard places.

Luck doesn’t stir our hearts to take the lives God has given us (and health restored to us) and pour them out in service to Him and for the sake of others. Love does that.

Worship with me to Hillsong’s To the Ends of the Earth.

Love unfailing
Overtaking my heart
You take me in
Finding peace again
Fear is lost
In all you are

And I would give the world to tell Your story
Cause I know that You’ve called me
I know that You’ve called me
I’ve lost myself for good within Your promise
I won’t hide it
I won’t hide it

Jesus, I believe in You
And I would go to the ends of the earth
To the ends of the earth
For You alone are the Son of God
And all the world will see
That You are God
You are God*

I go for followup next week to this dear plastic surgeon who took such good care of me. While he takes out all these stitches, I hope to share, even briefly (and not weirdly), the whole “not luck, but love” story of my life. Hopefully all the biopsy results will be nothing or not scary. Whatever happens, God’s love turns my heart to Him…and to those He’s placed in my life – who also walk through hard places but don’t have to walk through them without Him.

We are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.2 Corinthians 5:20-21

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.Isaiah 26:3Photo Credit: Kuyamac

*Lyrics – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong

YouTube Video – To the Ends of the Earth – Lyrics Video (Just Lyrics) – Hillsong

Worship Wednesday – Rest, the Lord Is Near – Reminder By Steve Green

YouTube Video – Even If – Mercy Me

Lyrics to Even If

Valentine’s Day – Making It Ours

Blog - Valentine's Day & Love

[Adapted from the Archives]

Valentine’s Day, as a holiday, is ripe with all sorts of possibilities… and potential frustrations. It’s a day that picks at our contentment and whispers in our ears, “Is this enough? this love I have? these loves I have?” I say we take this holiday, turn it on its head, and totally own it.

What do you love about Valentine’s Day? Most probably, you are women reading this blog, because men seriously don’t want any more information on how to celebrate this day. We women have this totally lovely day thrust upon us once a year to do with it how we want. ..so let’s get after it.

Here’s what I love about this day:

1) I can be as effusive and gushy as I want on this one day of the year. It’s allowed…tolerated…appreciated even. Cards, phone calls, and social media shouting out to those we love…there’s a lot of relational muscle pumped on this day…wouldn’t hurt to keep this going through the rest of the year. Words. Are. Powerful.Blog - Heart & Love Much

2) It’s a golden opportunity to hang with our best buddies. Not just husbands or boyfriends, but moms, grandmoms, the widow neighbor down the street. Those glorious women in our lives… Valentine’s Day is a fine excuse to have lunch together, cake together, movie night together. Whatever. How thankful I am for the great women in my life…from lots of places in the world.Blog - Morocco friends2014 Phone pics July-December 119

3) This day lends itself to a total indulgence (guilt deferred) of sugary delights. Valentine’s Day blesses all excesses. I don’t eat chocolate these days, but Hershey’s Kisses still speak. Whether I eat those foil-wrapped happy little candies or not, they still generate lovely thoughts for me on this day…as do the other treats that come out especially on this day of the year.Blog - Valentine Goodies

Blog - Valentine Hearts

2013 Feb Valentine's Day 004

4) I love how cheery people are toward each other related to Valentine’s Day (kind of back to the gushy/effusive side of this day). Whether it’s decorating a colleague’s cubicle wall or lavishing gifts on your child’s teacher…it can make for a sweet day. Whether there’s a dear man in our lives or not, we can use this day to bless others…just for the fun of it (for them AND for us).Blog - Valentines on a cubicle by Heather TeaterPhoto Credit: Cublical Decorating – Heather Teater2013 Feb Valentine's Day 001

 5) Last thing I love about Valentine’s Day is its celebration of love itself. The history of Valentine’s Day is far from the romance and roses we expect today. Yet, if there is something worthy of setting aside a day, it is love – real, deep, sacrificial and satisfying love. Maybe it’s a stretch to consider that sort of love on a day that’s been riddled with commercialism, but that’s where I would like to end. Today, more than anything I celebrate the God of love who teaches us best how to love. First loving Him and then, because of Him, loving each other as we love ourselves. Blog - Valentine #2

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;   does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;   bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Happy Valentine’s Day, Friends.Blog - Friends - Valentines #1

The Single Way to do Valentine’s Day – Mandisa

A Tribute to Charlotte Ray – Cal Thomas

80 Years Young – A Birthday Tribute to One Extraordinary Woman – My Mom-in-Law

Mother-in-law jokes are lost on me. They’re just not funny and are so rude, really, given they are perpetrated against the mother of the person we chose to spend our lives with… Makes no sense to me.

