A fresh perspective on one’s to-do list…
Happy Valentine’s Day, my friend. Know you are loved!
On Wednesday’s blog, I wrote about the simple but life-changing truth found in Psalm 118:5,6: “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered and set me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the Lord is for me, he will help me.” (italics mine)
For the past two days, I’ve been meditating on these words and drawing huge encouragement from them. Last night, while speaking at South Delta Baptist Church’s annual Strawberry Tea, I told about their impact on my outlook when facing frightening situations. Then I walked the women through a simple exercise that I hope will help them remember and apply Truth when they feel afraid.
First, I asked them to say the words, “the Lord is for me.” Then together and aloud, we put the emphasis on Lord.
“Who is the Lord?” I asked my audience. “He’s the creator of heaven and earth! The one who spoke the universe into being! This amazing God—the one for whom nothing is impossible—He’s the one who is for you! Why, then, should we fear?”
Next, I asked them to repeat the phrase while placing emphasis on for. “God is cheering for us,” I said. “He doesn’t sit in heaven and wait for us to fail so He can clobber us. He wants us to do well in life, so He’s given us His word to show us how to live. He loves us with an unfailing love. We can trust Him and His ways even when we don’t understand them because He’s for us, not against us.”
Last, I asked the audience to repeat the phrase while stressing me. “Sometimes I feel as though God loves other people more than He loves me,” I said. “Sometimes I doubt His love for me because I feel unlovable or ‘way too insignificant to matter to Him. Yet this Scripture says He loves me. He knows me through and through, and He still loves me like crazy. The same is true for you. Why then, if God loves us so much, are we plagued by fear?”
Good question, eh? How would you answer that one?
I pray that this simple exercise will stick with these women for the rest of their lives. Why don’t you give a whirl?
How do these three truths impact you today?
Mother Teresa said, “It is easy to love those who are far away. It isn’t always easy to love those who are right next to us. It is easier to offer a dish of rice to satisfy the hunger of a poor person than to fill up the loneliness and suffering of someone lacking love in our own family.”
I believe Mother Teresa’s right. Sometimes it’s easier to, say, fill a shoebox with toys and treats for a child overseas than to address a friend or family member’s needs, especially when that person is difficult to love. Given a choice, I’d rather lavish love long-distance, even if it’s never acknowledged, than risk being misunderstood or used by someone known with a difficult personality. It’s easier to invest in a stranger than in a human sponge who irritates me or absorbs my time and energy with little or no return. Can you relate?
1 Peter 1:22 challenges my attitude: “You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.”
The last phrase pokes me in the conscience. Love each other deeply with all your heart.
Sheesh—if only it read something like this: “Love those who are easy to love. As for the others, well, love them as you can, when you feel like it, and in whatever manner is most comfortable for you.” My life would be much simpler if I could edit and tweak those eight words.
Making my life simple isn’t what God’s about. He’s about making me holy, about making me reflect His character to a watching world. Because He loves deeply from the heart, so must I. In some instances, doing so might prove inconvenient, costly, time-consuming, or downright difficult. No one understands this more than God. And no one’s more qualified to show me how to do it, especially when it seems an impossible task.
Perhaps a good morning prayer would be, “God, please open my eyes to those near me who are lacking love today. Show me how love them deeply from my heart, and then enable me to do it well.” Yes, I think I’ll add this one to the beginning of each day. I wonder how God will answer? Will you pray it, too?
Remember the one-time popular song lyrics? “All you need is love…all you need is love…”
I agree, although not with the type of love the singers were singin’ about.
All we need is God’s love, and He lavishes it upon us. How so? Here are a few examples:
That list is by no means exhaustive; it’s just a teaser that shows some tangible ways in which God shows His love to those who love Him. He communicates His affection in other ways, too.
For instance, He speaks to us through His Word with affirmations such as, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” (Jeremiah 31:3). How sweet is that? But wait! There’s more…
Most of all, God loves us by giving us the free gift of eternal life. Thank goodness He doesn’t dole it out only to those with pristine behavior or sin-free status. If that was true, I’m afraid I’d be outta luck, along with the rest of the world’s population.
How should the knowledge of God’s great love for us impact our lives? Personally, it gives me the ability to rest in His purpose for my life and in His ability to orchestrate the details to accomplish that purpose. Circumstances don’t always turn out the way I think they should, but I don’t need to fret of fear because I’m in His care. He knows what’s best for me and how to bring it to pass. Besides, is He not powerful enough to accomplish whatever He wants to do?
All we need is love, folks. God’s love. It’s the best antidote for all that ails us. Wanna join me in humming a little tune? “All you need is love…ba ba ba ba ba…all you need is love…”
Tell me, how has God shown His love for you? How does the knowledge of His love impact your life?
Once upon a long time ago, I attended a conference at which the speaker said something like, “When people look at you, can they see that you belong to Jesus?” He gave an analogy about how children often bear a resemblance to their parents – their eyes are the same color or their ears are the same shape. Maybe they even demonstrate the same mannerisms.
In my case, I thought about my nose. By no means is it dainty. It has a bump on the bridge and a bulb at the bottom, and wouldn’t ya know it? It looks just like my dad’s. In fact, the older I get, the more it resembles his. It’s obvious that I’m Henry’s daughter; the shape of my nose is his mark of ownership on me.
In the spiritual realm, God has placed His mark of ownership on us by giving us His Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13 says, “And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.” And when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He produces character qualities in us such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23). These characteristics demonstrate to a watching world that we belong to Jesus. They are His mark of ownership on His children.
