Jul 18, 2017

Project Love: Sisters

Luanne shared a room with her two little sisters.  That was a disaster. Beds were constantly unmade, and dolls littered the rug, turning her room into a war-zone when she needed to walk in the dark.  What was worse was when Luanne needed to be alone. Phew! No more video chats or quiet discussions or alone time.  Toss that away, because there were two blonde-headed monsters barging in.  Look out world!

One night after her sisters kept her up past midnight chattering about their pets, Luanne had enough.   Her parents finally let the other girls move into their own bedroom.  Luanne made her bed.  She vacuumed the rugs and threw away old gum wrappers.  Pictures were taken down and new ones put up.  Finally the room was just right.  When visitors came over, Luanne beamed as she showed off her room.  With two less troublemakers, her life was becoming easier.

But Luanne failed to realize something.  Her little sisters weren’t monsters.  They might have been trouble makers, but they had potential for much more.
They were best friends in the making.

God selectively chose two girls to be Luanne’s companions.  Instead of accepting the gift with thankfulness, Luanne threw away an amazing opportunity.  As she locked her bedroom door, she locked away the hearts of two young ladies who needed her.  And she needed them just as badly.

Who are your troublemakers, dear friend?

I’ll tell you about mine.  God gave me three sisters to share my life with.  They each have completely different personalities than me.  We clash.  We "debate" about things.  We get mad.  But we're sisters.  And we love each other.

My 12 year old sister has two passions: her babies (meaning her sheep and goats) and China.  If she has any spare time, she’s outside with the animals or dreaming about when she’ll finally have mastered Chinese and be on her way to Asia.  But she’s more than that.  She also has a heart for giving.  If you tell her that you have a need, she’ll find a way to buy you a gift.  My little sister is growing up into a young lady.

My next sister is 10.  If you need to giggle, just hang out with her.  She’s known for her cute freckles, her contagious giggles, and her quiet personality.  All she needs is a book, and she’s happy.  She has read my novella countless times and is helping me with my WIP.  If I need story inspiration, she’s my go-to.   But she also has a love for her babies – two cute, potbelly pigs.  Her desire is to fly to Brazil to open up an orphanage for the lost in the middle of the jungles.

My youngest sister (we call her Baby T) is 3.  She’s the epitome of cuteness.   (I’m not even joking.) Everyone loves her huge, brown eyes and tiny body that’s just right for hugging.  Her favorite colors are pink and purple and brown and orange, and she likes sharing food, drinking tea, playing with baby dolls, doing puzzles, and reading books.  We also share a bed together.  =)

None of us girls are alike.  But that’s the beauty of it!  God gave us sisters to fill in areas we lack.  I’m often too serious – my sisters help me laugh.  I run out of story inspiration – they give me ideas.  Sometimes I need someone to spend time with – there’s always a girl waiting.

My little sisters have potential, as yours do.  It might be impossible to imagine at times, but they can become your best friends.

The apostle John wrote,
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." – John 13:34-35
God has loved us in a crazy, radical way.  He literally sacrificed Himself to torture and death just to save us - flawed, broken humans.  If that heroic Rescuer asked us to love others, what could possibly hold us back?!

Let's start by loving our sisters.

As I did last week, I came up with a list of places to start…but you need to add and modify them as they fit into your life.  And I want to learn about your own sisters!  Let’s be open with each other, shall we?

I’ll admit;  I asked my sisters for ideas to put on this list.  With multiple personalities we’re sure to cover everything, right?

(A quick note. Many of these lists for loving family members will have similar suggestions. For example, love languages apply to everyone.  Take what works best for you and your particular sister, brother, parent, and so on.)

  • Appreciate your sisters' unique personalities.  This might mean loving their pets, showing interest in their hobbies, or not being upset when they do things differently than you.
  • Find out their love languages.  Then act upon them. Buy them a gift, complement them, give them extra hugs.  (one of my sisters announced, "in case any of you don’t know, mine is quality time!")
  • Do random acts of kindness.
  • Take extra effort to listen to them.   And really care about what they have to say.
  • Do something extra fun.  That might mean a dress-up and make-up party.  Or cooking something together.
  • Let them borrow your things.  And don’t be upset if your stuff isn’t returned in brand new condition.
  • Help them.  If they don’t look like they need help, ask anyway.
  • Find something you have in common and have quality time together.  Especially just you and one sister.   Go on a picnic, do cross-stitching, or listen to an audio book.
  • Pray for them.  And ask what they need prayer for.
  • Talk all night long.   I mean it.
  • Treat them as more important than yourself.  Which includes not being bossy.  (I'm talking to us firstborns. *cough*)
  • Teach them what you’re good at.  And learn from their talents!
  • Have deep conversations.  Encourage them.   Let them know your secrets.