My mom-in-law may be extraordinary, but she would never think so. Her name is Julia and she grew up in a farm family. She married young and had two sons (after miscarrying a first child). I married her oldest. Her life has always been centered on her family…loving them, serving them…and always pointing them to God.

My own mom gave me wonderful counsel when I married – about how to treat my mom-in-law. She told me to love her like I loved my own mom. Now, you have to know my mom has been my best friend from childhood. She was wise, funny, loving…and I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. To even try to love someone like I loved her seemed impossible…but I knew she was right to point me in that direction.

This other young mom of the man I loved started out a stranger to me…but that didn’t last long. She welcomed me into her circle from the beginning, and I’ve been inside that circle for over 30 years now.

Julia has always treated me as something special…she somehow does that with each one of us – her husband, sons, daughters-in-law and now grandchildren and great-grands. It’s not a “something special” that puffs us up…like we’re the best out there…She marvels in a sweet humility…again, reveling in the goodness of God in bringing us all together. I totally feel that way about her as well. Grateful.

On this birthday, Julia becomes the youngest 80-year-old I know. She is as sharp and engaged in life as ever. Always a beauty, she is still lovely…smaller as the years have passed, but even cuter in her petiteness. Yet, she doesn’t draw attention to herself…ever. It’s just not her nature. She serves us…we are her joy…and visits home are always an occasion. A bountiful table. Beautiful touches all around the house celebrating the season. Special treats not just for the littles, but for all of us. She seriously thinks of everything. It used to tire me out, but through the years, I have relaxed in that I am not her, and that’s very o.k. Only one Mom-Mom is all we need.

A few highlights:

  • We are both picture-takers…so we’re not always in the picture. Still we are partners in this, as annoying as it is for the men (especially) in the family. We get those pictures…together.
  • With each child born/adopted into our family, Julia made the trip to spend a week with us – to help, love on us, celebrate the new babies and the big sister/brother. She cooked and cleaned, with zero fanfare – absolutely no drama – just lots of love.
  • She made birthdays and Christmas so special for our kids. There came a time that we finally insisted, “One package each, Mom”. That Christmas, when she and Dad John pulled into the driveway, that “one package each” was enormous…with lots of goodies tucked inside. Who could get mad at that? Such a heart she has!
  • When our lives took us in a direction that we would move overseas for a job, I was so afraid that heart of hers would break. It was painful at first, as she and John absorbed the shock of the news. Yes, we would be taking their only grandchildren to Africa… So hard… By the next day, she had steeled her heart. Not in an unfeeling way but in a hopeful trusting way. Distance would change nothing about her love for us…except to grow stronger.  
  • She and John would visit us in three countries. Complete with two 70-pound bags full of treasures for those grandchildren of hers. She had no ambition to visit the Pyramids of Giza, or Matmata, Tunisia (where Star Wars – a New Hope was filmed), or Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca. Still…we did all that, and so much more. She marveled…at the beauty of the places we love and even more so at the people we called friends and neighbors.
  • Part of her winsomeness to me was seeing the gentleness in how her husband and sons loved her. Once on a family trip to the Egyptian desert, we climbed Mt. Sinai. We took a slow, meandering route up to the top. It was amazing. However, on our return to the bottom, we chose a quicker (but unfortunately more brutal) route back down. 3,750 “steps of penitence”. At some point, over half-way down, Julia was feeling the burn of all that pounding down those stone steps. When Dave, my husband/her son, saw her struggle, he pulled back and helped support her the rest of the way down. Gently, quietly. That love and care for his mom spoke volumes to me…about him, and especially about her.Photo Credit: See the Holy Land
  • Julia doesn’t quit on people or things that matter. She is quick to forgive and always ready to reconcile. She is also brave, willing to do the hard thing, even when she wished it wouldn’t have to be hers to do. She and John have been a part of the same church for many, many years. As the membership aged, the church suffered  a lack of vision…and, in fact, began to die. Julia was one of a handful that continued to serve and believe God that He wasn’t finished with their church. She persevered…and when a revitalization program took off, with young pastors and many new members, she stayed the course with them. Oh I’m sure she may not always be easy on these young leaders…but they are wise to keep counsel with her. Her commitment to God, to the church, and to the nations is as passionate as ever…at 80. Think what a force to reckon with she might be at 90!
  • Finally, I want to speak of her servant heart. When she married John over 60 years ago, she took her vows very seriously…and continues to do so. In recent years, John has had to deal with Parkinson’s Disease…but not alone. She is right beside him… helping when he needs help, encouraging when he can do himself. She is there…”in sickness, and in health”…and she will be…there.

