When you need to smell love

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Ephesians 5:2 “and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you.”

We all know the golden rule.  We grew up with it and offer justification for when someone hurts us.  If “they” only knew how their words hurt, “they wouldn’t talk to me like that”.  We’ve all said that in self-defense.

Every mission trip I clean up something.  I grab a plastic trash bag and silently bend over to pick up someone’s trash.  I didn’t drop it nor did I bring trash to leave behind.  My philosophy is that if I can leave a place cleaner than when I found it, then I have left a mark that someone kind has been there.  I let my actions speak love.

I got to thinking today about how we serve with love in actions or deeds, sometimes only for the reason of someone noticing that we did something.  Because I honestly have a thing for removing trash in my life and when things are messy and trashy, I have to do something about it.  I’ve been on a lot of personal clean up committees.  Mostly my own.

What if we could apply love not just to the work of our hands but also to the words that we speak, like a nice smell of love?

What would happen if we left someone’s heart a better place instead of throwing words of hurt first?  How would it change our relationships, if instead of an accusing tone, we used gentleness? What if we acted like grown ups and apologized first?

I have been talking about how love is an action to my four year old grandson, Avery.  We have a special relationship where we discuss all things deep like love on the way to the park.

“Do you know that Jesus loves you Avery?” ~ me

“Yes.” ~ Avery.

“How do you know that, have you heard Jesus speaking to you?” ~ me

“Yes.” ~ Avery

“You have?  How’s that?” ~ me

“I have special hearing.” ~ Avery

Could it be that we need special seeing to see the love-needs in others?  Could it be that we can’t love ourselves and therefore project an unloving spirit to those we talk to?  Could it be that we like to be harsh with ourselves because we feel unworthy when we come before God?

I have come to understand the depth of God’s love and it’s based on one word…grace.  And without it you can’t see or hear the depth of His heart for you.  Someone had to teach you that you were unworthy, someone had to accuse you of not being lovable, someone hurt you so that you can’t trust again, someone has not been kind to you, someone has done you wrong but said they loved you.  Someone has misused the act of love towards you.  Someone has stolen an innocent love that you will never get back.

It doesn’t matter whether you are single, married, divorced, or widowed.  We want to love, be loved and be beloved.

You’ve been warring for love for years, and many of you only have a scarred heart to show for it all.  Don’t we all want the kind of love that freely gives reconciliation?  One that is conflict free and free to be accepted as you are?  Could it be possible that kind of love exists among God’s children?

Sadly in the name of love, many hurts have been throw on our hearts, as challenges or justifications for some wrong doing or for spiritual growth.  Even the church is guilty in doing this.  And that breaks my heart.  How often do we expect new Christians to act like mature Christians the day they get dunked in the baptismal waters?  How many times do we accuse and point fingers at others when we can’t even get the logs out of our own eyes?

When the goal of your conflicts are to be right instead of bringing unity, then you are only proving your opinion.

Unity is only conformity when it falls under the love of Christ.

What does it take to love like Christ?  Humility.  We all mess up and make mistakes.  When you are dealing with love it requires reconciliation, because Christ is the only one who did it right and perfectly.  Seriously think about this!

“Reconciliation is always rooted in humility.  The need for justice often results in wounds that won’t heal and broken relationships that refuse to mend.” ~ Kris Vallotton KVMinistries.  Building a culture of honor and humility always results in love and reconciliation.  Building a bridge and getting over your own trash helps in the clean up but don’t treat others as if they are less than you.  It’s only in the building of humble relationships, totally based on grace, will we leave a imprint of love and grace.  Humility helps us all with our special hearing of God’s love.

It’s the golden rule in my books.  Leaving people better than when you found them.  Picking up the refuse in their lives and throwing away the hurts takes time, but the rewards are huge.  And it requires special hearing from the One who made the rule book about love.

The third woman who prayed

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1 Peter 5:6-7  “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Once upon a time a woman had a dream about three women praying.  Jesus drew near to each of them.  As He approached the first of the three ladies, He bent over in way that gave a tender touch and much grace, smiling as he could hear her heart expressed in her raw emotion.

Jesus stepped to the next woman praying and only placed His hand upon her bowed head, and gave her an approving look.  He moved to the third woman in the dream and passed her by without saying a word or giving a glance.

The dreaming woman watched Jesus as He moved around the praying ladies and said to herself, “How greatly Jesus must love the first woman praying, to the second woman he approved her, the third however must have grieved Jesus in a deeper way, because He barely stopped to listen to her prayer, only gave His silence to her without a passing look.