I share that as the last one for a reason.   Don’t just build friendships.  Build deep relationships.  Share your struggles.  Ask for prayer

My three year old sister loves sharing struggles with me.  We go on the swings outside, and I always have to ask her, "What's your struggle?"  While they might be silly, trivial things, it makes her feel special to share how she wants to put together her play house or help Mommy more.

Your sisters are never too young to develop relationships with.  God put you together.  BE BEST FRIENDS.

No, I haven’t mastered it nor am I close.  But I want to have this relationship with my three sisters.  Don’t you?

I’ll end with a handful of verses from Philippians.
"Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others… Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." – Philippians 2:2-4, 14-15
 Girls, let’s shine for Jesus.  And let’s develop unbreakable bonds with our sisters.

While we're here I would love to hear about your sisters!  How are you going to love them like Christ loves us?  And how did loving your parents go in last week's challenge?  Let's talk.  =)

Jul 11, 2017

Project Love: Parents

I need to apologize.

I just finished writing a post.  It was long and had many Biblical passages that explained the topic.  It sounded good.  You might have been impressed.

But it didn't flow.  It all felt wrong.  As I went outside glad that the post was written and done, I felt unrest.

There was nothing wrong with the post.  The problem was me.  Ironically, I was writing a post for Project Love...but I wrote it for the sake of writing a post.  I wasn't doing it in love for you or for God.  It was like a job I was scratching off my to-do list.

But God didn't let me post it.  Instead I'm sitting down for try #2.

Girls, we can do so many important things.  But if we don't do it in love, what does it matter?  Do you remember the first few verses in 1 Corinthians 13?  They say that even if we give all our money to the poor and have faith that can move mountains but don't have love...it profits us nothing.  Nothing.  All those good works would be utterly useless.

We must choose to do things in love.  Our lives should revolve around loving God and loving others.  Isn't that what Project Love is all about?  The first and second greatest commandments:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

I want this to encourage you.  I fail so many times.  I just did in my last post.  But God gives us second chances.  (remember Jonah?  And David?  And Peter?  And countless others?)  You're never out of His reach.

Now, because I love you, I want to encourage you in this next area of relationships.

Project Love:  Parents

We've heard a lot on how we are supposed to honor our parents.  It's a Biblical command (see Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20).  We should honor, respect, and submit to our mothers and fathers.  In a way, it's like a picture of our relationship with Christ - our heavenly Father who has adopted us into His family.

But how do we love our parents more?

To get our brains going, let's consider our own unique family.  God has put you in your family for a reason.  You have your dad and mom for a reason.  You and your siblings are the only ones who can be a Godly, loving child to your parents.  Did you realize that?

Godly parent/child relationships are important.  Children need their parents.  There are so many examples out there of bad relationships, the horror they bring, and the hearts they break.  I know some of them personally.  But what does a truly God-honoring relationship look like?

A child sees their parent as a friend and mentor.  They share everything - dreams, struggles, concerns.  The child feels safe.  She has someone to confide in, and her parent knows she can completely trust in her.  The parent encourages her to use her gifts to honor Christ.  Because of the relationship, both are encouraged in multiple ways, including their walk with God.

That's what I want in my life and in yours.  I want you to love your parents.  I want you to be able to trust them and be trustworthy yourself.  They should be the first person you go to when you need prayer, advice, or encouragement.

Having a strong relationship with your parents is possible.

I know because I have tasted a portion of it.  Don't get me wrong; I struggle in many ways!  But I know that I have a listening ear and someone I can trust in my parents.

Both have been instrumental in my life.  I grew up 100% a Daddy's girl.  I was the only one with brown eyes like him, and we even look alike. ♥ I love helping him outside and bringing him cold water in the hot summers.  We used to go to work with him to visit his patients.  (he works in the hospital)  He is an example of what a Godly father looks like.