I can’t begin to say how much she has taught me about loving my husband and serving my family. When my precious mother died too many years ago, Julia drew even closer to love me through that… She has continued to teach me, on the foundation my mom laid, to put others first and to pray my heart out for those God has placed in my life. What stewardship I have learned from this sweet mom.

Mother-in-law jokes?! Please! What a grace God has given me in her. Is she extraordinary? She would definitely balk at that. Maybe she is just a picture of what God can do in an ordinary life surrendered to Him. She models for me a wife, mom, and mom-in-law I want to be.

Many things I leave unsaid. Some of the tears, and some of the laughter are ours to cherish privately… She did teach me her pie crust secret for which I’m forever thankful…on this side of life. As for the other side of life…and the other side of this 80th birthday…I am so grateful for our times together, for the witness of her life, for all she has taught me, and for the memories…all the sweet memories.

Happy birthday, Mom/Julia! Many more memories to make ahead!

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.” – Proverbs 31:28-31

Love Is a Laid-Down Life – Slowing Down for a Season – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – Thanksgiving Infographic, Emotional Intelligence, Christmas Commercials, Friends, and Dancing

Blog - Friday Faves

Well, Friends…we made it through another week. Given the world we live in these days, that’s something to celebrate. As I sit in my favorite work space besides my desk at home, listening to a friend’s Pandora picks, I’m so grateful for one more week and all the good in our lives.

Hope your week was remarkable and your discoveries sweet. Here are five of mine. Please share your favorite finds in the Comments below. I have learned so much in the last couple of weeks about how others think about the events of these days…growing my understanding is such a good thing. Thank you.

1) Thanksgiving Day Infographic – Natalie Brown of Buzzfeed posted an incredibly helpful infographic for those of us who are cooking that Thanksgiving dinner – 19 Charts on all things yummy for the holiday table. This is my favorite such find this week. Two other articles listed out multiple such infographics. Ysolt Usigan posted nine Thanksgiving infographics for all you who may love infographics like I do. Morgan Hauck listed another 6.  Everyone’s family has their own particular traditions. Along with all the favorite dishes filling the table, my mom-in-law will have Bible verses, on giving thanks, by our plates. Taking turns saying around the table what we’re thankful for is part of our Thanksgiving custom as well…sort of a given. I also found this list of questions/conversation starters…not that we need any further help with Pinterest and all. Still…I love anything that stirs conversation on a day when family gathers for food and football.blog-thanksgiving-dinner-she-knowsPhoto Credit: She Knows

2) Emotional Intelligence – OK…so there are smart people and then there are emotionally intelligent people. If you don’t have a sense of the difference in these two, Paul Sohn posted an infographic (yay!) that gives an excellent description of emotional intelligence. There are a lot of smart people out there but what a joy when your boss, as smart as he may be, is also a great communicator wit and appreciator of people. blog-emotional-intelligence-ucreativePhoto Credit: UCreative

3) Christmas Commercials – Even when true-life hard things leave me dry-eyed from the starkness of the situation, a Hallmark commercial during the Christmas holidays regularly cause me to tear up. In recent years, the UK John Lewis Department Store Christmas TV adverts have also touched my heart. My favorite Christmas commercial so far this year comes to us from Heathrow Airport in London. Two oldish Teddy Bears…but so much more.blog-coming-home-for-christmas-newsodyPhoto Credit: NewsOdy

I won’t give it away (watch it here), but it probably affects me so much in thinking how we are not always able to be with all our family at Christmas…and what a joy it is when we are.

YouTube Video – Top 5 Christmas Adverts 2016 UK

4) Friends – Ben Keslen wrote a piece earlier this year on the benefit of good friends. He cites research on how close friendships help us live longer, fight depression and stress, and generally adds to our happiness and well-being. Not exactly rocket science, but fueling the fire to go out to make friends if either our lifestyle or season of life has drawn us into a more solitary existence. blog-old-friends-john-lundblog-friends-inspowerPhoto Credit: ; John Lund; Inspower

Keslen did give an exception, pointing to a different study that demonstrated that really intelligent people have a less significant need for friends. Odd but interesting. I’m very thankful for good friendships that have endured through great change and separation.

