Called on Purpose

It took me awhile to wrap my head around the theme my church has for this year. It’s not that I don’t understand what Jesus is calling Christians to do. The Great Commission from Matthew 28:19-20 states it plainly. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I also understand the Scriptures my pastor used yesterday, one section of which showed how people were amazed by Jesus and how He found favor with God’s people and then, how people were amazed by the apostles and the wonders and signs they performed. I especially liked the Scripture from Acts which described the first century church. From Acts 2:42-47, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

I’ve always thought the ideal time for the church was when it was first formed. Now though, it is over two thousand years later, and we need to know what God wants for the church in the 21st century. For many years, I considered myself inadequate for God’s calling. I would look at Scriptures like the ones in Titus 2 and tell myself I looked nothing like the women in those Scriptures. I didn’t consider myself a good role model. (still don’t) My interests didn’t lie with anything  having to do with the home. I felt inadequate with the way God made me. There was no way God could have called me for anything on purpose. Not as a follower and especially not as any kind of leader. I loved Jesus, but I didn’t feel like I was any good at anything.

I had to go through that tension to know God made me the way I am for a point and a purpose. He is calling me to show His love in a way that is different from the person on my right and the person on my left. God is calling for me to be a part of a faith family, but He is also calling for me to use the gifts He has given me whether it is in my church or in the world. So, my called on purpose will look different from everyone else’s except for the overarching theme of showing God’s love.

What will that look like for me during the next few months? I’m still planning some things, but I’ve also got some things on my calendar. I’m going to participate in a 5-K walk to end cancer. This is a first for me as an adult. I never thought I would be in good enough shape to participate in a run or a walk, but things have changed since I made physical activity a priority. I’m also going to an anime convention with my son and husband next month. I’m looking forward to becoming more familiar with one of my son’s passions. And finally, I’m going to a writing workshop which is one of my passions. These things don’t even count the times my husband and I will be serving a meal at my son’s campus ministry in the next few weeks.

I look at all the things I wrote in the previous paragraph, and a point is becoming clearer to me. These are all events in my community and not in my church.  Maybe, that is what “called on purpose” really means. 🙂

Have a great day, everyone!

Christmas and December Birthdays

It’s a week until Christmas Eve. Some of us might be about to put up our Christmas decorations and embark on a frantic week of shopping, baking, wrapping, and traveling while others of us have had our decorations up for weeks. We are drinking hot cocoa at night and listening to Christmas music having finished the Christmas shopping weeks before. I know people at all ends of the spectrum. 

In my home, we’ve done it differently each year. Right now, I am looking at a decorated home with many presents under the tree. There’s more left to wrap and just a few small things left to get. I don’t feel rushed, and I’m grateful. I’ve been able to focus on Jesus and the meaning of the season as well as listen to Christmas music. 

But, there’s a part of me that doesn’t feel like Christmas is about to come until after tomorrow. It’s been that way for almost twenty-two years. Let me explain. When I was growing up, more effort had to be put in to planning my birthday parties because, you guessed it, I had a December birthday. And, inevitably, one or more of my friends couldn’t come to my parties over the years because they were going to some Christmas event. I resented that when I was younger, but not so much now, and I’m not complaining now. That’s just how it was. I did learn the importance of one historical event during my growing-up years because of my birthday, and it led to a fascination with anything related to World War 2. Now, when someone asks about my birthday, I tell them I’m a Pearl Harbor baby. If they know their history, they know when my birthday is. 😉 

I say all this to give you background for the next part of the story. When I found out twenty-two years ago that my first child would be born close to Christmas, I decided I would make a point of celebrating his birthday each year and making sure he knew how special he was to me. The years have passed quickly. He will graduate from college in May and start his own life. There is no way I can tell you how proud I am of him. We’ll go out tomorrow night for dinner, have birthday cake, and have him open presents. Celebrate the anniversary of his birth. The conversation among others might be all about Christmas, but there are other important things to celebrate in my home. 

