Nov 16, 2011

The Greatest of These is Love

My husband has this specific message that he's believed in ever since we met. (In fact, hearing him talk about it at the Baptist Student Union devotion time was what first drew me to him!) It's a simple message that has such a profound impact: love.

It's a message that he was blessed to share with about 30 youth last Friday evening at a lock-in (hosted by our friends, Brian and Laura Leigh). How if you say you love God but hate your brother, you're a liar. If you don't love according to 1 Corinthians 13, you don't really love. (And, yes, we all fail in that area because we aren't perfect, but this is our standard.) And this love is not just found in 1 John or 1 Corinthians but throughout the Bible. In fact, my husband firmly believes that the Bible is nothing but God saying He loves us and wants a relationship with us. And I can't help but see the same theme.

This morning, for example, I read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. From chapter 5 to chapter 7, there's a theme that I noticed. Can you guess what it is?! "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...If you remember that your brother has a complaint against you, go make it right...Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy...Blessed are you when men persecute you and spitefully revile against you for My sake...Judge not that you be not judged, for in the manner that you judge you yourself shall be judged..."

In this, Jesus' first message to, well, anyone (as far as we know), He makes it clear that the difference between the Judaic law and the Christian "law" is love. Love is what makes Jesus the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. I have heard and even said many times that the difference between the two is the heart in which something is done...but if it isn't done in love, is it really done with the right heart?

I think that's what the real difference between the Pharisees and Jesus was. They were doing lists of things because they looked right, but Jesus did all of His actions out of love.

The lists of things to do, items to check off, they're nothing without love. Isn't that what Paul was saying?
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
We could easily say, "If I read my Bible, pray for others, go to church and Sunday School, if I lead the women's ministry and volunteer to lead every youth event, if I visit the homeless and the shut-ins and give half of my salary to the church but have not love, I am nothing."

Yes, it looks good on paper. It looks great to everyone at church and in the community. But to God? Paul once again says it best.
"...If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ..." (Philippians 3:4-8).
When Paul says that he counts these great things that he has done as rubbish, he means the very lowest form of crap. (Sorry to be crass, but the actual word used here in the Greek? Well, it's the most vulgar form of the word "poo" you can get...) These things that we do, that we strive for? Compared to knowing Christ, they are rubbish.

And when we don't do them out. of. love, they are worthless.

It boils down to this: if we love God, we will love our brothers (and sisters). And if we love God, we will serve Him out of love, not fear or duty.

How are you showing love today?

Sharing my heart this morning over at Ann's.

Nov 10, 2011

The Gracious Struggle

I've been getting blessed out of my socks for the past 2 days from reading the Compassion bloggers in Ecuador. (Twitter hashtag #cbec) If you haven't checked them out, I suggest you do. And be prepared. Tissues, your Bible, a journal to write down thoughts...

It's life-changing, heart-wrenching, and eye-opening. All of it. From reading about God's great grace He gives to a pig farmer from Canada to the grace He gives to an Ole Miss fan from Alabama. And every picture, every thought in between.

Still I'm caught in the struggle between, "We don't have the money," and, "We have so much stuff." Most of it was accumulated over time or given to us by many generous people at Abby's baby showers. (She has several outfits that she never wore. I kid you not.) What do we need? What can we sell? Send? Give?

I'm still not sure. And this has been mulling through my mind for over a year. Maybe I'm a slow learner, but I do know this: God is calling me to something beyond this American mindset. To something more than over-indulgence. As Ann pointed out this morning, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Ezekiel 16:49 (emphasis Ann's)

I don't want to be guilty of not helping the poor and needy.

That's what I keep coming back to. That and the fact that even with a very low salary, even with our missing bills left and right, we're still richer than most people in the world today. We have so much, so much. And why can't we give?

I'm ashamed to admit that we could sponsor a child. If we got rid of the Internet and Netflix. And when I look at the faces of the hurting and the poor, that's all I want to do. But I also know this: sponsoring a child, for us, is something that we have to commit to. There's no turning back. And some months, we can't pay our Internet or Netflix bill on time.

So I pray. I wait. And I'm yearning for the day when God opens up a way for us to sponsor a child. Or two. Or ten. When He allows for us to help in a tangible way. And, oh, I hope it comes soon!

If you would like to sponsor a child through Compassion, you can click here for more info.

