How many times have we heard the phrase, “It’s not about you?” And while this is so true, reminding us that most often people respond based on their own thoughts, perceptions, and hurts, if you are a follower of Christ, you can’t rely on the “but that’s how I feel” crutch. Your call is to flip things–to fight the human tendency toward self-centeredness as you place others interest above your own. This means taking the time to look at people–truly look at them, evaluating your words not only in terms of what you are trying to say, but in how they might be perceived. As you read about the ancient prophet named Jonah, retold by Robin Prater from the Robin’s Nest, think of your own life. Does Christ’s love really dwell within you and flow through you, or are you too centered on self? Remember, it isn’t about you.
Posts Tagged ‘love’
Have you ever had a conversation that started out great only to take an immediate nose-dive? Even worse, those that ended with division, distrust, and harsh feelings? Not productive, especially when we’re sharing our faith. And when we’re there, in the moment, armed with truth and righteousness, it’s easy to give in to pride and turn what should be a gentle act of love into a verbal arsenal. We may even tell ourselves we’re doing the right thing. We’re speaking truth, after all. Taking a stand for Christ, only somewhere in the mix, we lost our focus–to build a bridge, and we’ve begun to build a barrier instead.
About eight years ago, while gathered with a dozen or so women, I began to teach some basics of the Christian faith. The women were excited, and asked countless questions about creation, the fall, and the flood. But one woman in particular wasn’t so enthralled, and soon popped off with questions of her own. I started to answer her questions, but my answers only seemed to add fuel to her fire, and she soon dominated the conversation. It took me a moment to clue in, but I realized how counter-productive things were becoming. Although her questions on the surface appeared legitimate, they were smoke-screens and stood in the way of my initial purpose, to lovingly share the gospel with the other women.
I believe this may be the type of situation Paul talked about in 2 Timothy 1:3-8 (NLT)
3 When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. 4 Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.
5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 6 But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. 7 They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently.
8 We know that the law is good when used correctly.
People in Macedonia taught false doctrine, and sucked others in endless discussions, thus robbing the others of learning and teaching time. These discussions had zero value because they failed to help people live a life of faith in God. I can sense Paul’s frustration in the above passage.
The whole purpose of his instruction was to help believers be “filled with the love that comes from a pure heart, clear conscience, and genuine faith.” But some people missed the point and got so focused on the argument–the facts and details and being right–they’d forgotten their purpose, to bring glory to God, demonstrate Christ’s love, and be an instrument of grace.
And that, I believe, should be the deciding factor in all our discussions: Does this conversation, article, or blog post help my listener/reader live a life of faith in God?
We know all Scripture is beneficial for teaching, correcting, and rebuking (2 Timothy 3:16), so, when talking of Scripture, it’s not the “what” but the “how.” As 1 Timothy 1:8 says, “We know the law is good, when used correctly.”
This is where it gets tricky, for knowledge puffs up–feeds our pride–but love builds up, which means, whatever is not spoken in genuine love has the potential to create barriers instead of bridges. Therefore, when sharing our faith, we need to do so prayerfully, with a steady eye on our listener. Our goal must never be to win an argument or fill the head, but instead, to reach the heart.
Today, at Living By Grace, we’re talking about loving without an agenda and serving with the proper attitude. I gotta admit, I blew this one last night. The Bible tells us to do our good deeds–our tithing, our serving, our self-sacrificing–in secret, to the glory of the Father, letting Him reward us in His way and His time. Every time I seek praise from man, I’m loving on an agenda. A tick-for-tack kind of deal, which isn’t love–it’s self-love and it robs the moment of its value.
Last night while my husband helped lead an adult Bible study, I watched a large number kids, many of which came from what I’m learning to call “hard places.” Many of these children exhibited rage issues and I felt like I ran from one fire to the next, trying to keep everyone safe while attempting to deal loving and effectively with each child.
Up until eight o’clock, my love for these children was authentic, pure, and self-sacrificing.