Now, after tomorrow, my focus will be solely on Christmas and the “reason for the season.” (This phrase is almost trite now, but I try to take each word and put meaning and thought behind it when I say it.) I’ve often wondered if God has a problem with my divided focus during the season. Of course, everyone in my family acknowledges the importance of the birth and death of Jesus. It’s part of the faith we all hold, after all. But, it’s important to me that my son doesn’t feel forgotten on his birthday, and, if I’m being honest, I don’t like feeling forgotten on my birthday either. Fortunately, over the years, I have had many friends who have made sure I haven’t felt forgotten on my birthday. My family has also done a good job of making me feel loved. My husband likes to say that he remembers our son and I so well, we forget his birthday at the beginning of January.  Not this year though. He’s just as special as the rest of us. 😉 

But, back to my question. Is God upset with my divided focus during the Christmas season? I don’t think so. My son and I and many more of his children are born during this month. We are all made in His image just like the people born in the other eleven months of the year. And, He loves us all. He loved us enough to send His Son Jesus all those years ago to be born and to die for us. I wrestle with this every day. How could someone love me that much? My heart would be broken if I had to watch my son die like Jesus died. But, he did that for me and for all of you. That’s why I don’t think God minds my divided focus. Because, you see, love doesn’t divide. Love multiplies. May you know the multiplying nature of Jesus’ love during this Christmas season! 

God bless you! 

Remembering God

Earlier this year, I blogged through the devotional 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs. Remember? I took each devotion and wrote about how it impacted me–hot mess and all. In the process, I learned about bravery and how being brave has impacted my life even when I haven’t felt brave. I also figured out that being brave didn’t necessarily look like what I thought it looked like. During this time, Ms. Downs became a favorite author. God used her words to touch my life. Why am I bringing this up now? She has a new book coming out tomorrow entitled Remember God which I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing. I know God will use her words to impact my life just as He used her words from her previous book. In the meantime, I wanted to share what remembering God looked like for me.

When I typed “remembering God” and “remember God” into the You Version search engine, it came back with many results like I expected. Scripture does a good job of showing where God calls us to remember Him and where humans call on God to remember them. It’s like a lot of things in life. Sometimes, we forget about God’s goodness and need to be reminded. God doesn’t forget though, and I think that might be why we are called on so often in Scripture to remember Him. Here are some examples. From Psalm 78:35, “They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.” God spoke of remembering Israel in Leviticus 26:42. “I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.” The thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him. Luke 23:42 says, “Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'”

There are also many instances in Scripture where people asked God to remember them or thanked God for remembering other believers. Nehemiah 5:19 says, “Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people.” Also, in Thessalonians 1:3, “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” I especially like Ephesians 1:15-16 because I’ve personally used these verses to tell people I’m thankful for them. “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

With all the references to remembering in Scripture, why do we forget God and all He has done for us? I’m not sure, but I think one of the reasons might be because of the fall. Satan doesn’t want us to remember what God has done for us because his job at getting us to believe his lies would be more difficult, and he wants things to be as easy as possible. Doesn’t evil usually work that way?

I also think we let the busyness of our days crowd God out. God is waiting for us to remember, to want to talk to Him, to have a relationship with Him, and sometimes, we just forget He is there.

Finally, we have mistaken impressions of how we need to be when we approach God. Everything needs to be perfect, and we think we need to display the Christian joy everyone keeps talking about. No sadness, and no pain allowed. But, God wants us to come to Him as we are. He wants us to remember Him as we are so He can work in our lives and in our hearts. Then, we can share about His love with a world who desperately needs it.

As I end this post, I want to remind all of us how important it is to remember God and how He is a part of our stories. And, we don’t need to just remember Him. We need to share our stories and how God is important in each of them. Your story might not seem important in the grand scheme of things, but it is just as necessary to God and His Kingdom as those stories that have a larger reach. Thankful for the chance to share my stories in this space!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Invisible

I said last week I was going to be honest when I was in a dark time or a dark place again. Yesterday, I was in one of those places. With a dark heart and dark emotions. I was blocked from something I felt called to…again, and it’s made me wonder why I’m even here. My husband is valued for what he does. My children are valued for what they do. But, me, I’m the back-fill. I’m invisible unless no one else is available. And, if someone else is, too bad for me. I don’t know if that’s ever happened to you, but every time it’s happened to me, it has hurt down to my core.