And my mom has been equally a blessing.  She gave up her medical degree to home-school all 9 of us and became the best cook and most patient person I know.  Mom taught me to read and write and continually encourages me to use the gifts God has given me.  She knows all of my friends (and all their deepest secrets, muahaha).  That's because I know I can share anything with her, and she cares.  I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Think of your own parents.  How have they been a blessing to you?  How have they encouraged you to seek after God?  How have they loved you?  (and while you're thinking of it, consider telling them.  Write them a thank you note or tell them in person!)

Here's our next Project Love challenge.  Let's love our parents.  Not in a quick "I love you" type of way.  Let's build Godly relationships and develop hearts that want to serve and respect our parents.

I'm going to start building a list of practical ways to put that into practice, but I need you to contribute.  We need to work together to encourage, uplift, and point each other to Jesus while developing relationships that count.  I can't do this alone.  =)

  • Share Everything.  Your dreams, your fears, your struggles.  Be open with your parents.
  • Know What Their Love Languages Are.  And then use that to your advantage.  ;)  Do they feel most loved when you give them complements, hugs, acts of service, quality time, gifts, or something else?
  • Be a Peace-Maker.  Love your parents by loving your siblings, not arguing, and not complaining.
  • Treat Their Things With Respect.  This also includes the things they let you borrow...like "your" room, "your" bed, "your" flower garden, etc.  Does your room show that you respect what belongs to them?
  • Be Helpful.  Help your mom cook, do laundry, or do school with a little one.  Help your dad with his projects, bring him water when he's hot, and be open and willing when he needs you.
  • Babysit so They Can Go On a Date.  So much fun!  =)
  • Do Random Acts of Kindness.  Need ideas?  You might find some here.  (another idea...clean a bathroom.  You know you should.)  ;)
  • Do Something Special For Them.  For my mom, this might be giving her a foot massage or brushing her hair.
  • Pray For Them.  And also ask them how you can be praying for them.  It means more if someone knows you really care.
  • Tell Others How Amazing They Are.  Don't brag, of course.  But so many kids don't have anything good to say about their parents.  Why don't you love yours by complementing them in public or sharing with others how they've blessed you?

I hope some of these ideas prove to be helpful for you as you strive to love and serve your parents more.  Please share with us...what are other ways we can bless our parents?  Do you want to share some ways your parents have encouraged you?

Here's a verse to give us the right perspective before we set out.

"Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders.  Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'"  - 1 Peter 5:5

That's my challenge for the week.  Let's get Project Love rolling!  =)

Jul 4, 2017

Materialism – Stealing Our Hearts

Whack! The ax slams against the log with such force that it sends vibrations up into the man’s arm. He raises it for a second blow. Whack! The log collapses into two smaller pieces, sending splinters everywhere.  The ax is lowered onto the ground. Grunting, the man raises the wood onto his shoulders and brings it to his shop.

He shivers as he slips his coat off. Turning to the cold embers of the fireplace, he blows gently on coals. Ash puffs up into the air. The fire is dead. As wind blows through the air, the roof creaks. The man takes one block of wood, piling smaller bits of leaves and wood chips around it, and soon a fire is bursting into life. Warmth spills over and tumbles out of the fireplace and around the room like a child at play. Shivers vanish as the craftsman turns to a workbench.

The second piece of wood is carefully laid out. He stretches out his rule. Every action is precise and deliberate. Marks are made on the wood before it is cut. Slowly and carefully, cut by cut, the wood transforms into an image. Pieces fall away, revealing the gallant figure of a man.

It’s done! The figure is taken and stood on a place of honor. While the fire burns one piece of wood, warms the man’s house, and cooks his food, the second piece of wood is honored. And with his eyes lowered, the man bows before the figure and worships it.

The same log. The same wood. But one is an object of use, something necessary for life. The other is idolatry, stealing the place of God.

In Isaiah 44:9-20, God presents a story.   Although I’ve presented a different picture of the story (I encourage you to read the original for context), the same concept is true.

A man takes a tree.  With part of it he creates something useful for life.   It bakes his bread and prepares a roast.  But with the other the man makes an idol for himself.  He worships it, although it also is merely ash if put into the fire.

I’m not going to talk about idols necessarily, although that is a very important issue to discuss.   What I want to present is this: God created wood for a purpose.  But we can take that good thing and turn it against Him.   It can take the glory due His wonderful Name.

Let’s turn that around slightly.  God has given us other blessings. Look around you – what do you see?  From where I sit writing, I see my bed, my sisters' violet and mint-colored room, a bean-bag, a Bible, a laptop, and many other gifts.  They are all useful.  But do they take possession of a part of our heart that is supposed to belong to others?