Nov 7, 2011

Counting Gifts Today...Because I Need the Reminder...

Today? Ugh...I'd rather not talk about today.

I had another meltdown. (Let's see...that makes at least one every day for the past week...) I think it might be stressed-induced. Because I've been stretched thin. Because I've been concerned about our financial state. I know the verses, and I can sing the songs, but it. is. hard.

It's hard when your ideas of how things should be come crashing down. Again. It's hard when things seem to be falling apart. For real. Even our hot water heater leaked last Monday...and it went into Abby's room. Our landlord had it repaired that day, but there's still damage to the room. (It stinks...and the carpet is somewhat stained.)

But I know that God is faithful, even when we don't feel like it. He is there, leading us and guiding us, even when we hurt. Even when we don't see it, He is there. And He is waiting to comfort us.

I spent some time with Him this afternoon. Some self-induced Mommy "Quiet Time Out" time. It was good. So very good. And I felt a huge sense of peace wash over me. I gave God all of the things I felt I needed or wanted to accomplish. And guess what? Some things got done. Others didn't. And we're okay. It's such a relief to type those words and to know they are true.

He is faithful. He has given us so very much. All I need to do is look...

Counting the gifts today...

long walks in the woods behind our house

seeing the pond my husband mentioned before

new car seat bought mostly with gift cards! 

moist pumpkin spice muffins from The Pioneer Woman YUM!

sweet smiles and kisses from Abby

hearing her belly laugh as she plays with her daddy

watching her grow up so quickly...waving bye bye, saying words like blue and book, trying to talk and walk already...

chatting with my #clothdiaper friends on Twitter

Drew taking care of me in just the right way when I need it most

Him taking Abby for me in the mornings/evenings so that I can relax

being in the top 5...and praying for God's will to be done

learning to praise Him "Even if..." (Dan. 3:16-18)

the hours and days that I feel aren't worth it...and the sweet look of total trust that says it is

figuring out that the striving isn't worth if only I could live it!

coming back to this place. right here. and feeling at home. :)  

Nov 4, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Remember

It's been a while since I stopped and wrote out a Five Minute Friday...but in the stillness of this minute (or five...) I'm going to once again join Lisa-Jo and a host of other bloggers as we Remember...


It's been nearly 9 months. 9 beautiful, life-changing, never-wanna-go-back months. She's starting to pull herself along the furniture...been pulling up for a while now. She's a mess, and she gets into everything, but I'm loving every second of it!

But before that? It had been almost 2 years. Since the heartache and the hurt and the anger and the pain. Since the first miscarriage that went on to two. Since God drew me close when I felt so far and allowed me a glimpse into the sufferings His Son went through...and that fellowship sustains me even now.

And today? Today, this week, I celebrate five wonderful years of getting to know the man I now call husband and who my daughter calls Daddy. Five years of hurt and anger at times and love and understanding, better-than-happily-ever-after at others. Five years of being goofy and turning right around and having a deep, theological discussion because that's how we roll, y'all. Five years of getting to know each other better...and I can't wait to see where this road takes us.

Life...good and bad. Life...worth remembering.


And just because I feel like it (read: because I can and want to...) I'm going to leave you with a picture that I want to remember every year from now on...

Abby, Daddy, Mommy, and Aunt Shea at the Pumpkin Patch

Nov 2, 2011

He Numbers Our Wanderings...

You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book? 
                                                                                                                                         Psalm 56:8

So often it can feel like God isn't listening. That He doesn't hear us or care about what we're going through. This is especially true when we're in the wilderness, the desert, the valley, or in the midst of suffering. We easily, readily believe the lie that we're not good enough. That we aren't loved.

It's so easy to think, "If God loved me, then..." 

Things would be easier. 

Life would be kinder. 

Only the evil people would suffer. 

But He does love us. And often the times when we hurt the most are the times when we draw closer to Him and grow deeper in our relationship with Him. 

"For we know that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

They may not feel good. They may be incredibly painful. But we can rest knowing that they will work together for good.

The blessed promise in all of this is that He numbers our wandering and keeps our tears in a bottle. He hasn't forgotten us. Me. You. No, He numbers our wanderings. He keeps our tears. He is there with you today. Will you rest in that? That He knows where you are, that you have been crying to Him, and that He will make it work for good?