Swiping Right on New Friends – Caroline Lester

5) Dancing – I don’t listen to pop music much these days. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar arranges music themes from video games, movies, and TV shows. I listen to that pop music often. Occasionally, thanks to Facebook and other social media, a few songs grab my attention. Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling is one of those happy songs that makes you want to move with it…even me. Dancing is something of a jubilation…a response to words and music that I never want to get too old to enjoy! See if you can listen without moving.

Bonus: One of the most beautiful languages in the world is Arabic. Too often heard in our news in the context of war and political unrest, I wanted to post this short piece on the 10 Most Common Expressions About Love in Arabic.

blog-love-in-arabic-flickrPhoto Credit: Flickr

Have a restful and restorative weekend, Folks. Amidst these days of change and stretching news cycle we’re experiencing in the States, post-election, I hope you found something here to lift your heart a bit. Then…we get back out there and do all we can to “bring good news to the poor; …bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” [whatever binds us]. (Isaiah 61:1)

Keep dancing!blog-dancing-in-the-church-fred-luterPhoto Credit: Blog.Al

Worship Wednesday – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

Blog - If We're Honest - behappyPhoto Credit: BeHappy

This is the message which we have heard from him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. . . if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:5-9

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  James 5:16

I’ve always tried to be pretty much a “what you see if what you get” sort of person…and my husband is the same. We tried to raise our children the same. No pretenses. No false fronts. Fully human with both its strengths and weaknesses. This can backfire on occasion when an opinion or action rankles a developed sensibility on the part of another family member or friend.

Fortunately, if that loved one also determines to live with transparency and understanding, there can be great grace. My sister-in-law and I have been friends for all the years we’ve known each other. Marrying brothers, we became sisters ourselves. She gave me the Willow Tree statue below. It reminds me of us.Blog - If We're Honest - Willow Tree from StacieWe talk about everything…all the good stuff and all the hard stuff. For years we’ve laid our lives bare in front of each other, knowing, completely confident, that we’re both safe. I pray that never changes. No matter what is going on in our marriage, or our parenting, our friendships, or our faith, we have determined to love each other always.

This friendship is like others I have been fortunate to have. Clearly, God meant for His children to have these sorts of relationships. Open, accepting, deeply caring, and loving no matter what. These kinds of relationships foster confessional living.

W. David. O. Taylor is a pastor and educator.  In his blog, The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life, he talks about this. He writes to artists but his observations apply to us all.

What does it mean to live a confessional life? It means that we live in a way that trusted others are always being invited to know our deepest weaknesses and failures. Dallas Willard puts it this way: in the discipline of confession “we lay down the burden of hiding and pretending, which normally takes up such a dreadful amount of human energy” (Spirit of the Disciplines, 188).

Anything we keep hidden is a breeding ground for Satan-manipulating, flesh-arousing dysfunction: self-pity, self-aggrandizement, self-protectiveness, self-indulging, self-destructiveness, the very stuff that fights against all our best [artistic] efforts.

What we need, then, is a mechanism to get us un-hidden. We need to get ourselves out of darkness as quickly as possible and back into the light. That is a Christian definition of sanity. That is also often the most difficult thing for us to do. Yet it is in the light that God does his best work of freeing us from the sin that entangles and distorts.W. David. O. Taylor

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
Ephesians 4:25

What is there to gain by showing a false front to those around us? There is so much more to be lost in not being real with ourselves and each other.

When Kevin Davis, of NewReleaseToday, interviewed Francesca Basttistelli about the take-away message of her song, If We’re Honest, she had this to say:

“Writing songs for the first time as a mom for this album showed me where I was at that time. There were no pretenses, and I wasn’t trying to be anyone that I’m not. Once you are a parent, you get a taste for what really matters. You’re not as worried about what people think of you. 

I was also going through transitions of personal and business relationships, and I saw how a lack of transparency and honesty can really harm relationships and holds back all that God can do in a partnership or friendship. I was desperately crying out for that and wanting to challenge myself and others to live a life with more transparency, to quit putting up facades and walls with each other.”

She further talked about how Satan uses our secrets to isolate us from each other…to divide us…and to keep us from being the bold witness that we can be when we lay our lives open before God and each other. Life is too short and too precious to withhold who we really are…no matter how broken, or wounded, or small…we all share in this…this need for a Savior; this need to be known and loved as we are.