The speaker’s question – “When people look at you, can they see that you belong to Jesus?” – is the only thing I remember from that conference. It challenged me then and it challenges me now. I’m sure there are days when those who know me best would hesitate before answering positively, but my prayer is that, overall, the answer comes back as “Yes!”
How about you? When people look at you, can they see Jesus’ mark of ownership on you? If so, that’s wonderful! If not, what needs to change?
This morning began with breakfast in our hotel. The menus were written only in Romanian – we managed to figure out a few words such as omelette and coffee. Thankfully Tony and Claudia came to our rescue and placed our complete order for us. We had a hearty laugh over our meal when we discovered a major cultural difference.
In Europe, it’s okay to reach across someone’s plate if you want a particular food item. It’s also okay to get up from your chair and walk to a place at the table where you can reach that item. It’s not okay to ask someone to “Please pass the …..” That’s considered rude because doing so causes that person to stop eating or to interrupt their conversation to give you what you want. Our team explained to Claudia and Tony that in our country, it’s considered rude to reach across a plate or leave your chair to walk around the table to help yourself to what you want. They laughed and said, “We wondered why you always asked us to pass certain food items, such as the salt. We thought you were perfectly capable of getting it yourself. Why should you always ask us for help?” Gotta love the differences!
After breakfast we drove to the day center. Tresha put us to work sorting clothing and craft donations for an hour or so. She said our efforts saved her about six day’s work. I’m so thankful we could serve her in that way. Then the kids began to arrive.
All the campers showed up, plus four or five more…and three of their mothers! How exciting is that? We taught them a fun camp song called “Dum Dum Ditty” – they laughed and thought it was great fun. And then I gave a devotional about overcoming the giants in our lives by remembering that God is always with us and He will be faithful. Claudia translated for me. When I finished speaking, she shared some thoughts…and that led to a rousing and passionate discussion about attending discos, drinking, drug abuse, reading the Bible for answers, and more. The discussion grew so lively, with several people speaking at once, that Tresha had to give up translating. It’s so exciting to see how the kids feel free to ask questions, and how Claudia and Tresha constantly send them back to the Word.
Then came the tough part – saying goodbye to these precious kids. One gal – the one who read the poem about her mother’s death – wrapped her arms around me, buried her face in my neck, and cried hot tears. I held her close for a long time. She would look into my eyes and say, “I love you,” and cry some more. Her older sister stood a few inches away, so I hugged her, too. Then I felt nudged to say, “In my heart, I feel like a mother to you both.” Tresha walked by at that time, so she translated these words. The girls replied that they felt the same way. Then one said, “I don’t suppose you’d like to live in Romania. I’ll take you home with me.”
There were lots of tears, lots of hugs and kisses as our team bid the kids goodbye. They all expressed a desire for us to return next summer. I can’t help but wonder if they’ll all be alive next summer. My prayer is that, whatever the future holds, God will draw them to Himself so they will know His presence and peace now, and eternity with Him someday.
I read today in Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve sinned against God. Verse 7 stood out to me: “…they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves” after they’d eaten from the forbidden fruit.
Fig leaves around the hips, eh? I can almost see the couple cowering in an orchard, trying desperately to string the greenery before God shows up for their daily walk in the park. Their hands are shaking and sweat beads are forming on the foreheads. They know they’ve done wrong, and they know their actions have built a wall between themselves and God. And so they try to cover up, to pretend that everything’s okay. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.
God walks onto the scene knowing full well what His kids had been up to. He speaks with them to make sure they understand the seriousness of disobeying Him, He levies the consequences for what they’ve done, and then…I love this part…He provides a cover-up for them.
Big difference between the first and second cover-ups!
The first is flimsy, inadequate, and manmade. The second is crafted by God’s hands and covers the nakedness completely. More importantly, it’s made from animal skins, which require a blood sacrifice. This cover-up is sufficient.
How many times do we sin, and then try to set things right on our own? We string fig leaves together — using flimsy excuses to cover our tracks — but our feeble attempts don’t work. God knows what we’ve done, and, because He loves us and wants nothing to interfere with our fellowship with Him, He has provided the perfect cover-up for us.
Like the animal skins that covered Adam and Eve, this one covers us. It, too, required a blood sacrifice — the blood of Jesus Christ. And it’s sufficient. Nothing else is needed — just our willingness to accept the gift of God’s cover-up for us.
What an amazing proof of God’s love for us!
We’re a week into the New Year, and I’m determined to fulfill at least one of my resolutions. So here I am, nosediving into the world of blogging. This is yet another learning curve for me, but that’s okay. Learning curves make life interesting, right?
As I’ve thought about my blogging topic, one theme comes to mind. I want this to be a project that encourages women worldwide to discover their giftedness and develop their God-given potential so they can impact the generations to come. I envision including thought-provoking quotes, short interviews, and stories about women whose lives have made/are making a difference. I want to explore the character qualities their lives possess and learn how to emulate them. I want readers to share life lessons that others will find valuable, and for all to be challenged to a deeper faith walk.
Join me in this venture! I’ll kick off with a quote from Mother Teresa: “Let’s be willing to smile at one another, because a smile is the beginning of love. And once we begin to love one another, the desire to do something for one another more naturally follows.”
Imagine that! Sometimes we think we have to do something noteworthy and grand before we’re considered a woman of influence. But Mother Teresa’s words indicate otherwise. We simply need start with a smile. Sheesh — that’s easy. And it can be life-changing for a child whose home is filled with anger, an isolated senior, a frustrated teenager, or a lonely neighbor.
Whatever our schedule holds, let’s be sure to include a smile for those around us. The simple gesture might just lift someone’s fallen spirit, and it will fan the flame of love in our hearts.