But then my husband concluded his Bible study class, smiling and looking refreshed, and yep, I felt the “need” to tell him how hard my night had been. Which in and of itself wouldn’t have been bad, if it weren’t for my motives. What was I looking for? empathy. I wanted my husband to know what my night had been like. I wanted him to know that while he sat in a comfortable chair, conversing with adults, I struggled to catch my breath. I wanted praise. Accolades.
And in that moment, my love began to have an agenda. Like: I did this, so now you must….
Hopefully next Sunday I will love more like Jesus–motivated by pure love, self-sacrificing, seeking not my own.
Love without an agenda is love without any strings attached. Serving, giving, loving, expecting nothing in return. Giving even if no one notices.
Philippians 2:1-8 NIV
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Christ, Creator God, came to earth as a man, rejected by the men and women He created. He asks me to demonstrate the same kind of self-sacrficing, humble love.
Before you read this story, one that brings me tears even now, stop by Under the Cover of Prayer to read about another time when God showed me His tremendous love for His children. There is nothing He won’t do to show His love and to draw His children to Him.
The following is based on a true story, shared with me by a dear friend fighting brain cancer. (The actual account is provided at the end of the story, but I wanted to put it in story form so you could perhaps understand what a beautiful experience this was for her.)
Although I pray for miraculous healing, my greatest prayer is that this radiant daughter of Christ would know, moment-by-moment, God’s incomprehensible love for her. When she told me how God is demonstrating His love to her night after night, I was reminded of God’s tender mercies. There’s a song I love, it says, “With the strength of no other, and the heart of a Father.” Think about that phrase for a moment–God is all-powerful. He created every star in the heavens and each star blazes with an enourmous amount of energy. The source of all things is always greater than that which it created. But behind that power, or more accurately, coupled with it, is a heart that bleeds for His creation. That sees us when we are at our weakest moments and goes to the ends of the earth to show us we are not alone. He Himself has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
When God Lights Up the Sky
Terry pushed up from the dinner table, staggering as the plates blurred before her. She gripped the back of her chair until the dizziness subsided.
“Momma, are you okay?” Tiffany, her oldest, froze, tears brimming in her eyes.
Swallowing down a wave of nasuea that threatened to expel her recently eaten dinner, Terry forced a smile and pulled her daughter close. “I’m great, sweetie. Now, where’s that picture you wanted to show me? The one you drew in art class?”
Tiffany studied her mother for a moment longer before turning on her heels and dashing up the stairs. Terry glanced at the clock on the far wall. 7:15. She kneaded her temples as if doing so would fight off the fatigue. One more hour to connect with her children, to instill memories, to show them the depths of her love. Then she could collapse for eight hours, maybe nine, before doing it all again.
Lord, give me energy to be here for my kids–really here. Clear the fussiness in my head. Please. And give me one more day.
“Zzzzrrrrrreeeea!” Her youngest child, Dennis, a chubby-faced boy with sky blue eyes and dimples on both cheeks, swirled an airplane in the sky. “Wanna pway with me, Momma?” He held a Match Box car in his other hand. “You can be the cops and I’ll be the cimimals.”
Terry glanced into the living room where Legos scattered the floor and a handful of other vehicles lined the couch. Maybe sitting would ease her nausea and clear her head. The least she could do was give him ten minutes.
Less than a year ago she would’ve whisked her son in the air like an airplane, filling the house with his high-pitched giggles. Now it took all her energy to make it through the day. And yet, no matter how difficult, each day was precious. Priceless. Cherished.
She turned back to her son. “I’d love to.”
The phone rang. She cringed and her husband bolted to his feet. A moment later, he called out to her. “It’s Linda from church.”
The fifth call in the last hour.
“She wants to know if she can stop by later.”
“Zoooooomzzzzeeeeeerrrrr!” Her son crashed his plane into a wall of Legos. “Momma, you gotta awwest me. I bwoke the waw. I had an akkident.”
“Hold on, sweetie.” She ruffled his hair then called out to her husband. “Can you ask her if I can take a rain check?” Grabbing a police car with chipped paint, she wove it through the “streets” of carpet town, toward her son’s plane.
“Not like that! You need to make the siwen noises.”
A wave of nausea swept over her and she leaned against the couch, double images flashing before her. Her brain pulsated, swollen from radiation-saturation, and for a moment, she feared she’d pass out.