God completely understands that about us…and loves us…as will others who love Him first.

Worship with me.

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide

I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

(CHORUS)
Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest

Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not
Living life afraid of getting caught
There is freedom found when we lay our secrets down at the cross, at the cross

(CHORUS)

It would change our lives
It would set us free
It’s what we need to be

(CHORUS)

Blog - Francesca Battistelli - If We're Honest - myact4HimPhoto Credit: MyAct4Him

Postscript: Can I just comment on the kindness and sweetness of God in His relationship with His children? I wanted to write about this song this week and struggled with how to talk about it. Then with Francesca Battistelli’s help (through the interview/video on “behind the song”), it dawned on me that this was about confessional living. This was a delight for me because this sort of life is one I’ve lived without knowing what to call it. I searched on-line for confessional living and found the blog by W. David. O. Taylor. In researching where his confessional life has taken him, I discovered he is the one Nathan Clarke worked with to film the Bono and Eugene Peterson conversation. I wrote about that here. How fun is that?!

*Lyrics – If We’re Honest – KLove – Songwriters: Francesca Battistelli / Jeff Pardo / Molly E. Reed

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli – NewReleaseToday

YouTube Video – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

YouTube Video – Francesca Battistelli – Behind the Album, If We’re Honest

The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life – W. David. O. Taylor

Confessional Writing – Wikipedia

Worship Wednesday – Fear Is Easy, Love Is Hard – Jason Gray

Blog - Perfect Love Casts Out Fear - best of picturePhoto Credit: BestOfPicture

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. – 1 John 4:18

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Fear and love. Over the last two weeks, we’ve heard a lot about these two states of heart and mind. Well, if we’ve followed the conventions of the two major political parties in the US…. Whether we’ve watched on TV or not, the messages of both conventions have blasted our newsfeeds. What does one believe about any of it?

One convention (and political party and candidate) is purportedly all about fear. The other is all about love. One sees the solution to fear comes with building walls. The other sees the solution to our nation’s problems is love. Big fear = Big walls, guns, bluster. Big love = Big government, inclusion (unless maybe you look and think like me). Gone are the days, in both conventions, when God is mentioned in light of how we are meant to do government and treat our neighbors (both near and far).

Sidebar: Regarding fear, John Piper does talk about the importance of a certain type of temporary fear. “The painful fear, the guilty fear, the craven fear, the humiliating fear — all such fear will one day be taken way. But only in the way God intends. And in his time. We should not be done with it in the wrong way, or too soon.

Here is the way C. S. Lewis puts it:

Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear [1 John 4:18]. But so do several other things — ignorance, alcohol, passion, presumption, and stupidity.

It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that stage, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear. (“The World’s Last Night” in C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, 51)” – John Piper

I wasn’t revved by the one convention’s soberness, nor was I wooed by the other convention’s frivolity. The jokes just weren’t funny, but everyone there was laughing.

Until the reality seemed to sink in for the supporters of a minority candidate, that it might be over…and the tears flowed.Blog - Fear and Love - PoliticsBlog - Fear and Love - Politics - tearsPhoto Credit: FoxNews, PressDemocrat

I actually felt some of their pain.

What is a follower of Christ to do?

Scripture makes it very clear that we are not to give into worldly fear. Scripture also convicts us that love is the solution – not the love of government, or a political party, or like for like. For us as Christ followers, we are called to love…even those who don’t agree with us, even our enemies. This kind of love is extremely costly – it’s the kind of love Jesus taught us through his life…and through his death.

We’re not meant to give into a fear that builds walls, nor are we to clamor for a love that costs us nothing…a love that comes out of government and not out of our own skin.

During a season in this country, when we’re being hammered with media messages that divide us, may we as the followers of Christ unite – not by political party or by our own offended or soothed sensibilities. May we unite in keeping our eyes on God when we fear, and apply our lives to truly loving – not just people like us but all peoples. Not just looking to an outside agency to “show the love”, but to extend ourselves to that loving…as we’ve experienced in the God of love.