The story goes that woman who was dreaming inquired upon the Lord what the third woman had said that must have grieved Him over the other women.  To His response about the first woman, the Lord replied.  “How wrongly you have interpreted Me.  The first kneeling woman needs all the weight of My tenderness and care to keep her feet in My narrow way.  She needs my Love, thought and help every moment of the day.  Without it she would fail and fall.”

“The second woman has a stronger faith with a deeper love, and I can trust her to trust Me however things may go and whatever people do.” explained Jesus.   But the third woman, Jesus went on to explain, is one “whom I barely took notice of, she has faith and love of the finest quality, and in her I am training for the highest and holiest service.”

The third woman’s prayers are confident prayers in her relationship with Christ.  Her confidence is not reliant on her job title, her bank account, her circle of influence but rather her intimate friendship with Jesus.  She knows the Savior so intimately, and trusts so completely that she doesn’t need a physical touch, or an approving look every time she talks to God.  She is not dismayed nor discouraged by negative circumstances that enter into her life.

The third woman trusts Jesus so completely that even when her natural instinct is to doubt and rebel, she simply trusts because she knows that God is working in her for eternity and that it’s not necessary to know the purpose or explanation now.  The time she is effectively praying is for trusting, understanding will come later.

The story of the three women teaches us about how God responds to our heartfelt prayers in ways we don’t know about what is going on in our lives.  He cares about every little thing and every big thing.  He cares about every thing that is important to us.  Every one of our dreams, our goals, our hurts, bruises, and festering wounds.    But God is more than our crisis Manager.  He is the giver of life and love and for those reasons alone we can run to Him first with everything, every single thing.

Because of His heart of love for us, and is always working His favor in our lives, we kneel to His soveriegnty, faithfulness, and His abiding presence.  Because of who He is to me I can trust Him with all that I say to Him.  God is sometimes silent in His love and power, but I know and believe that He expresses beyond what words can say and certainly more than my mind can comprehend.  Where I have been growing the most is my understanding of His responses to my Spirit-led prayers and His responses from His deep heart of love.

It’s the work in me that only He sees.

Confirmations are exhibited without me asking for them, “to make sure I am on the right path.”  How often we look to His signs and wonders without believing that He can work a wonder in us without them.  I once found myself looking for the evidence of His hearing of my prayers over just simply trusting that God hears them all.  That day changed my relationship with God in prayer as I asked the Lord to give me a renewed trust in my faith filled prayers.

Praying in faith is believing that God is trustworthy with everything you lay before Him.  Yes, I do believe and trust in our friendship, the Lord and I.  Yes, I pray continously, and yes, I hear His answers.  When I hear His silence though I am learning to trust that all the more.  He is a God of many expressions and emotions, and because He is who He says He is, I can trust Him with all that I am.

How do you come to the Lord in prayer?

What a kid’s movie taught me

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I was getting some coffee before going into church last week, and a friend that I hadn’t seen in a while asked me this question, “Do you have clarity?” I didn’t stop to think about my answer, nor did I need to give it much thought. My quickness in responding kind of surprised him.

Yes, I have clarity. I can remember a time when I didn’t. Those weren’t fun days. Those were days filled with worry, anxiety, and no peace.  When taking steps of faith, one of the problems is that confidence can be hidden behind a mask of fear. We can say we know what we are doing all we want, but our inner selves are actually running as far away from courage as fast as we can.

I don’t know if you have seen the popular kid’s movie “Home”. It’s where a certain race of beings spend their whole lives running away from things that scare them. The hero in the movie runs towards danger and in the end….ooops! I almost gave you the best part.

What I learned from that movie is:
1. That we always need a refuge to go home to.
2. We spend most of our lives running from things that scare us.
3. We hide behind the lies that we can’t, aren’t able, or enough.
4. We can do more than we think we can, we just need to try.

The other day in my leadership class my pastor asked challenged us to make a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” for the week. Mine was to run three miles consecutively, I had worked my way up to two miles over time. I had never run three. Did I tell you that I am not a runner? I’ve been embracing the fun of the run but still haven’t found much fun in it just yet.

I set my mind to running three miles the other day and did it! I was successful and didn’t have to stop to walk and catch my breath at all. I took my pace a little slower and just went for it. I was so proud of my accomplishment. The next time I went for a run, I set the same goal ahead of me, and I went twice as far running seven miles. Wow!