“Honey? Honey? Are you okay?” A hand touched her shoulder and an image of her husband blurred before her.
The room went silent and her son dropped his plane. “Momma no feel well?”
She pinched the bridge of her nose and squeezed her eyes shut. Lord, please give me Your strength made perfect in weakness. For my children and husband’s sake.
“How about I put in a movie?” Her husband poked their son in the ribs until he rolled on the floor with laughter, then he cupped his wife’s chin and lifted her face until their gaze met. “Love you.” He kissed her cheek, then her mouth.
Terry lingered in the door of her children’s bedroom, listening to the steady rhythm of their breathing. If only she could capture this moment. Her husband draped his arm over her shoulder and pulled her close, resting his chin on top of her head.
She closed her eyes and inhaled his citrus cologne, laying her cheek against his chest. The steady pounding of his heart soothed her and for a moment, peace washed over her.
But then the phone rang again. She sighed; her shoulders caving forward. Her husband tensed.
“I’ll get it. You go relax.”
She nodded and shuffled down the stairs, outside, and to the porch swing. A cool breeze swept over her, carrying with it the faint scent of freshly cut grass. A crescent moon blazed in a clear night sky, thousands of stars twinkling all around her. She searched the constellations, naming each one in turn. For years, she’d wanted to see a falling star. As a kid, she’d spent hours searching the night sky. She’s seen many things–air planes glistening in the night, Venus blazing bright. But not once a shooting star. But one day she’d be with the bright and morning star. Even as He stayed with her now.
She leaned her head back and inhaled the cool night air, a deep warmth filling her heart, as she turned to God in prayer.
A flash of light caught her attention and she sat aright. In that moment, her vision cleared and above her, a star fell like a miniature Fourth of July firecracker.
“Oh, Father! Oh, Holy Father.”
Tears flooded her cheeks and laughter bubbled in her chest as another star followed.
About two months ago, my friend started to sit on her back porch talking to God. Something about looking up at the sky, under the stars, brought her peace. One night as she poured out her heart to Him, she saw a shooting star. She was so excited but didn’t connect it to God- not that time. Since that night, she has seen at least 6 – 10 shooting stars, always when she’s talking to Him. Just typing this story to me overwhelmed her with emotion.
Her words: It’s a simple thing, but for me it reminds me of His love and how He delights in showing it- to ME. Just for me. Just because He wants me to know He’s with me and hears me.
When she told me the story, I, too, was overwhelmed with emotion. A song called Light up the Sky by the Afters is one of my favorites. I listen to it often and love the chorus, “Light, light, light up the sky to show me You are with me.” I never understood why I loved that phrase so much until my friend shared her story. I believe God drew me to that song so I would understand what He’d done for my dear friend, because the song rushed to my mind the minute she told me.
With the strength like no other and the heart of a Father, He lights up the sky to show us He is with us.
Pause and listen to this song and rest in the presence of your loving Father. (And to my dear, radiant, beautiful friend–you are dearly loved! And you shine brighter than those stars God uses to show you His love.)
Yesterday I edited a study written by one of the Christ to the World Contemporary youth team. The studies are scripted radio broadcasts discussing biblical topics and various portions of Scripture. Something Brad, one of the characters in the broadcast, said, really hit me. I thought of it again today at church. In the broadcast, Brad, one of the teen participants, said he was still waiting for that person to come to his aid–someone to show they cared.
Today’s youth are often referred to as the love-less generation. This means there are an increasing number of young people who have never heard (or rarely hear) those imperative words, “I love you.” Right now, as I write this, someone is sitting in their room, alone, wondering if anyone cares. They don’t need a Bible verse shoved under their doorstep. They need someone to be Jesus to them. They need someone to demonstrate the love of Christ.
Jesus said they would know we were His disciples by our love. Or more accurately, by His love. And love is a verb, folks.
What About Now? (Because Tomorrow May Be Too Late)
Yavonne sits on her bed with her back pressed against the headboard and a pillow clutched to her chest. Her parents’ brutal words slice through her paper-thin walls, filling their house with hatred. She grabs her Ipod sitting on her bedside table and slams the earplugs into her ears, cranking the volume until her brain vibrates. Tears lodge in her throat, but she swallows them down.