I don’t even feel like I have anyone I can call when I struggle with faith questions or with service questions. I’ve yet to find anyone who truly understands or is even willing to listen to my hurting heart because it’s hard to understand my hurt.

I know I am valuable to God, and I know He is always there. I know that for a fact. If I didn’t, I could refer to John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God gave His Son for me. Jesus died on the cross for me. I believe that and accept it.

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

My Lord and Savior. I let regular people drive me away from Him once. I won’t ever do it again. But, then that begs the question. What about regular people? My son has a thing he likes to do when he drives somewhere. He parks at the furthest place he can park because he says he “hates people”. Now, what he hates is the way they drive, but it got me thinking. What if we all hated each other? Would anything ever get done for God? Would be willing to share about Jesus’ love? My guess is we wouldn’t be. Why would we want to if we hated each other?

God had something to say about that very topic too. I Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Then, there’s I John 4:8. “Whoever does not love God does not know God, because God is love.” Jesus says this in John 15:12. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” And, finally, there’s Romans 12:10. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

So, we’re supposed to love each other as well as love God? Yes, we are. But, can we do it on our own? I think I’ve demonstrated we can’t. We can’t unless we have Jesus in our hearts. He is the only one who can make it possible to love the people we might naturally hate.

But, what about the people who wound us, especially those who are in the church. I’ve been thinking about that recently. About people who have wounded me and my family in the past and people who have wounded me recently. The hurt can be overwhelming. It seems that once I’ve forgiven someone, another person steps in to take their place. And we’re supposed to forgive them over and over like it says in Matthew 18:21-22. “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'” That’s biblical language for forgiving over and over. 🙂

Being wounded can hurt though. It can hurt a lot. And it can help us know how Jesus must have felt on His way to the cross. He was carrying the sins of everyone in the world. I felt a knife slicing into me yesterday as I thought of how much it must have hurt Him. All of those hurts piled on top of mine. And those were just the ones I could imagine. Jesus had so much more.

So, I’ve been thinking and praying and talking to God about all of this. About how I feel wounded and invisible. About how I’m tired and wishing Jesus would come back. About how I wish I could do this church thing by myself and not have to deal with people. I’ve had the chance to crawl into my Father’s lap, and it has helped so much. It has helped me release my burdens and forgive the people involved. This is a good thing.

But, in case you might think I’ve opened myself up to being invisible again, my talking with God has also done something else. It has helped me realize that I need to be in prayer about everything I do in my life whether it be for the church or anywhere else. I want to be in God’s will and have His leading in my life. Just because someone thinks I should do something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what God wants me to do, and that is something I need to remember whether the other person likes it or not.

Isn’t that what it boils down to? We need to care more about what God thinks of us than other people. So, when I feel invisible again, all I need to listen for is God’s voice. “I see you, daughter. I see you and appreciate your willingness to seek my heart in what I have called you to do.”

God’s blessings on you all today!

The Second Greatest Commandment

I’m not sure any of us ever think of the second greatest commandment. I mean, why would we think of the second one when we can think of the first one. Isn’t our society all about who or what is first? Do we remember the people who win silver medals in the Olympics? Do we remember the loser of the Super Bowl or the NCAA basketball tournament? Do we remember the loser of the World Cup? No, I can honestly say I don’t remember any of those people or teams. It’s in our mindset to remember who’s first.

Don’t get me wrong. What Jesus says is the first commandment is important. It’s very important. From Matthew 22:37-38, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.'” It’s one of the bedrock statements of our faith.

The second part is too, but there is one little part of Jesus’ statement I think we neglect, and it is what I want to talk about today. From Matthew 22:39-40, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Here’s another question. What part am I talking about? Don’t we emphasize all  the words of these verses? Read the quote of Matthew 22:39 again and see what part I emphasize. “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” We go all out on the “loving your neighbor” part. We sacrifice; we serve; we give. All benchmarks of our faith. But, the “as yourself” part, not so much. In fact, if we say we love ourselves, we’re accused of being selfish and narcissistic. Sometimes, I feel it even goes to not admitting sorrow or sadness ourselves. Why should we admit sorrow or sadness? We have Jesus in our lives. We should be happy all of the time. I do know that part is not true, however.

