Perfect Love

I think we’re going to have to start here—with me saying that I understand that I am treading on dangerous ground, boldly going where many won’t. Many already have and many shouldn’t. But here’s the thing, I have to. It’s part of what I’m called to do.

I hope that though you might disagree with me, you can respectfully disagree with me and we can still love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Have you ever fallen in love? Do you remember that early stage where as Lady Gaga says you were “on the edge, the edge, the edge” but you were scared? Scared of letting go, scared of getting hurt, scared of going here again because remember what happened last time? But then you did it. Because deep down, you knew, love was worth it. Love is always worth it. If you aren’t loving, you aren’t really living. So you let go, you faced your fears and you loved, with your whole heart. And maybe it was glorious and maybe it was terrible but most likely, it was a combination of both.

Because love always cost us something.

The bible tells us that perfect love cast out all fear. (I John 4:18) Here’s how I have experienced this in my life: The closer I draw to the heart of God, the more intense my desire to love others becomes, the less afraid I become. Over time, my desire to love becomes bigger than my fear. Until, I can’t help but love—no matter how crazy it might seem to others, how dangerous it might be, no matter what it might cost me.

It’s this love that sends folks on the mission field to minister in hostile nations. Their desire to love is greater than their fear. They simply have to love people in the way that God has called them to. Please hear me. What I am not saying is that we are somehow sub-par Christians if we are not sharing the gospel in a hostile country because maybe the Lord has called us to share the gospel in our workplace right here in America. And if we are doing so faithfully, praise God! What I am saying is that we shouldn’t ever let our fear stop us from loving in the way God has called us to.

How has God called you to love the people around you? I don’t know. I mean, the bible is pretty clear about feeding, clothing, visiting, caring for widows and orphans, those in prison. What does that look like in your day-to-day life? I don’t know. But you do. You know what he’s calling you to. You know who he’s called you to mentor. Where he’s called you to volunteer your time or give financially. Or maybe even who’s he’s calling you to share your home with.

You also know where you are letting fear hold you back from doing those things. Some of you might be called to do those things in other countries. Maybe you are afraid of what others will say, or of physical safety. Maybe you are afraid of letting go of American luxuries. You fear you are not cut out for it.

God has not given you a spirit of fear but of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). You are no longer a slave to fear. Let your desire to love grow so large that you are no longer afraid.

If we died in the process of loving the least of these, wouldn’t our lives be well spent?

This week can we spend some time asking the Lord to show us how he wants us to love the people in our world? Could we ask him to show us where fear might be standing in our way and then stand on the truth that perfect love casts out all fear?

No Longer Slaves

The Art of Receiving

 Today’s post is brought to you by my friend who just so happens to be a very talented author,  Brianna George. 

Brianna is a Speaker, Teacher, lover of wild colored hair, part-time writer and full-time Encourager. She’s a mom to two spicy boys and has happily married for 12 years. More of her writing can be found at her awesome site.

briannapic

I am terrible receiver of tangible help. I mean terrible. I second guess gifts. I ask “are you sure?” a million times when someone offers me something that I feel is more than I deserve. I have refused gifts and physical help when I needed it. I experience guilt and humiliation at being on the receiving end of financial blessings. I tend to always try to “give-back” with a return blessing to someone that has given me their time and energy… And I don’t enjoy when I receive a surprise and can’t reciprocate. I am a terrible receiver. This is pride…absolute pride…and I abhor its effect on how I receive. In the last few years, and especially the last few months, God has been teaching me how to be a better receiver and it has been a bittersweet experience.

As a believer, we are constantly put in the position of receiving. We receive daily mercy, grace, hope and love from our Father. For some these are more easy to accept…or at least we have fooled ourselves into believing we freely accept them. But too often we find ourselves doing something we don’t want to do (or don’t believe should be done) in the name of Jesus as a believer. And therein lies the root of the problem; Unbelief. Unbelief tries to shimmy its way into our core and replace Christ’s truth of who we are, with the conclusion that we are unworthy, not holy enough or lacking, despite the fullness we have received in Christ. This unbelief can translate over into both tangible and spiritual receiving.

There is an art to receiving. Proper receiving is done in humbleness, gentleness, and gratitude allowing the giver to be blessed. I am quite experienced in giving and understand how for the believer this divine sanction goes beyond the feel good sensation in helping someone, but gives them confidence and convinces them to continue listening to the Lord’s instruction in other areas of their lives.

What I have been challenged in understanding is regarding the art to receiving well and how this allows me to accept blessings received beyond the tangible gift a giver is bestowing me. A major part of receiving well is experiencing enjoyment in a season of constant receiving. Enjoyment beyond being content. Enjoyment in receiving out of necessity and not having my own self-sufficiency in any area of my life. See I can be content in this season my family finds ourselves.  The contentment that we are in a season of relying on daily manna to survive. The daily manna that is spurring us to spiritually thrive. But there is a difference in contentment and enjoyment.