A razor blade tucked inside her nightstand drawer beckons her. The scars forever etched in her arm pale compared to the deep wounds encasing her heart. One of these days, she’ll cut deep enough to end it all.
Would anyone care? Would anyone even notice? The words spoken by a neighbor a few months back flood her mind, playing tug-of-war with her heart.
“God loves you. He’ll never leave you nor forsake you. He sees you.”
She snorts and yanks up her sleeve, exposing ugly pink scars. Yeah, he sees her all right. All of her. Why would he care about her or her family?
“God loves you. He’ll never leave you nor forsake you. He sees you.”
What a laugh. If that’s true, then where is he now?
Yavonne holds her breath, her heart quickening, as she waited for a response.
The steel guitar grates against her ear drum.
Yeah, that’s what she thought. What does it matter, anyway? You live and die, then turn to worm food.
So why not speed the process along a big? Shorten the dash on the headboard?
Rachel sifts through her container of beads, laying the yellows and orange on the table. Soft praise music drifts from the kitchen, muting her parents’ chattering voices. She smiles and resumes her beading.
The words of this morning’s sermon fill her head.
“You’ve been given a precious gift. Now you need to share it. God wants to loves the world—through you. Right now, as you sit her surrounded by His love, someone is hurting. Right now someone is calling out to God, asking Him if He truly cares. The question is, will you allow Him to love His broken children through you, or will you turn and walk away.”
An image of Yavonne, her neighbor, lingers in her mind—the dark, almost hollow eyes, centered on the ground. Her shoulders, hunched forward. Her face hardened by anger and bitterness.
Rachel shakes her head. Yavonne isn’t interested in Jesus. Yavonne isn’t interested in anything.
“Will you share His love with a hurting world?”
She rests her hand on the table as the question posed by her pastor nibbles at her heart.
But of course she will. She does all the time. Last week she’d spent ten hours helping with Vacation Bible School. That’s sharing God’s love, right? And next Wednesday she plans to join the youth at the local women’s shelter.
And yet, despite her rationale, peace evades her as the questions continued to rise.
“What about now? Will you be there for my child now?”
Her mother walks into the kitchen clutching a basket of laundry. “What’s wrong, sweetie? You like you’re about to swallow a lemon.”
If only it were that easy.
Rachel rubs a bead between her index finger and thumb. “I’m not sure why, but I feel like God wants me to go talk to Yavonne.”
“Then you should go.”
“I don’t know…. Maybe I should pray about it.”
“Or maybe you should obey.”
Rachel sighs and pushed up from the table, her stomach flip-flopping.
Her mother smiles. “I’ll be praying for you.”
Yavonne’s hand trembles as she holds the thin razor blade against her clammy skin. Her veins form a faint blue webbing through her wrist.
Just do it, you coward. One slice and it’ll be all over. One cut—long, deep and quick. She closes her eyes and grits her teeth—
A loud knock shakes her door. “Yavonne!”
Yavonne’s breathe catches in her throat. She shoves the razor under her pillow, her gaze locked on the jiggling door knob in front of her.
“Yavonne! How many times do I have to tell you not to lock your door?”
As if her father really cares.
“Someone’s here to see you.”
She wipes her sweaty palms on her pant legs, smoothes her hair from her face, and stands on numb legs.
The stench of alcohol and stale cigarettes assault her when she swings the door open. Her father stands in the hall wearing faded jean shorts and a sweat-stained tank-top. Her mother lounges on a couch a few feet away watching television and gulping beer.
“That girl from next door’s here.” He swipes his nose with the back of his hand. “Said something about beads.”
Yavonne angles her head, staring into the living room where Rachel stands with a stiff smile on her face. Her smile twitches as Yavonne approaches.
“Hey….I…uh….” Rachel chews on her bottom lip, scanning the cluttered living room.
Heat rushes up Yavonne’s neck, settling into Yavonne’s cheeks as she follows Rachel’s gaze. Empty beer bottles clutter the coffee table and dark stains splatter the carpet. An overflowing bag of trash lies on the linoleum floor, flies buzzing around it.