Several months ago, I read an impacting book that opened my eyes in this area.  Money, Possessions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn addresses many topics such as prosperity, money, debt, and more.  But one stood out to me – materialism.

Before you turn around and dismiss this word, let me give you an idea of what materialism really is.  In a simple definition, materialism is taking something material (even something useful) and giving it too much emphasis and importance.   Randy Alcorn writes, 

“Materialism is first and foremost a matter of the heart.  God created us to love people and use things, but materialists love things and use people.” – Money, Possessions and Eternity

Materialism related to God (something taking God’s place) is called idolatry.  But during the month of July I want to focus on relationships in the family.  What does materialism look like in a household context?

I’ll give you an example. *ouch…examples*

I was researching for my novel when my 3-year-old sister walked into the room.  She exclaimed with a huge smile, “I thought you would be here by yourself!” With that, she proceeded to chatter away doing what 3-year-olds do.  (aka, playing with dolls)  I was left with a decision: either love my little sister by paying attention to her and smiling in return or turning back to my computer and continuing what I was doing.

Dun, dun, dun…

I kinda did both.  I listened to her and responded for a while…but then turned back to my computer to work on my research.

Do I love my little sister more than my book? Absolutely!  But, at that moment, was I loving her more than my book?  Did her little mind see me as a "loving" or a "busy" sister?

Living with siblings (especially those of us with large families), we have so many temptations to embrace materialism.

  • Not allowing a sibling to borrow something (just in case…)
  • Being upset when a sibling messes up your bed, a craft, etc.
  • Getting frustrated when a sibling makes a mess or ruins something you own
  • Being selfish and not letting them touch “your” things

So what’s most important? Your sibling…or your stuff?

I want to share another example, this time of someone who responded the right way.

One of my siblings has a green thumb and loves plants.  He had collected some rare ones, and, one in particular, was on his mind. Why?  After at least a year of waiting, it was about to bloom!  He was so excited.  At any moment, the long period of waiting would be over.

Alas, the next day an equally excited baby sister walked in.  She had just learned how to use scissors.  A beautiful flower lay on the porch, cut away from its stem.  My brother’s expectations were crushed along with the wilting blossom.

Now he had a decision.  He could lash out in anger (wasn’t it his right?) or he could forgive the unsuspecting troublemaker.  And, because God had been working in his heart and giving him a spirit of humility, he chose the right answer.

It’s your turn.

This month we are going to zoom in and focus on relationships within the home.  What do yours look like?  Do you love people and use things?  Or do you love things and use people?

Let’s make sure that the things we own are put into their proper place.  Unlike the man in the book of Isaiah, we need to keep our eyes focused on what really matters – loving the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength and loving our neighbors (siblings?) as ourselves.

Materialism is an issue of the heart.  Where is your heart?

Jul 1, 2017

Hope Found in the Face of Death || Guest Post on the Rebelution

This isn't my normal posting day.  We're still discussing Project Love on my last post and evaluating which areas we struggle with most and need encouragement, prayer, and Christ's loving help.  But I need to draw you away from that for a moment to share some bittersweet and precious memories.

Many of you were here back in September when my family experienced the miscarriage of our little brother.  (if not, you can read about it here)  As you know, it was hard.  Probably the hardest day of my life.  It drained me, and my emotions were everywhere.  But I can truthfully say that I wouldn't have traded Kalem's life for anything.

Why am I bringing this up again after all these months?  Well, in a way Kalem's life is part of me now.  It changed who I am.  At the end of March, his due date passed by...the day we were supposed to be holding his perfect, little body.  With those memories all around me, I wrote his story, and now, although time has passed, I want to share that story with you.

If you were one of those who offered prayer and encouragement back during the miscarriage: thank you.  Thank you more than you'll ever know.  I hope this story still touches your life.

And new readers, thank you as well.  You continue to encourage me.  I hope this first-time read will inspire you to live a radical life for our Savior.

Before I share it, I want to add something.  Several years ago I read a book that greatly inspired me.  Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris is one of my favorite books, and it changed the way I view my life.  If you haven't, please read it!

Because of that book, the brothers started a website dedicated to encouraging teenagers to push back low expectations and do hard things for Jesus Christ.  And (a little dream-come-true for me!), Kalem's story was accepted as a post on that site.  (You have no clue how excited I was that God worked that out!!)