I have asked myself countless times why I am not enjoying this season of receiving. Why am I not receiving well? What is the lie I am believing that stops my enjoying the amazing and miraculous gifts our God has tangibly been showering us with and providing for all our needs?

FEAR. Fear of judgment. Fear He won’t continue to provide. Fear this hard season will never end. Fear the kids will be adversely affected. Fear of misunderstanding. Fear of loss of reputation. Fear of misrepresenting Christ. Fear of not pleasing people we love…and the list goes on and on… So much FEAR. But perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)

One can not live in joy and fear at the same time. Much like the reality of grace, we have previously talked about, we can not both live in grace and condemnation. Living in joy with positivity can not be lived while we are in fear and allowing negativity in our lives. Our joy and enjoyment in receiving is not a bad thing.  For it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. (Luke 12:32) We do not have to fear the receiving. There is no judgment or condemnation from our Lord in receiving that which he has ordained for us to have in his timing.

I say this, yet I admit at this time I am not fully convinced of it yet…Even this past month as I prepared for my completely donated trip to Austin, which I know I was supposed to go on, I questioned if I REALLY SHOULD have gone and accepted the help to get there because I feel a pang of not being self-sufficient…which creates fear…Oh, pride why do you have to ruin everything?

Where are you experiencing fear that is causing you to not be able to enjoy the season you are in? Do you struggle with being either a good receiver or a good giver?

The No-Drinking Badge

Sitting in Beef O’ Brady’s this past week enjoying my chicken tacos (while Hayden cheered on the Lions and Avery begged for more quarters to put in the machines filled with plastic toys lining the walls), I thought about the “no drinking badge” I’d so proudly displayed for so many years—how it had evolved over time and how I was now willfully throwing it away.

No. I did not get wasted.

I didn’t even have a drink.

I was born with an innate desire to please. I cannot tell you the source of this burning desire because I do not know. What I do know is that from as long as I can remember, I was carefully listening for those important words: what to do and what not to in order to please. I remember as a child getting in trouble for saying “I’m sorry” too much. Apparently, I was sorry for everything. How desperately I longed to please.

I think this may be part of why I totally missed the point when it came to loving Jesus. I heard whatever you do, “You mustn’t have sex before you get married or lightening will surely come down from heaven. Drinking is one of the worst of the worst sins and is as good as signing up for eternal damnation. Church attendance and bible reading are a must if you aim to please.” And so life, serving Jesus were all about the dos and the don’ts to me, although I was clueless to that at the time. I saw others through my own primitive worldview and looking glass. Drinking and sex = bad. Bible reading and church attendance = good. I was a grown woman with plenty of life shattering mistakes under my belt before it occurred to me that all of this—avoiding sin and loving the things of God—were all meant to flow out of a rich and vibrant, loving and living walk with God.

It turns out, that when I stepped away from behavior modification and control and started focusing on just loving Jesus with everything that was within me, loving the things of God and avoiding sin were much easier. All that rote “obedience” was pretty meaningless. For many years, I’d prided myself on certain things, worn them around like a “good little Christian badge.” One of them was that I’d never had a drink. Now, I’d failed the Lord in countless other ways, probably in a given day. I judged others every time I saw them drink or heard them cuss. But that was okay, because I was a good Christian. Need proof? Just look at my good little Christian vest. Here’s my newest badge: Never Had A Drink, right next to Don’t Watch R-rated Movies (Also drilled into me as a kid. You were clearly not saved if you watched them.).

Now, am I all about getting wasted while watching R-rated movies and singing Jesus tunes these days? No, but I don’t freak out anytime I’m around alcohol anymore. And I recognize that these all come down to personal convictions. You have personal freedom, and then, depending on the issue, there’s common sense and not offending your brother or causing them to stumble and a host of other angles to consider it from. But, one by one I’m peeling each of those badges, those proofs that I am a good little Christian off and I’m throwing them away. And instead, I’m running after Jesus with all that I have within me. And just like you, it’s in that place I find freedom like I’ve never known, a love that nothing in this world could ever compare with.

What badges have you been sporting on your vest?

Loved

In the days that my belly was taut and swollen and I still ate everything in sight there were few things I loved like sitting in the rocking chair in Avery’s nursery and having my quiet time with the Lord. Soaking in God’s presence, I would scan the room and think about how carefully I had chosen each dainty pink and white item that graced the walls. Sometimes I would open up the dresser drawers and run my fingers over her tiny clothes, smiling in unbridled joy and anticipation. And I would weep. How could I not? How could I do anything else? How could I sit amongst this place that I had so lovingly prepared for the daughter whose face I’d never seen even as she danced within my womb and not think about my heavenly Father lovingly preparing a place for me? How could I not think about the scripture that says he dances over me with singing and not be moved? What kind of love was this? What kind of God is he?
Pregnant pic

Not long ago my younger sister had a precious baby girl and posted an update on social media that was so familiar to my Mom heart. “Watching my squishy one sleep. Must not wake her. Must let her sleep. But I want to hold her.” Yes. How familiar were those longings to hold your little one dear, to gaze upon them lovingly even as they slept. The inability to take your eyes off of them. How easy it is, even now to be overcome by their beauty. How can something as simple as breathing be so beautiful? And yet, this is how the God of the universe feels about me? The very thought leaves me utterly undone.