“So…. Do you like to make jewelry?”
Yavonne snorts. “Do I what?”
The girl wrings her intertwined hands, staring from the floor to Yavonne’s face then back to the floor again. “I wondered if….” She swallows. “I mean, uh…you wanna come over for a minute?”
Yavonne studies Rachel for a moment, searching for the hidden joke. When none surfaces, she nodded. “I guess so. Sure beats sitting around here all day.”
Today as I preview Cheri Horgan’s story, tears blur my vision. All children truly want is to be loved. They need to be protected. I praise God for bringing Cheri to Himself and wrapping His protective arms around her. I pray that He will do the same for the countless children without homes in El Salvador, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Haitii. And even more, I pray His church would step up and be His hands and feet. That they would see these hurting children not as someone else’s problem, but as God’s precious children in need of love. Cheri’s grandfather fought for her. God wants us to fight for His children. (Although not with a gun, please. grin.)
As you read Cheri’s story below, notice the change that came once her grandfather turned to God. Sharing the gospel is more than helping others find the ladder into heaven. It’s helping them find the abundant life God promised.
Grandfather Fought For Me, by Cheri Horgan (writing as J.J. Jenkins)
When my mother found out she was pregnant, I already had a brother and sister waiting for me who were just steps apart in age. My father and mother fought constantly and both were seriously drug and alcohol dependant. Until the day he died, my father insisted he wasn’t my father (or father to my siblings). My mother reigned as the black sheep in her family and had left home at age 14. From the time I was born, I heard the hateful rejection they felt for me and the violence that came with my name. In the hospital, at a time most parents should be cuddling their new baby girl, my father fought with my mother to sign the adoption papers and let the couple he had brought adopt me. She refused, not out of love, but to make him angry. Once the doctor released her, she dropped me off with a babysitter and headed to the bar. My sister and brother were already being placed with a couple from the church. The babysitter rented a small house from my grandparents, on the same property.
Each day when my grandmother got off work she came to check on me. It came as no surprise when my grandmother fought the babysitters adoption process and took me into her arms. She quit her job and never left me with a babysitter again. My grandfather would later tell me repeatedly that Grandma was going through the change of life, and was deeply depressed until God brought me into her arms and gave her a new reason to live. He said she would have never made it without me. But that is not the act of Love that I want to tell you about.
When I was about 4 years old my mother reappeared and wanted to take me home with her. She had remarried and according to her, my grandparents had promised she could have me back when she got back on her feet. My mother rarely came to visit, so even as young as I was I knew something was up. The truth was she was jealous of all the love and attention I was getting, and she thought that should have been her as a little girl in Grandpa’s arms. She grabbed me and ran for the door, but my grandfather stopped her before she could reach the door. He pulled a 30.06 out of the closet and aimed it directly at her! I remember the screams and the tears, and all of the yelling…but it would be years later before the full impact would sink in.
My mother said it was the only time she ever saw her father cry. My Grandmother said it broke his heart to have to do what he had to do…my mother had always been a daddy’s girl. My grandfather looked my mother in the eye and told her that he loved her, but if she tried to take me away from my grandmother he would have to shoot her and spend the rest of his life in prison before he would let her do it. I remember the room going quiet. Grandma whimpered and then begged him not to do this. My mother kissed me on the forehead and left. Grandpa would later tell me he had never hurt so deeply, but he couldn’t let me go.
My grandpa gave up drinking after that and never missed church if he didn’t have to work. He became active in the men’s ministries, and every morning I would find Grandma and Grandpa sitting at the kitchen table, having their morning coffee and reading their devotions. He showed me unconditional love in human form, and always forgave me when I did wrong. Even when I was a hippie sowing my wild seeds, he loved me and always had a place for me. Grandpa would have given his life that night to keep me safe. He knew my mother had been drinking and he also knew the man she was with was worthless. He always wanted the best for me. He was willing to give up everything…for a spoiled, homely, little girl who talked too much.
My grandparents were the greatest parents ever, and I owe it all to God.