I never thought I could do it until I challenged myself. I was a little afraid of trying, and I don’t know why. It was wonderful to be able to say I did it. It was down right liberating!

“Insecurity is a destructive force. It can destroy your relationships, hinder your progress and steal your peace and joy. Security brings freedom.” ~ Christine Caine.

Yes, I have clarity in knowing who I am in Christ and I’m learning more about Him everyday. I have freedom to make goals that challenge me to go the extra mile. I don’t have to hide behind the lie of not enough anymore. And when you are a faith leaper the only refuge that is “home” for me is the place that draws me closer and closer to Jesus.

Do movies teach you too?

Living your real life online

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We are on a stage with some kind of audience. With the current explosion of social networking there is a bigger “stage” to project our lives. Your stage is as mine and the choice to be real is the same. Our lives should be a reflection of Christ. So the challenge is to make each moment count making each tweet and status update matter.
I like to follow the Five “R’s” as my rule when sharing online:  Real ~ Relevant ~ Reaching ~ Ready ~ Responsible
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Being real in today’s world is a challenge.  We project that we have it all together. Now that we are saved, life as we know it is grand and problem free. Get real….nothing is further from the truth.  Being real with the personal struggles in our own lives is one way we can connect with those who need to know the answers. Don’t make judgmental barriers with those who need grace because you are afraid to expose your inner struggles with someone who might grow through yours. And drop the expectation that new Christians are supposed to act like mature Christians. Stop that!

Being relevant in today’s world is important.  We must know our culture without embracing the practices so that we can connect with those who are seeking truth. I think there is tremendous amount of opportunity online, with tremendous responsibilities to shine God’s light in a dark, obsessive, and possessive world by connecting in manners that are pure and encouraging. The boundaries are individual for each one of us.  We each have lines we can’t cross nor shouldn’t cross. Let God’s truth be your guide as you lead and engage people to Jesus.

Be reaching in your own faith journey. How to be the best witness to all 5000+friends on Facebook? Speak grace, speak the truth in love. Give godly encouragement and seek wise counsel. Be known for righteousness and truth. Don’t waiver on your beliefs, stand firm on your faith foundation. If the life you are living isn’t impacting those around you, it might be because your life doesn’t look much different than theirs. If you are of the sharing nature, your change will spill out to others who are reading your status updates, your tweets, your blogs.

Be ready with why God makes a difference to you. If God has truly impacted your life, you should be as excited as the latest shoe store sale or new nail color at your local salon. You don’t have to sugar coat your story with whipped cream and cherries.  Changed people change people (in cooperation with the Holy Spirit). God’s grace and mercy don’t need any more adjectives to taste delicious, it stands alone as a brilliant message.

Be responsible with your opportunities. God has changed your life, so what? Are we supposed to sit on that message and just count down the days until we die and go to heaven? No. God saves a place for us in Heaven yes, and counts our days to be sure. But He wants to build His kingdom here on earth and entrusts the gospel message with believers to bring others alongside to know Jesus too.  It’s not just about Who we are following but it’s also about who we are leading and who’s following us.

People are watching us that is for sure. We must stand for truth; let your truth shine out the Light. Light trumps the darkness every time. Plastic lives only build barriers.

How do you use your social network to connect for Christ?

For those days when you don’t know what to doeac

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I don’t know why this phrase came to mind today but I have to believe it was an angel activated on my behalf to give me a nudge in my mind to post this.  It’s a work that only could be prompted by God.  “Just do the next thing…” as it came to my prayer.  What would the “next thing” be Lord?”
This one encouragement came at just the right time for me.  Isn’t that the way God always sends help?  Just as we need it?  I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with something that happened today.  Praying for God’s intervention, because yes, He cares about even the little things.  Honestly, I needed a reminder that I don’t have to have it all together or have to sort all the details.  That’s God’s job, my opportunity is to trust Him in the situations that He brings around to draw me closer to Him.
When I think about how He loves me, He shows it in so many ways, I then understand that I can lay anything and everything before Him and simply wait for Him to lead, guide, or act in a manner worthy of Him.  Tonight, His encouragement came after I asked and it was clear, direct and it causes me trust Him all the more.  I wonder if Elisabeth Elliott felt the same nudge?  Whether she did or not, God used her words to comfort me.  Maybe this is what you need to “do the next thing.”
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Elisabeth Elliot ~ Do The Next Thing
From an old English parsonage, down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration–“DO THE NEXT THING.”
Many a question, many of fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, “DO THE NEXT THING.”
Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His Hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings, “DO THE NEXT THING.”
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
(Working or suffering) be thy demeanor,
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing,
Then, as He beckons thee, “DO THE NEXT THING.”
See the quietness of God in a few short words of this prayer?  That’s where God loves to dwell in our words back to Him.  It’s a place I can trust in Him each and every time!