Worship with me with this song from Jason Gray‘s album A Way to See in the Dark

Turn on the T.V. for the evening news
They got plenty to fear and nothing to do
Another somebody who’s gone too far
Makes you want to put up your guard
Fear is easy, love is hard
So we draw up another dividing line
We label each other and we choose a side
Peace could come at quite a cost
So we won’t build a bridge across
Fear is easy, but love is hard
Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid, do not be afraid
I’m sorry baby is what he should’ve said
But she wouldn’t listen even if he did
They’ll die without forgiveness soon
But no one wants to make a move
When fear is easy and love is hard
Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid, do not be afraid
It’s hard to bring your heart to a world that can break it
To offer love to those you’re afraid will forsake it
But a well-defended heart is always looking for a fight
In a lonely war against an endless night
But love can bring a light
Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid
It comes down to a simple choice
Shouting devils or a still small voice
One is spreading fear and dread
Oh but love has always said
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid.*

Blog - Fear and Love - GrowinginHisGracePhoto Credit: Growing In His Grace

I love the truth in Paul’s writing to Timothy. God doesn’t mean for us to fear what surrounds us, what seems to loom ahead, or what has happened in the past. He means for us to gather ourselves, as His children, to act with the power He’s given us, to love with the example He’s shown us, and to think, (and reason together), with sound minds. Sound minds. We can think through and manage this election year if we keep our wits and guard our hearts, with faith unblemished in a God “whose arm is not too short to save!” (Isaiah 59:1)

*Lyrics to Fear Is Easy, Love Is Hard

Fear or Love? Responding to Terrorism Like Jesus – Nicole Simpson – Christ & Pop Culture

Responding to the Tragedy in This World – Growing In His Grace

YouTube – Chris Tomlin – Whom Shall I Fear? [God of Angel Armies] – Lyrics

BLog - Fear and Love - Nothing is too hard for God - facebook - Mariah KingPhoto Credit: Facebook

Love Your Neighbor – the Audacity of Thinking We Are Always the Strong One…or the Weaker One

Blog - Strong or Weak

Photo Credit: PostCalvinist

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.Romans 14:1

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Romans 15:1

Take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.1 Corinthians 8:9

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Jesus – Matthew 7:3-5

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
 – 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Whether you are a Christ-follower or not, there is so much wisdom in the teaching of Jesus and his apostles who wrote for the generations to follow.

Take his teaching on the weaker brother…his teaching is often directed to that “stronger brother”, but the wisdom is there for both of us. Through life, we may be one or the other, depending on how our thinking changes or how culture changes.

Many of the world religions require a certain works-based practice of those who would be devout. In Christianity, we are called to right living but we are not saved by right living. Because of what Jesus did to redeem us, we are free. Free to live, not under Law and its penalty when we fail, but to do righteousness out of love not obligation.

So what happens, when we experience the withering judgment of a seemingly legalistic “weaker” brother? Or on the flip side, the condescension of a “stronger” brother flaunting his freedom?

Social media (especially Facebook and Twitter) are brutally reflective of such biases, whatever our faith, culture, or politics. Here’s an area where I am that “weaker one”. Nowhere in Scripture are we forbidden generally from drinking alcoholic beverages. We are warned against drunkenness only. Years ago, I made a very conscious decision to stop drinking (for many reasons which may end up in my writing one day). Your drinking is not an issue for me…unless (here’s my weakness) it appears, through social media or from the pulpit, you flaunt your freedom in this way. I struggle with that. With so many of us, in the church and out, who have histories of addictions or loss related to addiction, I don’t understand that regaling of freedom. This is just one of my “weaker one” struggles. Any you want to share? Or “stronger one” struggles? We all have them.

Jesus and, in particular, the Apostle Paul are so clear on how we are to respond to each other – both weak and strong – with deference, love, and patience. Not enabling a legalistic clouding of what we are meant to have in Christ nor disabling our witness through arrogance or contempt.

In the article Who is the Weaker Brother? linked below, we are introduced to Garry Friesen’s teaching on the topic. In his book,  Decision Making and the Will of God, he points to four areas where we are either weak, or strong: conviction, biblical knowledge, conscience or will. If we limit our definition to just one of these areas, we also may err in how we deal, in patience, with each other.

From the Scripture, Friesen gives what he considers is God’s definition of the weaker brother: “A weaker brother (or sister) is a Christian who, because of the weakness of his faith, knowledge, conscience, and will, can be influenced to sin against his conscience by the example of a differing stronger brother.”

He then offers a like definition of the stronger brother: “The stronger brother (or sister) is a Christian who, because of his understanding of Christian freedom and the strength of his conviction, exercises his liberty in good conscience without being improperly influenced by the differing opinions of others.”

Both of these definitions encourages us to live in the freedom that we have through Christ and at the same time to seek unity with one another, even when we don’t agree. Especially in the area of  non-essential or disputable matters of preference.