As a side note, my mother is still on drugs and is an alcoholic even today at the age of 78. She has left my brothers and sisters so scarred with memories of her abuse. My oldest sister told me recently how she used to pray that God would give her someone to love her like he did me when I got to go live with Grandma and Grandpa. I miss my grandparents so much, but I know they will be waiting when that time comes to cross over to the other side.
When I think of love, they are the first image in my mind.
So what can you do? Today I ask you to pray for the young women in the Remar orphanage in El Salvador. Pray that they will know God’s presence. Pray that God will heal those deep wounds no child should experience. Then spend a moment asking God what He would have you do. This month the El Salvador mission team from our church is writing letters to the girls we connected with on our trip. We are creating and maintaining a relationship with them so they will know they do matter and we do care. On those nights when they lie awake in their beds, feeling utterly alone and wishing they had a mom or dad to tuck them in, it is my prayer that they will read the letters of love we send and know that they are not alone. (For my subscribers that go to Northland, if you want to join us, find me this Sunday.)
I imagine you can do the same. If you’d like to start an orphan penpal mission in your church, Bible study, or homeschool group, contact me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.
Cheri Horgan is a single mother, and grandmother who finds everyday is a learning experience in the course of life God is teaching. She will be the one shouting as she slide through the pearly gates with her hands held high, “Wooo-Hooo! What a ride!” She has lived in many states across the country, from California to Delaware, and has learned to laugh at the trials and expect the miracles in situations out of her control. She believes she has been called to encourage, and has made many new friends as she holds their arms to the Heavens in prayer.
God has blessed her with some amazing experiences from being the first extreme makeover on daytime television on the Leeza Show, to being homeless and living in a shelter in Harrisburg, Pa. She has worked as a taste tester for Hershey Foods, a travel agent, and an aide who visits with the elderly in nursing homes (recording their memories), among other things. She loves learning about people, and listening to the stories they tell. Her son tells me he is thankful they struggled to get by, because it makes him appreciate what they do have. She wants to enjoy life to the fullest, experience God to the highest, and learn to trust to the point of no fear. She believe in miracles, forgiveness, and prayer.
And before you leave, watch this video and listen to the heart of our Father.
Many of you know our family spent the last week in El Salvador. While there, we worshiped with another church, served at an orphanage, and helped facilitate night crusades. In each of these events, I was struck with how different the culture was from ours, and I’m not talking about music or food choices. The biggest difference? The El Salvadorans took the idea of a spiritual family very seriously. When they said, “She is a sister in Christ,” they meant it. You could see their deep love for one another in their eyes. You could hear it in their tone. But most importantly you could see it in their actions. If you belonged to Jesus, you were family. Plain and simple.
That’s not true here in the states. We have learned to be independent and to focus on ourselves. We train our children to do the same. More often than not, we see to it that life revolves around them–their social schedule, their sports schedule, whatever. Oh, perhaps we’ll ask them to give up an hour out of their seventy-two hour week (not counting sleeping time) to help with an outreach event, but what does that teach? Honestly, it might help exacerbate the problem by reinforcing the idea that service is done on a time-schedule. When it fits in. Friends are convenient, for our pleasure. (Here’s an article explaining this in more detail–and how we can counter this self-seeking trend.)
This temporary friendship mentality has trickled into the church. How often do we drop gospel tracts on someone’s door, never to see them again? Do we really think those people will somehow appear in our church because of a slip of paper? Or when a new couple comes to church, we’ll offer our friendship and invite them to dinner…until they become established, then we move on to someone else.
That’s not friendship and that’s not a body. That’s a temporary prosthesis.
And here’s the deal. By conforming to our westernized, individualized culture, we’re losing out on one of the biggest draws of the church. Our love for one another is meant to draw others to us, which in turn is meant to draw non-believers to Christ. I believe they’ll come for the relationship first, and will be exposed and drawn to Jesus in the process.
So here’s the challenge. How do you view your brothers and sisters in Christ? According to the Bible, they are your family. More than that, they are part of a living body. If you struggle viewing them in this regard–in truly loving them as Christ loves the church, ask God to help you and find ways to get out of your comfort zone. Find ways to connect.