What the author says in today’s devotion from 100 Days to Brave has given me permission to think about these things. She says, “You have to love yourself to love others well.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) I agree with this, and I believe Jesus says it too which brings me back to the messages about myself that have been in my head for a long time. I talked about them yesterday when I was speaking of the words I grew up hearing. “You’re too heavy.” “You’re too quiet.” “You’re too sensitive.” “You’re different.” “You’re not enough like a woman.” “You’re odd.” “You’re too smart.” “What you feel doesn’t matter.”

Lots of messages, as you can see. Though these messages are well-entrenched in my head, I believe I’ve been able to love other people over the years. I remembered what it felt like not to be believed in as the person I was, and I never wanted  anyone to feel the way I felt. Yes, I’ve made mistakes. Plenty of them. But, I’ve done the best I could with what I had.

But, I’ve had to consider something today, and it’s made me wonder if I am a Christian at all. Wow, from the author of a Christian blog no less, but bear with me. The author of the devotional talks about how our relationships could be even better, that we could “love others well” as I quoted earlier, if we loved ourselves. They would be different. I know that. If I was able to live that truth, I know they would be different.

She asked some questions though at the end of today’s devotion that I’ve had to seriously consider. “Do you love yourself? Do you see yourself the way God sees you? Do you recognize how absolutely lovable you are? (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) She goes on to say that loving others is easy when we can see that truth. I can’t though. My answers to all those questions is no. No, I don’t love myself. No, I don’t see myself the way God sees me. And no, I don’t recognize how lovable I am. I know I love Jesus with all of my heart, but I don’t know if He loves me, and I know I don’t love myself.

So, I’m left wondering if I’m even a Christian after these realizations. Because I’m different, I don’t feel worthy of God’s love. How’s that for an ending? 🙁 Don’t worry though. I’m still going to write my way through the rest of this devotional and see if I can figure things out. Figure out if I am a Christian and figure out this bravery thing.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

A Heart Response

For the longest time, I’ve been trying to figure out where my gifts from God fit into His plan for me. My gift is not one of the common ones. I’m not talented in teaching children or working in the kitchen or singing so it’s been hard for me to figure out how I fit in with people wanting to share their gifts from God. In fact, sometimes I don’t feel like I fit in. But, in this journey towards bravery, I’m learning that it doesn’t matter what others think of me or my gifts. It matters what God thinks of me and how I use my gifts for His glory.

I find it appropriate that today, less than a week until Valentine’s Day, the devotional topic is about my heart, about all our hearts. I especially liked the Bible verse that was used. Psalm 86:15 says, “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. What that means is that God is slow to get angry and has more love than we could know what to do with. Yes, that’s what abounding means. Very plentiful and abundant. And that is how much He loves you and me. There’s no way He could love us anymore than He does because His love goes on forever. He chose me to love, and He chose you to love. We don’t deserve it, but it flows over and over us with no end in sight. It is amazing to think of what my Lord and Savior has done for me and how much He loves me since I have no way to pay Him back.

God doesn’t want us to pay Him back though. His overwhelming love and His grace are the point of this faith we follow. We have done nothing to deserve it and will do nothing to deserve it until the day we die.

So, if we can’t do things to deserve God’s love, how do we respond to this extravagant, abounding love He has given us? I liked what the devotion had to say because it also helps me to honor the gifts He has given me. We can make life choices that honor God in response to His love. I call this a heart response. Our passions are a part of who we are, and God wants us to use them for Him. I had never thought of it that way before. When I am writing a blog post or a story or a book, I am pouring out my love for my Lord and Savior with my words. It doesn’t matter that I don’t fit in with my Christian brothers and sisters. It matters that I am loving God with the gifts He has given me. What a comfort! What a joy! My gift isn’t something I have to hide, and it’s something I can use to show God how much I love Him! Thank you, God, for loving and choosing me, and please help me have the courage to use my gift of writing for you!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

How Jesus Really Sees Us

I’m taking a break from the prompts today to explore this topic because, sometimes, I don’t think we, as believers, truly understand this. I know I don’t.