One last distinction Friesen makes relates to what we see in Scripture as a “stumbling block”. This phrase is used in the active and passive. The stronger one in the faith is NOT to intentionally place a stumbling block in the path of a weaker one; i.e. not intentionally trying to influence a person to stumble, or sin. However, the weaker one is also NOT to take offense by the one who attempts to cause him to stumble. This is the beautiful teaching of Christ. The both/and of the Gospel. The call to love, no matter what.

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Finally, in Adam Miller’s piece Mishandled – the Weaker Brother (linked below), he distinguishes between a truly weaker brother and three impostors. They are the legalistic weaker brother, the professional weaker brother, and the illusive weaker brother. Take the time to read these brief definitions of those of us who consider ourselves “weaker brothers” (or sisters) but who are really acting in ways that divide the church (or community). Miller also references one of the great sermons of D. A. Carson where he addresses those who would detract from the beautiful sufficiency of Christ to restore us to God.

When I think of how Christ calls us to love our neighbor, He calls us not just to those who are so like us we could see them in our own mirrors. He calls us to those “weaker” and “stronger” than us. It is an easy thing for me to love and hang out with those who agree with me. How much more God means for us to lean in to those with whom we struggle because of their life choices, or elevated (or demeaning) sense of self, or stations in life.

Can we do that…without compromising or stumbling in our faith? We can if our love for Christ is rock-solid and we allow Him to mark out the boundaries of our lives. If He is our example, He will fill our lives with both the weaker and the stronger…for our good and theirs, and for His glory…as He’s promised.

Who Is the Weaker Brother? Excellent Review of Garry Friesen’s book – Decision Making and the Will of God – on the Section Dealing With this Topic

Mishandled – The Weaker Brother (Part 2) by Adam Miller

The Weaker and Stronger Brothers (Parts 1, 2, and 3) by J. Gordon Duncan

How to Welcome a Weak Brother by John Piper

Go, Ye, Therefore and Be Enablers – This is a hair-raiser. A very different view than I have taken but one that may be familiar to you.

Decision Making and the Will of God – Garry Friesen – 25th Anniversary Expanded Edition

Valentine’s Day – Hit-or-Miss Holiday Or One Pointing to a Larger Love

Blog - Valentine's Day & Love

Valentine’s Day – what a holiday loaded with expectations! As with other special days of the year, the marketing for Valentine’s Day drives us to do something – something different (?) than we might do any other day of the year. That same marketing drains our hearts of joy if we miss the mark of those expectations…either as recipient or deliverer of the goods. Silly holiday.IMG_3775IMG_3771 IMG_3769IMG_3778

The pressure to express our love with gifts/experiences on Valentine’s Day is enormous. “How do I love thee? Let me count the dollars.” heads one fascinating infographic on how we spend Valentine’s Day. Americans on average will spend $100 and up on Valentine’s Day – “and up” more likely.

I actually like all the hearts and sweetnesses of Valentine’s Day, but the thought of spreading that love every day is much more appealing.

Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, describes five ways we experience love.  He wrote several love language books, each focused on a different group – children, teens, singles, men, and women. His books aren’t the Gospel on the topic, BUT they are immensely helpful. How we experience being loved is often weighted toward one or two of the following: acts of service, gifts, physical touch, time, and/or words of affirmation. Both my husband and I share the preferences of love received through words of affirmation and acts of service. Getting older, having time with those I love is also a huge gift of love, knowing how busy and pulled we all are in this life.

Still the oldest, most enduring, and deepest experience of love we can have…and you know where I’m going…is the love of God.Valentine's Day - God's Love - Crosstrain - BlogPhoto Credit: Not Consumed

We need look no farther than that. I was single more years than I’ve been married…what we need to fill our hearts goes beyond human relationships, as good as they may be sometimes (whether friend or family). In all the years of my life, after hearing of God’s love and then embracing it, He has never failed me. His love never fails (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Valentine Day John 3 16 - cdn - ministry to children

In fact, we don’t need to look as much for His hand as His face. God loves, exquisitely, because God is love (1 John 4:8). The very definition.