Second, focus on long-term. No one likes to be a project. When you reach out to that new couple or leave a gospel tract on a doorstep, ask yourself, “Am I ready to be here for them for the long haul or am I just trying to ‘get them in’?”
Because people can tell the difference. One type of friendship draws them and creates a place of safety where they can learn about Christ. The other type of friendship results in increased distrust.
I’m speaking to myself here. I’ve experienced many “temporary friendships” in the church, and honestly, it’s left me a little gun-shy and distrustful. But I have to remember it’s not about me. Yeah, chances are those people I reach out to are going to hurt me. Chances are they’ll ditch a year or two down the road, but the Bible tells me “as far as it depends on me….” meaning, it’s not my concern how others respond to my love or friendship. My concern is living out my faith with full surrender, letting God’s love flow through me moment-by-moment.
This mentality also applies to how we do missions, which I hope to touch on tomorrow or Thursday.
In the meantime, spend a moment in prayer and ask God to show you faulty thinking in regard to the body (not just your church body, but all believers world-wide). Then be diligent about cooperating with God. When you catch individualistic thinking creeping in, take your thoughts captive and reroute them.
The following is a true story, and one I’ll always hold close to my heart because it shows the tender heart of our Heavenly Father. There is so much tragedy in our world, surely God’s got bigger things to worry about then little old us and our day-to-day struggles…But no, no struggle is to small. This is something that will always amaze me. As a mom, it can be easy to view many of my daughters issues as trivial. Luckily God never has this problem. He’s able to see the big and the small, and is intimately involved in it all…because He loves us deeply. The Bible tells us His thoughts toward us are like the grains of sand on the seashore. Meaning, we’re always on His mind.
That’s a sobering, and comforting thought. Right at this moment, the Creator of the universe who set the world in motion, is thinking about you, watching you with love.
Two years ago, our daughter asked for braces. After years of “bunny-rabbit-teeth” as she liked to call it, she wanted to feel pretty. She wanted her upper and bottom jaw to meet when she closed her mouth, although I’m not sure if she knew how much metal it would take to make that happen.
After a few consultations, I made an appointment with a local orthodontist, and an hour and half later, we walked out, my daughter’s mouth filled with more metal than a recycling plant. Besides the normal brackets and wires, she had an additional jaw-moving contraption cemented to her teeth. The dentist warned us the pain would be intense as her bottom jaw moved forward.
The following day, my daughter and I crawled into our van as the first rays of the sun began to poke over the Kansas City horizon. If all went according to plan, we wouldn’t climb back out until the sun retreated. But what was twelve hundred miles? We were heading to Disneyland for spring break, and my husband was going to meet us there.
I left prepared, or so I thought, with hot rags wrapped in plastic bags to soothe her tense jaw muscles during the drive and plenty of fortified drinks, yogurt and bananas. After a night of tossing and turning from teeth pain, I hoped my daughter would sleep through most of the drive.
No such luck.
“Mom, my teeth hurt,” she said the moment I started the van.
“I know, honey.” I glanced at the clock on the dash. It’d been four hours since she’d taken Tylenol.
I offered a quick prayer on her behalf, reached into my purse, fished around for the bottles, and pulled out the Motrin. In two hours, I could give her another dose of Tylenol. Not that I liked the idea of pumping my child full of pain medication, but it was better than the alternative. And the dentist had encouraged it, especially for these first few days after her orthodontist appointment.
Of course, it didn’t help that she’d taken a face plant in school the previous day, swelling her lips and pressing her newly attached brackets into her cheeks.
My daughter closed her eyesas she swallowed the Motrin, her face scrunched in pain, and her head pressed against the seat rest. In five long minutes, the medicine would kick in.
“Do you want me a warm dishrag? I heated them in the microwave before we left.” I reached for the bag of rags wrapped in plastic bags beside me, hoping they were still warm. “Dr. Lester said it’d help soothe your jaw muscles.”
My daughter nodded without opening her eyes and reached her hand out. She pressed the hot rag to her jaw. I relaxed as I watched the creases of pain lesson on her forehead. A moment later, she curled against the passenger door and fell asleep.