What do you do when you get up in the morning? Do you take a shower? Wash your hair? Ladies, do you put on make-up? Guys, do you shave? Do you make sure your clothes and hair look the best they can look before you walk out the door? If you do that, you are presenting your best face to the world. Who am I kidding? We all do that. We want the people in our world to see us in the best possible light.

It’s not in how we physically appear either. When we are around other people, we want the best parts of our character to be present so they will love us. We want to do good deeds, have good attitudes, and be seen praising God even if we don’t want to. In other words, we put our best front forward.

As all of us know though, our best front doesn’t stay good all of the time. We get mad. We’re sad about something. We’re difficult to get along with. We’re unreasonable. We’re demanding. It’s all a part of sin nature. And that doesn’t even count the deepest things we hide at the bottom of our souls. Things that don’t come out at all, ever, even on the pain of death. That’s what sin nature is.

Jesus knows everything though. What, you didn’t think He knew? 🙂 Yes, He knows everything, and He still loves you. He died on a cross for you.

Sometimes, though, I need words and imagery to come from another place. And, in this instance, how Jesus really sees me comes from the words of a song. One of my favorite songs, as a matter of fact. If you’ve ever been married or you have participated in a wedding, you’ll understand this. Everyone looks their best on their wedding day. It’s a moment of significance that, hopefully, will last for a lifetime. But, our sin nature still exists underneath all the finery. Jesus knows all the things we’ve done wrong and will do wrong. We should look like dirt to Him, but we don’t. That’s why I love the song “Wedding Day” by Casting Crowns. Even though the words fit a bride more than they do a groom, I believe all of us can take something away from this song. Jesus loves each and every one of us, and we appear perfect to Him though we are not because our sins are covered by the cross. I’m going to quote the verses of this song so you can see what I mean. May we all understand how Jesus really sees us today!

“Wedding Day” by Casting Crowns

There’s a stirring in the throne room
And all creation holds it’s breath
Waiting now to see the bride groom
Wondering how the bride will dress
And she wears white
And she knows that she’s undeserving
She bears the shame of history
With this worn and weary maiden
Is not the bride that he sees
And she wears white, head to toe
But only he could make it so

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says you’re beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day

She has danced in golden castles
And she has crawled through beggar’s dust
But today she stands before him
And she wears his righteousness
And she will be who he adores
And this is what he made her for

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day

When the hand that bears the only scars
And heaven touch her face
And the last tears she’ll ever cry
Are finally wiped away
And the clouds roll back as he takes her hand
And walks her through the gates
Forever we will reign

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day”

I am so glad my Lord and Savior sees me with the cover of the cross. May God bless you all today!

My Mess

Time to write a post about another one of the journaling prompts. I wasn’t sure how to interpret this prompt or even if I wanted to write about it until just now so my thoughts are going to be all over the place. This is my only warning. 🙂

First, the prompt. “God is like a potter, and we are like the clay. He molds us as he wills. What process does clay have to go through before it can be turned into a masterpiece? In what areas of your life do you feel God is especially hard at work right now?”

When I was younger, I had experience with many art mediums such as crayons, markers, chalk, and clay. I never was intrigued enough or thought I was good enough to do anything with art. I preferred to paint pictures with my words. But, I remember how cool the clay felt in my hands and how neat it was to be able to shape it into anything I wanted. The best part was when I got the finished piece back from the kiln, and I had something pretty to take home.

I wonder if that’s how God feels when He is forming us. It says in Scripture that we are the work of God’s hand specifically in Isaiah 64:8. “Yet you, Lord are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hand.” I used to think these verses were referring to when He was forming us in our mothers’ wombs. But, what if it means the ways He has formed us over our lives? The experiences–both good and bad. The people He has brought into our lives. Does Jesus get excited when we finally get something He is trying to teach us, and He is able to form another piece of our clay? Does God cry when we experience deep joy in Him despite our sorrow? Is there delight in the way He has formed us? Does He tells the angels ‘Look at that one. He’s going to be perfect when I bring him home.’?