Please hop on over to The Rebelution and read Kalem's story.  I hope it touches you like it has me.

Jun 27, 2017

Project Love: Your Turn

People are everywhere.  The world is full of them!  And I'm not just talking about outside your house in the "real world."  No, they can find you when you're hiding in your closet trying to be alone.  They'll ask you questions through the bathroom door.  They'll send you texts and emails all day long.  You can't escape unless you ditch social media and escape to the moon.  (and they might find you there too!)

So what to do with them?  How can we have relationships that really matter?  What does a godly relationship even look like?

We've barely scratched the surface of the second greatest commandment:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  This topic of love and relationships seems endless.  It includes family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and all the billions of people on earth.  It includes arguments, offences, harsh words, unkindness, forgiveness, patience, and love.  Even the Bible says that,
"On these two commandments (love the Lord your God and love your neighbor) hang all the Law and the Prophets." - Matthew 22:40
So far we've taken a tiny step into this endless frontier.  There's so much more we could add, and I hope to get to that in future posts.  But now I want to hear from you.

It might be a waste of time for you to read posts on topics you don't struggle with.  (I say "might" because God can work in amazing, unexpected ways!)  I want to talk together before we go forward.

Here's some things to think about together:

Relationships.  What are your greatest strengths and struggles?  Is it hard to have meaningful relationships with parents, siblings, friends, or someone else?

Are there underlying attitudes that we should address before moving on to other human relationships?  Perhaps pride, being argumentative, judging others, un-forgiveness, or selfish thoughts?

How have you been seeking God and striving to love and encourage others more?  How can you continue to take steps towards that?  How can we, as fellow Believers, be praying and encouraging you?

It's your turn, dear reader.  =)

Jun 20, 2017

Hope to the Hopeless

Dear Friend,

I know two girls who are hurting. Their names are Ellie and Deanna. Both are beautiful, young ladies who have been broken. The ones who should have loved them most have destroyed their trust, and they are left alone without hope. Their smiles are gone, and depression has laid hold of their hearts.

I wish I could hug Ellie and Deanna and tell them that someone loves them. Tell them that there’s still hope. But I can’t; I have no way to share my heart with them. I only wish I could get in contact with them, but all I can do is pray.  And I do. I pray for them, yet I wish I could do something more.

I can’t reach Ellie or Deanna. I can’t help them, encourage them, or love them. But maybe I can touch your life, whoever and wherever you are, dear reader. And maybe I can touch the lives of others around me.

So if you’re hurting and alone, this is what I want you to hear. This is what I wish I could tell Ellie and Deanna.

You are not alone.

You are loved.

You are treasured.

You were bought with a price.

Bad things happen to all of us. They hurt. They sting. They break us. Sometimes we feel like we’re grasping at the wind as hope slips through our fingers. People betray us and trample on our hearts. Those we love are stolen away forever, and the future looks dark.

But we don’t have to go through trials alone. Jesus is with us, even if we can’t hear His voice or feel His hands. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

Today I heard His comforting voice through Isaiah 30.
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” – v.15
“For the Lord is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” – v.18
“You shall weep no more.
He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry;
When He hears it, He will answer you.” – v.19
“…in the day that the Lord binds up the bruise of His people
And heals the stroke of their wound.” – v. 26
Dear friend, wait on the Lord. Trust Him and rest in His strength. He will give you strength, wipe away your tears, answer your desperate prayers, and heal your wounds. You might not see the answers immediately or even in your lifetime, but He has a plan and purpose in this pain.



“Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!” – Psalm 27:14

"...rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer."Romans 12:12
We can have hope in trials because of God's promises!  Having hope is to believe, desire, and trust in the One who loves us.  Believe that He has a plan, desire to know Him better and to seek His will, and trust in His loving kindness.

I have a challenge for you.

People are hurting out there. The world is full of bitterness and discouragement, but we can make a difference.

Maybe you know someone like Ellie or Deanna. Or maybe you think you don’t. Guess what?Every person you come in contact with could use some encouragement. There’s no one who doesn’t appreciate a helping hand or loving word.

So make a difference this summer and beyond. Send someone God’s message of hope. Tell someone they are loved. Write a letter, an email, a text message, or talk to them in person. Point them towards Christ.

If you’re hurting, know that I love you. Christ loves you even more; you’re never alone.

Now go – love someone else, and make them smile.
“I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to You,
And You healed me…
…Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:1-2, 5b.