In two hours, the medicine wore off and she woke up in agony. I quickly reached into my purse and pulled out the second bottle stashed inside and handed her two Tylenol.
I grabbed the rag wrapped in a plastic bag. It was cold. Rolling down the windows, I cranked the heat and held the rag against the vent while my daughter whimpered beside me.
It wasn’t hard to imagine what it would be like to have twenty-eight teeth and your entire jaw pulsating.
Ten minutes later my daughter said, “I’m hungry.”
I grabbed a container of fortified juice knowing anything else would re-ignite her pain. This quenched her hunger for about thirty-minutes, causing her blood sugar to sky before crashing and burning. By noon, she was famished.
I glanced at the signs along the freeway. McDonalds, KFC, Wendy’s. The deep-fried, extra crunchy fast food wouldn’t do.
“Do you want ice-cream?”
My daughter’s face puckered. Apparently she’d had all the sugar she could stand for one day. “I want soup.”
I glanced at the freeway signs again. The next exit didn’t look promising. “Honey, I’ll try, but I don’t think we’ll be able to find any.”
“Let’s pray.” I grabbed her hand and she closed her eyes. “Dear Father, please bring *** comfort today. Watch over her and hold her tightly in Your arms.”
Twenty minutes later, after weaving our way through a town with enough fast food restaurants to single-handedly carry the American obesity rate, we pulled into a diner parking lot and scampered out of the van. My daughter practically skipped her way to the front door. I could’ve laughed at her excitement—all for a bowl of soup. Who would have thought?
I glanced at my watch. With five more hours of driving still to do, I didn’t want to waste any of it sitting in a small town diner. “Let’s see if we can get it to go.”
My daughter nodded and followed me to the cash register and the twenty-something cashier standing behind it.
“Can I help you?” The girl flung her jet-black hair over her shoulder and nibbled on a pinky nail.
“We’d like to make a to-go order.” I grabbed two menus and handed one to my daughter. “What kind of soup do you have?”
“Jalepeno’ cheddar and Tortilla-Bean.”
My daughter gave the typical shoulder-slumping, over-dramatic teenage sigh.
I scoured the menu again. Everything else was either deep-fried or chewy.
I turned to my daughter. “Can you at least try it?”
“I guess.” Another exaggerated sigh.
And so went the rest of our trip. The pain medication helped a little. The heated rags worked intermittently, even if the hot air pouring from the vents burned our eyes and faces and made our skin itch with sweat. And that bowl of soup that we’d scoured the countryside to find? It filled her stomach for a about an hour and a half, leaving her even more hungry than before. But by then we were in no-man’s land, halfway between a tree and an electric pole.
My daughter pulled her legs to her chest and rested her swollen jaw on her knees. “I know this sounds funny, but I’m craving tomato soup.”
“Yeah, that does sound funny. You hate tomato soup.”
My daughter shrugged. “Yeah, but I’m craving it. Maybe my body needs more nutrients or something.”
“Honey, there’s no way I can find you tomato soup right now.”
Okay, so you’re probably thinking this is a petty request. Certainly not one worth bothering God for, right? But when it’s your child who’s suffering, every tear shed breaks your heart. So I did the only thing I knew to do. And then I told her to buck up. And for the most part, she did, although a few complaints and requests slipped by every now and then. When hot rags weren’t plastered to her face, anyway.
That night, exhausted and overtired from our ten-turned-twelve hour drive, we walked up to the hotel counter.
“Good evening. Can I help you?”
“We’re here to check in. Do you have any rooms?” My muscles ached as I leaned across the counter. My daughter slumped beside me. From the creases on her forehead, it looked like the Tylenol was beginning to wear off.
“For how many nights?”
“One.” We still had another ten hour driving day ahead of us.
The clerk explained check-out procedures and handed us a map before flashing a smile. “There’s a small amount of tomato soup left in the kitchen if you’d like to have it.”
My daughter’s eyes went wide and I almost cried. The one thing she’d been craving all day, and here it was waiting for her.
Thank You Lord, for Your tender mercies.
Isaiah 30:18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him.”
* If you’ve got a “Kiss From God” story to share, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org