None of us know, and we won’t know until we get to heaven. But, I can’t help but think that He speaks sweet words of love over us every time He forms the clay differently. Because sometimes it hurts to go in a different direction. I understand this now because I remember what I used to do with the clay. I would pull it and stretch it to make it like the shape I wanted. I didn’t think of my pulling and stretching the clay as hurting it because the clay wasn’t a person. It was just something I used in art class.

We are people though, and sometimes life and our mess hurts. It makes us think we can’t be used by God. That’s not true although I am still learning that for myself. The imagery of the kiln helps me to process this. God is preparing me to be perfect (covered by Jesus and in His eyes) when He brings me home. And boy, that will be a wonderful day, when I’m with my Lord and Savior.

I’ve spoken of how clay is prepared and how I think God delights in the preparation of how He wants to bring us home. What I haven’t spoken of is the second part of the prompt. In what areas of my life do I think God is especially hard at work?

I think God is doing His best to help me realize I’m loved by other people. (besides my family) Because, you see, I fall short in that area. I don’t think I deserve to be loved because of my mess. I know God loves me. He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for me. But, I have a hard time thinking anyone else does.

We come together on Sundays and Wednesdays, and we hide our true selves from each other. We isolate ourselves which makes it much easier for Satan to work. At least, I do anyway. Why don’t we have the courage to say “I love you.” to the people around us? Is it because of the connotations of the word? Is it because of the mess we have deep down inside that we don’t want to admit to anyone? Is it because of the energy we use trying to maintain our shields?

I’ve had a lot of mess in my life during the last couple of weeks. Mess I didn’t think deemed me worthy of being able to talk to anyone else. I begged God to give me courage, but Satan had my mouth locked up tight. I was finally able to reach past the mess, hurt, and pain to talk to someone the other night, and I’m so glad I did. Through that conversation and others, I have realized we are going to love each other imperfectly until Jesus comes. We are going to let each other down, and we’re going to get mad and tired and grumpy and whatever other bad emotions you can think of. But, use the words please. Use the words “I love you.” in conversations with your families and friends. Let them know that despite their mess you love them and want what’s best for them. Who knows? You might give someone the courage to walk back to Jesus.

God’s blessings on you all today!

A Different Kind of Brokenness

I would hope by this time that all of us who are professing believers would know that we are broken; covered by God’s grace and what Jesus did for us on the cross. There is not one of us who hasn’t fallen short. In fact, the only being that has lived a perfect life on this earth is Jesus Christ who lived, died on the cross, and was resurrected so He could save us from judgment for our sins. I know this and am thankful to God every single day for the grace He has exhibited towards me.

But, for anyone who has read this blog or anything I have written, for that matter, you know I have a penchant to wonder. My wonderings are what brought me to today’s post.

We all know what is broken inside of us. We know our weaknesses, and the sins we are most likely to commit. We know the best ways to push Jesus out and to pretend that what we are about to do is okay with Him. We know the best ways to hide from Him. All of this is how I know I’m broken.

I wonder though. I wonder why people think it’s okay to be consistently late to work. I wonder why people speed on the highway. I wonder why people throw trash out of their cars. I wonder why people cheat on their taxes. I wonder why people try to take advantage of other people. I wonder why people seem to be so oblivious sometimes. It can make me crazy if I let it.

Now, I’m not trying to set myself up to judge other people. Far from it. I know judging other people is wrong, and God says not to do it so I won’t. But, I still wonder why people do things that are so obviously wrong to me. Why do people take drugs? Why do people steal? Why do people take advantage of others? Why do people hurt other people?

The very simple answer to this would be because of sin or someone’s sin nature. But, I want to go beyond that as suggested by today’s title. I know I’m broken, but there are other kinds of brokenness so foreign to me that I have a hard time seeing into them. Let me explain. During the times my husband has been out of work over the last couple of years, we didn’t have a lot of money coming in. In fact, it was by God’s grace that we survived each time of unemployment. During that time though, the idea of stealing money never entered our minds. Why not, you ask? Well, because stealing is wrong. We didn’t want to do something that was wrong although we could have used the money.