How are you going to bring God's hope to the hopeless and make a difference in someone's life?  Comment below! 

Jun 13, 2017

What I Learned From The Sound of Music

Several months ago, I commented on the power of languages. (read here)  They hold secrets that are often only discovered in a deep, diligent search.  Sometimes there are words in other languages that simply cannot be translated to one English word because they hold deeper meaning.

In English, the word "love" has so many flippant meanings.  We love our pet goldfish.  We also love chocolate, our best friend, our siblings (sometimes, that is), our possessions, our gifts... and oh yeah, we love God too.

I like how the Greek language writes out love.  Instead of a "one word fits all" thing, there are different words for different types of love.  Philia is a brotherly love such as affection or friendship.  Eros is a passionate, romantic love.  Storge is like a familiar love... such as love shown between friends, parents and children, pets and owners, etc.  But my favorite is the last one.  Agape is a sacrificial love like the Love God showed us on the cross that day long ago.

Now I don't know anything about the Greek language (correct me if I made an error in my interpretations), but I think it's interesting to consider.  Is our love merely a brotherly love?  Or are we willing to make sacrifices?  Is our love for God and others a love that can never be broken?  Can it last through every trial, storm, and drought?

I assume that most of you have watched The Sound of Music, a musical based during the time of World War II.  If not, I'll let you know in advance that I will be sharing spoilers.  Read on at your own risk.  ;)

This movie is secular. (Yes, despite the nuns, I don't think the movie was created with the intention of sharing Biblical truth.)  Despite that, I learned from watching it.

Maria is a - unique - nun who doesn't really fit in an Abby.  She ends up becoming a governess for a household of seven children and is worried to discover that many governesses before her have experienced trouble with the children.  Throughout the story, Maria encounters resistance from them, hostility and resentment from the widowed father, and, despite her best efforts, is completely embarrassed and mortified on several occasions with the father.  His strictness and displeasure towards her is obvious.

But what happens throughout the story?  Maria ends up turning the household upside down.  She has a servant's heart and brings joy to the children's lives.  And, of course, the father falls in love with her and they eventually live happily ever after as husband and bride.

As I was thinking about that story, I wondered what it would have been like if I had been Maria.  I'm very sure that I would have quit the job right away instead of humbly accepting undue blame and criticism.  I would not have bowed my head to an unloving man and shown him the respect that Maria did.  The end of the story would have been much different, and likely I wouldn't have made a difference in the broken family.

But she did.  Why?  What was different about Maria?

Although the story isn't a Christian one, I think Maria displayed a sense of Godly humility, love, and joy.  She resolved within herself to become a servant.  Instead of demanding her own rights, Maria spent her time trying to improve the lives of the children by bringing songs back into their home.  And the story was beautiful.

We have a quote on our wall that summarizes it well in my opinion.

Are we like Maria, sending joy everywhere we go?  Is our love a selfless, others-centered love?

Paul the apostle wrote a verse that stood out to me in this area.  I know this post is already growing long, so I'll try not to tarry too much longer here.  =)
"Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith."  - 1 Timothy 1:5
During the summer months we are focusing on loving others.  But it's important that our love isn't "me" focused.  

  • Is our love from a pure heart? What are our secret motives?
  • Do we have a good conscience? Are there wrongs we haven't cleared up or are we offended at someone? 
  • Do we have sincere faith? Do we not only have love for others but also a passionate love for Christ?

As we strive to develop a heart that loves, perhaps these questions can evaluate why we do the things we do.  Let's resolve to have Godly humility, love, and joy - an agape type of love - towards God and others.  Let's have a life that radiates Christ's joy to everyone around us.

Put yourself in Maria's position; would you have responded in a similar manner?  How can you make steps today to have a selfless love for others?  Comment below!

(ps)  This same week a year ago, I actually posted a blog post that was on a similar topic.  =)  (good timing, right?)  You can read it here.

Jun 6, 2017

Don't Put God in a Box

If you could spend a whole day with someone, who would you choose to spend your time with?

Think about the question before you continue reading.  I'm curious who you would choose.  If you're like me perhaps your first thought was your favorite music artist, a preacher or writer who inspires you, or a friend who lives far away.  It's easy to imagine the hours that would fly by as you sat together discussing life, sharing dreams, and asking questions.  You might continue long after the sun has set, savoring the limited time you have with that special person.  Wouldn't it be simply wonderful?!