The day I needed some big help

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I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were faithful to take me to church every Sunday and raise me in the Christian faith. So faithful that we were there every time the church doors were open. I grew up knowing the stories of Jesus. I never missed a day of Sunday school. I had been confirmed in the faith classes, memorized a lot of prayers and petitions. So I naturally assumed the faith of my parents. I didn’t have to question what I believed because it was what I always knew.

As a young mom, it was important to me to raise my little ones on a firm and right foundation. I was doing all the right things and repeating prayers like I was taught. I was taking my kids to church & Sunday School every Sunday. It looked like I had it all together and knew all the right answers, but in reality, I didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ. I only knew of Him. And honestly, what I knew I of Jesus, I couldn’t relate to.  He was just a holy image that I couldn’t get close to.

I had studied Him and acknowledged His existence, but there was something missing, a gap between my head’s understanding of who He was and my heart’s acceptance of His kind of love for me.  I was a good person, thought I was going to heaven, because I wasn’t horrible after all.  I was kind, giving and tried to love people.  Like everyone else around me though, I had fallen into some bad habits and behaviors. Just like any other young married mother with a couple of kids, I was trying to make the best of my life and keep my head above the stresses of every day. Little did I know, I was really running in the opposite direction…away from God.

I was going my own direction until I met Jesus.  The very place I lost my understanding of him became the very place I found new life in Jesus.

In a Good Friday service, the Holy Spirit had the details all arranged for our special meeting.  It started with a stripping away of things placed in the sanctuary.  The church committee started removing items one by one in silence.  The lights were dimmed in quiet solitude. One by one the candles were extinguished and the flowers disappeared. The room was practically empty except the few people who sang to themselves, softly in the pews.  A simple wooden cross hung over the center of the bare stone altar. I watched as the room was emptied of the familiar, leaving it practically void. My heart as tearing from an long, deep ache full of an emptiness I can’t describe. I sat alone in the cold, dark reality of my life.

I was a total mess, alone.  It was if a spotlight from heaven beamed down on my head.

In that quiet and holy moment, God bent down and touched my soul and spirit in ways that I could feel.  In those moments my confession of all life’s denials came to mind.  Heaven opened up and grace came down.  Suddenly , I felt the Spirit chip away at that hardened surface as it if were a block of ice readied for a masterpiece.

Whispers to my heart…”I sent my Son just for you, yes, He died for you. That’s how much I love you. And yes, even if you were the only one on this entire planet. I did that ….just for you.”   There were no trumpets blaring, no special lyrics, no confetti, party horns, no balloons, no compelling preacher, just Jesus bending down. 

My eyes were opened as they brimmed with tears. I received the love of my life that day 27 years ago.  My soul immediately spilled with His love and forgiveness.  I am a life that has been changed by the power of the Gospel. Jesus is my Savior, always and forever. And forever will I live with Heaven stamped on my heart. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Ephesians 2:8 – 9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;not by works, so that no one can boast.”

God’s grace and forgiveness is a gift. You can’t earn it nor can you get it by osmosis from good people around you or raising you. Even if you have been in church all your life. Even if you think you are a good person. You have to choose to accept Christ’s death on the cross as payment for your sins. Jesus is the only connection that bridges the gap of your sin to God’s purity.
The best news is that your guilt and shame has been taken care of, no sin is too big that Jesus hasn’t died for.
The Gospel changes lives. It’s grace, it’s love, it’s forgiveness, and this Jesus changes…lives. Jesus bridges the gaps between heads and hearts, sins and righteousness, life and death. I can’t live life without Jesus, I tried that way for a while and I wasn’t headed in a good direction.  Certain death and destruction was imminent for me and my family.  Jesus offers life, love and hope.
That’s the reason I follow Jesus.  He’s got the best answer, best ideas, and best plan for me than I could ever imagine.  Best decision I will ever make that settled my today and my forever home secure.
Jesus is my Way, my Truth, and my Life.  Will you let Jesus be yours too?