Julie and Avery Pic
When Avery was six months old she had NO FEAR. One of her favorite pastimes was attempting to jump from the couch to the coffee table on her stomach. Without hesitation, she would thrust herself into the air and cackle with delight as she soared. What she was too small to know or understand was that I was holding her tiny foot and cushioning her fall. How many times have I jumped with no understanding of who was catching me as I fell?
I will never forget the moment of realization and little baby hatred in her eyes the day that Avery looked down and saw my hand attached to her foot, cramping her mid-air style. She didn’t want my protection. She attempted to shake my hand off. And when it didn’t work she cried in frustration. How many times have I cried in protest and frustration upon finding the hand of God holding my foot, protecting me?
At three years old, Avery is right about everything. She ends most sentences with, “right?” If you contradict her even in the gentlest of ways, she’ll tell you why you’re wrong and then wrap up with, “Okay, mom?” How many times have I tried to convince God of why I am right and he is wrong and then wrapped up with, “okay God?”

Avery and Ryan
I haven’t loved Avery anymore or less at any given stage.She’s my daughter. I enjoy her endlessly at all of these stages. I still love to watch her sleep. I cherish the moments when she wants to snuggle up next to me and be close. I laugh when she tries to convince me that weeds from the yard are alive. How could I be mad? She’s three. In fact, I’m so proud of her growth. I was looking at her the other day in total wonder. Her legs alone were longer than her entire body was when she was so born. “Avery, how did you get so tall and smart?” I asked her. “I just growed.” She said. It’s true. And I’m excited about the growth that I know is to come. Just like my Heavenly Father is excited about mine. Just like he loves and enjoys me at all of my various stages.
So often we are hard on ourselves and one another for not being where we think we should be or where someone else might be. What if instead we chose to celebrate the growth that has already occurred? What if we simply enjoyed all of the nuances of today? Our Heavenly Father is loving us, enjoying us just as we are. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could do the same?

IMGP6055

Keep Fighting

As so many of you have reached out to me, begun to share your stories and your hearts I have been overwhelmed with love for you. As you’ve shared your pain and your freedom, your overcoming, and your growing, I’ve felt that surely my heart would burst with love. I have been rendered awestruck by your bravery and tenacity. And I can’t help but wonder, if I feel this way about you, how must God feel? I know that for so many of you, the battle has been long. You’ve been fighting for health or victory in one area or another for what feels like forever. Some of you feel like, “What’s the point in even continuing to fight?” Many of you look around and you wonder, “What am I doing wrong?” You realize that for others the battle wrapped up years ago, but here you are, still in the heat of battle. You feel like such a disappointment, such a pathetic beaten down excuse for a soldier. Can I remind you today that there is no shame in the victory that is long, drawn-out, painful and hard-fought? It’s a victory just the same. If today you got out of bed in spite of the pain, invested in another when you felt you had nothing left to give or smiled when you thought you had no smiles left- you’re still in the fight. We all want that quick and easy win. But we learn so much about the weapons and strategies of war, we become such fierce and mighty soldiers when we battle for victory over time and space. I honor your courage today. I have a friend with a four your old son. When he isn’t listening to her instructions well or she wants to be certain that he has understood her she says, “Brendon, look at my eyes.” I have often wondered what it is he sees in his Mother’s eyes that communicate so effectively without a spoken word. I think he must see primarily love; this person is for me, I can trust what they say. They won’t hurt me. I think he must also see fierce intentionality. I am called to parent you, to raise you up to be the man God called you to be. I intend to do that job well. Does he also see the same woman who kisses his boo boos and sings him to sleep, the gentle voice he heard in the womb? Today, I want you to look up into your Heavenly Father’s eyes. I think primarily, you may see love- God the Father, who sent his son to die on the cross as your ransom. He is for you. You can trust what he says. You may also see fierce intentionality, the eyes of the one who is raising you up to be all that he created and called you to be. Maybe you’ll also see the one who has lovingly picked you up and dusted you off each time you fall. With eyes locked on his I want you to hear me. You are not failing God. You are not failing your family. You are not a failure. You are not a disappointment, a hassle, a freak or the worst thing that ever happened to the ones you love. You are a treasure. You are brave. You are strong. You are an over comer. I know it’s taking longer than you thought it would. I know it’s harder than you thought it would be. Don’t quit. 2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV) So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. Even if your outer self is wasting away!!!! Or your outer life, if everything is falling apart- Don’t lose heart! God is doing something. Our inner selves are being renewed day by day. You all are so brave. So strong. And your story isn’t over yet. This isn’t how your story ends. This is just an amazing testimony in the making. Keep fighting, brave ones!