What about this:  How many of us would quickly answer the question by saying "Jesus."  How many of us would enjoy spending a whole day with Him?  And horribly, how many of us could actually stand a day like that?

It's like we put God in a box.  We almost esteem Him to be something like a sci-fi character, a remote Being who has superpowers to do anything He likes.  We just have to stay on His good side, ask Him for things, and try to live decent lives.  Then His job is to shower us with blessings.  Right?

Maybe that's a little extreme, but I think a lot of us live our lives with that attitude.  We have a place for God - in Church, in our quiet times, etc - but we don't give Him control over our whole lives.  We don't actually love Him.  Maybe God is like the president.  He rules over us, but He is so distant and powerful that we just can't imagine having a relationship with Him.

The Bible says that we should fear, honor, and revere God.  (see Deuteronomy 6:24, 1 Samuel 2:30Proverbs 19:23 and Hebrews 12:28)  He created the earth, set the stars in place, knows the number of hairs on your head, and the angels bow before Him.  He can move mountains, part seas, and knows your innermost secrets.  God is mighty beyond imagination.  It is so important not to take Him lightly or to esteem Him as something less than He is.

But we often fall short of what He truly wants.

Growing up as a Christian, I always knew that God loved me.  I knew that He was my Father and wanted me to give my life completely to Him.  Paul writes,
"He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will"- Ephesians 1:4-5
And Romans adds, 
"...you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.'" - Romans 8:15
We are adopted.  That means that God literally chose us to be His children!!  How mind blowing is that?!   That is amazing love.

But I failed to realize that Jesus wanted something more.  Yes, He was my Father, and He cared for me.  Yet more so - He wanted to be my best friend.

Remember the verse I shared last week?  The greatest command in the Bible?
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." - Mark 12:30
In my opinion, that sounds like a lot of love.  If I loved God that much, is there any possible way that He wouldn't be my Best Friend?

As I've thought about it more I realized something.

It's great to have human friends.  God gave us relationships for a reason.  They encourage us, impact us, and bring us closer to Him.  Friends make you laugh when you're feeling discouraged.  They are gifts from God.

But friends fail.  If you wake up afraid in the middle of the night, will your best friend be there to talk to you?  Does she understand your deepest struggles?  Does she know what it's like to be you?  Of course not!

He does.

Christ knows everything - the fear you keep hiding from those around you, the struggles you face every day, and the doubts that plague your mind.  And guess what?  He. Still. Loves. You.

Did you catch that?  God (the great I AM, the Creator of the Universe, the One who is clothed in glory and power!) loves you.  He loves little, tiny, unimportant me. 

I read Song of Solomon last week.  The whole book is a beautiful dialogue between a Shulamite maiden and her beloved who are madly in love.  But as I read it, I imagined something deeper.  Perhaps God wrote the book as a love letter to us.  His bride.  His Church.

He sees us as beautiful, loves us despite our failures, and wants to be with us and hear our voice.  And doesn't He want us to cherish the relationship as well?  Should we be in love with Him as He is with us?

Think of an engaged couple.  Do they ever stop thinking about one another?  Don't they desperately want to be together and talk with one another?  Wouldn't they give up anything in their way just so their relationship could be stronger and more heart-felt?  Would anything be too much of a sacrifice?

But is that us?

This summer we are focusing on love, and the greatest command of all is to love the Lord our God with everything in our being.  I think that means something more than spending an hour every day reading the Bible.  It's more than praying whenever you remember to.  I believe that we are supposed to have a personal, intimate relationship with God.  He is our Best Friend.  We are madly in love with God, and we can't wait until the day we can see Him face to face.  But while we wait, we are remaining pure, set-apart, and holy for Him as His bride.

Is that what your relationship with God looks like?  Are you living your life for Him, looking forward to that day when He will bring us home to be together forever?

This is step #1 in Project Love.  Before we start focusing on relationships with others, let's make sure that we are seeking God and giving Him our whole heart.  Don't put God in a box.  Open the doors of your heart and embrace Him.  Love, thank, cherish your Savior.  Only then will we be able to truly make a difference in the world.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8
What a beautiful romance story.  Christ died for us while we still hated and reviled Him.  He rescued and redeemed us - dirty, broken hearts.  What love.  ♥

Have you ever thought of God as your Best Friend?  Are you willing to give up anything for your relationship with Him?  How are you remaining pure for Christ as His bride?  Comment below!