I bring nothing new to the table on this subject. My longing is to be a good steward of His love to those He places in my path. There is so much brokenness in the world – so much heartache. If mending would come through flowers, chocolates and a candlelit meal, how lovely would that be. Mending our hearts comes through a cross and a love that meets us in our loneliest places. By His grace in our lives, that’s the love we can extend…that love. Blog - God's Love - Valentines Day - countingmyblessingsPhoto Credit: Counting My Blessings

What Science Gets Right and Wrong About Love – Think Christian

12 Quotes to Remind You of God’s Amazing Love by Deb Wolf

Worship Wednesday – My Story – Big Daddy Weave

Blog - My Story CoverPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

Stories of people’s lives are so fascinating – the journey itself, the intersections of chance and providence, the losses and gains, and all the faces…all the faces and places along the way.

Mike Weaver, of the band Big Daddy Weave, and Jason Ingram have written this beautiful song My Story that illustrates something of how our story gets woven across time. There is actually very little “chance” involved. Even our failures and missed opportunities become priceless threads in the finished texture of a life.

If I told you my story it would include the bewilderment of a little girl abandoned by her daddy while still at home with us. I was second of four children, the only girl. My mother was beautiful in every way a child could understand. She loved us fiercely and cared for us alone…for what seemed a forever, for a child. Then my step-dad entered our lives, and I understood the love of a father for the first time.

Not long after that, we were welcomed into a circle of neighbors who invited us to their church. This was an altogether different experience for us, and it was among those people that I was introduced to God. It was then that something new and yet strangely familiar came to me…still a little girl. A God-love, an other-world kind of love that pulled me close…closer than even the tender protective hug of my sweet mama. A love that I recognized was present with me even, especially, in the years of hard. God.

He was there all along…and He didn’t give up on us. He will never abandon us.Blog - Worship Wednesday - My StoryPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).Ephesians 2:4-5

…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:6-10

My story, like that of the song My Story, is infused and bubbles over with a love that has altered my life forever…

Blog - My Story - mrsandyrossPhoto Credit: MrsAndyRoss

Worship with me:

If I told you my story
You would hear hope that wouldn’t let go
If I told you my story
You would hear love that never gave up
If I told you my story
You would hear life but it wasn’t mine

If I should speak then let it be

Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
To tell you my story is to tell of Him

If I told you my story
You would hear victory over the enemy
If told you my story
You would hear freedom that was won for me
If I told you my story
You would hear life overcome the grave

If I should speak then let it be
This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long*

Blog - My Story - Beautiful Offerings AlbumPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

What is your story? My prayer is that you also see that God has etched Himself into every circumstance of your life. He is here with us…always. I would love to hear your story…

[Postscript: The last line of the song My Story comes from the song Blessed Assurance, a great old hymn all our kids know and sing along with us. Don’t miss that one, if you don’t know it – in links below.]

*My Story – Behind the Song with Kevin Davis, New Release Today

YouTube Video – My Story (Lyrics) – Big Daddy Weave

To Tell You My Story Is To Tell You Of Him – Mrs. Andy Ross

YouTube Video – Blessed Assurance – CeCe Winans and Terrence Blanchard – Cicely Tyson Kennedy Center Honors

YouTube Video – Blessed Assurance – Third Day with lyrics

Christmas in a Verse, a Prayer, & a Poem

Blog - Christmas - Christmas Town (2)

[From the Archives]

A Christmas Verse

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6

[And One More]

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.  – Matthew 1:23

A Christmas Prayer

O Lord, how hard it is to accept your way. You come to me as a small, powerless child born away from home. You live for me as a stranger in your own land. You die for me as a criminal outside the walls of the city, rejected by your own people, misunderstood by your friends, and feeling abandoned by your God.

As I prepare to celebrate your birth, I am trying to feel loved, accepted, and at home in this world, and I am trying to overcome the feelings of alienation and separation which continue to assail me. But I wonder now if my deep sense of homelessness does not bring me closer to you than my occasional feelings of belonging. Where do I truly celebrate your birth: in a cozy home or in an unfamiliar house, among welcoming friends or among unknown strangers, with feelings of well-being or with feelings of loneliness?

I do not have to run away from those experiences that are closest to yours. Just as you do not belong to this world, so I do not belong to this world. Every time I feel this way I have an occasion to be grateful and to embrace you better and taste more fully your joy and peace.

Come, Lord Jesus, and be with me where I feel poorest. I trust that this is the place where you will find your manger and bring your light. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen. (The Road to Daybreak by Henri J. M. Nouwen)

A Christmas Poem

Not Celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear? Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season? Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration! You should run through the streets to ring the bells and sing the loudest! You should fling the tinsel on the tree, and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!

For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent. It is unto you that a Savior is born this day, One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders, One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes. You are not alone, for He is born this day to you. – Ann Weems