There are others though who wouldn’t have blinked an eye. They would have stolen money because they needed it, and they wouldn’t have cared who it hurt. Those thoughts are foreign to me. I have a hard time understanding them. But, I wanted to understand, and God gave me the words. These people have a different kind of brokenness–from their life experiences and life choices. If these are experiences and choices I have never faced, why would I understand them? The answer is a no-brainer. I wouldn’t.

God still calls us to love them though as it says in Luke 10:27. “He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

And before we get caught up in what neighbor means, Leviticus 19:34 says it plainly. “The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

So, we are called to love everyone despite how foreign their brokenness is to you and to me. We are called to love strippers like my friend in Oregon does. We are called to love the person who gives us difficulties at work. We are called to love the person who might try to take advantage of us. We are called to love the person whose mindset and brokenness might be completely different from ours. We are called to love period! I saw a quote in my email earlier that shows what this love could do if the church truly expressed it. It is not a specifically Christian quote, but I think it demonstrates how Jesus wants His church to love. From Barbara DeAngelis: “Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible–it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.” May we love like Jesus would have us love!

God’s blessings on you all today!

 

The Mark of Love–Dedicated to Crossbridge

Celebrating anniversaries in this culture is often overdone, but I like them nonetheless. No, not for the presents, cards, or well-wishes I might get. I like anniversaries because I get the chance to take stock and reflect. Look back at where I came from and see where I’m going. I can marvel at the good times and see how the bad times have made me stronger. I can see that God is with me everywhere.

It didn’t use to be that way. Five years ago this month, my older son and I had just started visiting Crossbridge, the church we all attend now. He had asked if we could visit a church, and I agreed. The other members of my family weren’t ready yet so it was just the two of us. I think about this today because it is a Wednesday. Tonight, I will go to worship my Lord and Savior. I will listen to my son play the cojon as part of our worship team, listen to a speaker as part of our summer series, and fellowship with my faith family at table. I’ll watch the kids run around and talk with the adults.

Five years ago, it wasn’t like that. I would drop my son off at church and go to the bookstore to write. While I trusted the recommendation my friend had given me, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to stay myself. I didn’t have the mark of love on my heart that I do now for the people at Crossbridge. I had not yet invited God back into my heart. I was still too wounded from had happened in previous churches. Boy, has my life changed in five years. Now, God is back in my heart, and now, I can feel the mark of love in my heart.

What does “mark of love” mean? I recently heard a similar phrase in a song, and it struck me. “Keep Your Eyes on Me” is a song by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and it’s a part of the The Shack movie soundtrack. I haven’t seen the movie yet though I have read the book and listened to several songs off the soundtrack. Here is the exact phrase I heard. “Ain’t it just like love to leave a mark on the skin and underneath.” The phrase made sense to me though I had never heard it before. As we get to know someone, there are shared conversations and experiences, some good and some bad. We realize we have a lot in common, and we come to have warm feelings for that person. I would state that this is the mark of love. We can have it for our loved ones, and we can have it for our friends. I believe God wants us to take that mark of love one step further. When we accept Jesus into our heart, God wants to give us that mark of love for everyone in the world, for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for those who don’t know Him. It’s not something we can do ourselves in our own strength, only with God’s strength can we love someone the way He wants us to.

Another song from the soundtrack also illustrated love in a powerful way to me. The song “Heaven Knows” by Hillsong United shows how love can exist even through the bad times. I especially liked this stanza:

“Hold my heart, don’t let it break like fear
Sometimes a moment feels like a thousand years
God only knows why love is drenched in tears
Maybe that’s what makes it love
Maybe that’s what makes it love”

Many of us walk away when someone we love hurts us, from our friends, from our families, from the church. It is hard to work through pain and suffering when we’ve been taught to hide it for so long. At least, that’s what I was taught. But, these words ring true for me. I want to live in a way that I love through everything–the good, the bad, the pain, the hurt, the laughter, the joy, the suffering. I think that’s what God wants from all of us.

So, Crossbridge family, I dedicate this post to you. Thank you for inserting the mark of love in my heart and for opening my heart to God’s love. Thank you for loving me through the tears. Thank you for showing Jesus to me and to my family. I love you all!