Tag Archives: love

The Mark of Love–Dedicated to Crossbridge

Celebrating anniversaries in this culture is often overdone, but I like them nonetheless. No, not for the presents, cards, or well-wishes I might get. I like anniversaries because I get the chance to take stock and reflect. Look back at where I came from and see where I’m going. I can marvel at the good times and see how the bad times have made me stronger. I can see that God is with me everywhere.

It didn’t use to be that way. Five years ago this month, my older son and I had just started visiting Crossbridge, the church we all attend now. He had asked if we could visit a church, and I agreed. The other members of my family weren’t ready yet so it was just the two of us. I think about this today because it is a Wednesday. Tonight, I will go to worship my Lord and Savior. I will listen to my son play the cojon as part of our worship team, listen to a speaker as part of our summer series, and fellowship with my faith family at table. I’ll watch the kids run around and talk with the adults.

Five years ago, it wasn’t like that. I would drop my son off at church and go to the bookstore to write. While I trusted the recommendation my friend had given me, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to stay myself. I didn’t have the mark of love on my heart that I do now for the people at Crossbridge. I had not yet invited God back into my heart. I was still too wounded from had happened in previous churches. Boy, has my life changed in five years. Now, God is back in my heart, and now, I can feel the mark of love in my heart.

What does “mark of love” mean? I recently heard a similar phrase in a song, and it struck me. “Keep Your Eyes on Me” is a song by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and it’s a part of the The Shack movie soundtrack. I haven’t seen the movie yet though I have read the book and listened to several songs off the soundtrack. Here is the exact phrase I heard. “Ain’t it just like love to leave a mark on the skin and underneath.” The phrase made sense to me though I had never heard it before. As we get to know someone, there are shared conversations and experiences, some good and some bad. We realize we have a lot in common, and we come to have warm feelings for that person. I would state that this is the mark of love. We can have it for our loved ones, and we can have it for our friends. I believe God wants us to take that mark of love one step further. When we accept Jesus into our heart, God wants to give us that mark of love for everyone in the world, for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for those who don’t know Him. It’s not something we can do ourselves in our own strength, only with God’s strength can we love someone the way He wants us to.

Another song from the soundtrack also illustrated love in a powerful way to me. The song “Heaven Knows” by Hillsong United shows how love can exist even through the bad times. I especially liked this stanza:

“Hold my heart, don’t let it break like fear
Sometimes a moment feels like a thousand years
God only knows why love is drenched in tears
Maybe that’s what makes it love
Maybe that’s what makes it love”

Many of us walk away when someone we love hurts us, from our friends, from our families, from the church. It is hard to work through pain and suffering when we’ve been taught to hide it for so long. At least, that’s what I was taught. But, these words ring true for me. I want to live in a way that I love through everything–the good, the bad, the pain, the hurt, the laughter, the joy, the suffering. I think that’s what God wants from all of us.

So, Crossbridge family, I dedicate this post to you. Thank you for inserting the mark of love in my heart and for opening my heart to God’s love. Thank you for loving me through the tears. Thank you for showing Jesus to me and to my family. I love you all!

 

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Leaving Everything Behind for Jesus

I’m in a wondering mood today, the second day of May. You might think I made a mistake in that first sentence and wrote ‘wondering’ instead of ‘wandering’, but no, I meant wondering. When I have questions in my brain, it helps me to write my thoughts out so this blog post is the beneficiary of my ‘wondering thoughts’ today.

In the course of time that I have blogged, I have become acquainted with writers from all over the world who blog about a variety of subjects. Recently, I have been reading a blog written by a gentleman from Nigeria, and I have realized that those of us who are western Christians have no idea, have no idea what the title of this post really means. He has written a series of posts reflecting on Christ which have brought my thoughts into sharp focus and brought questions to my mind which I’m not sure anyone can answer. I’m going to take a stab at it though I might end up with more questions than I do answers.

What does it truly mean to leave everything behind for Jesus? The disciples did that. They left behind businesses and families for a man they had just met. It’s hard to know why someone would leap from the known to the unknown, but that’s what these men did. So much courage–courage I’m not sure I would have today, but I want to have it. I want to know what it truly means to leave everything behind for Jesus.

Does it mean we quit our jobs and travel around the country or the world telling others about Jesus? Do we take jobs to provide ourselves with food and shelter while we are traveling? Do we shed the trappings of this world to center our minds and hearts on Jesus?

What about our families? Do we need to be willing to leave them behind and let Jesus be first and prominent in our lives? This is the one that confuses me sometimes. We’re told we need to provide for our families, but we’re also told we need to provide for the people who work in our churches.

I know people who won’t walk into Christian churches (mainly mega-churches) because they see the ministers of those churches as being excessively wealthy while they themselves are not. I know part of that is our sin nature and wanting to keep everything for ourselves. I also know what’s in my heart and soul is very dark compared to Jesus. But, how does all this look when I see people who work in the church or who are elders in the church with more wealth than I ever hope to have? Should I not worry about what I see or hear and keep what I give between me and God? What happens when churches keep asking for more and more money?

Other people say the only people they are supposed to provide for are their families, and they won’t step into a church because they say the people aren’t doing what God wants them to do. We did that for a while like I have said before in this blog. We had been so badly hurt by the church, we couldn’t see what God was doing in the church. There are also others who only worship with their families because they say the institutional church is what’s wrong with Christianity. I feel both of those are wrong now because of what I’ve learned about community. I have met many people who earnestly desire to live in community with their fellow believers. They’re not perfect at it just like I’m not perfect, but they do their best, and, for the most part, they succeed.

I set this post aside for a few hours and have come back to it with a new realization. I know why I am asking these questions, and it all comes back to fear. I fear that people in the church will abandon me or set me aside after they have asked for all the money I have to give. I am afraid, pure and simple. I know what has happened to me in previous churches, and I fear the same thing will happen to me in the one I go to now. I’m afraid I will be completely abandoned by the Christian community I am in now, and all the wonderful things I have learned about the community of God will be put by the way side because of a simple thing called money.

Pain, hurt, tears. Jesus experienced all the same things I’m feeling, and I think that goes to the crux of what it means to leave everything behind for Him. He was alone on the cross when He died for our sins, and He knows when we hurt and when we sin. But, He loves us anyway even though He knows we won’t be perfect until we come to Him. So, that’s what I need to do. I need to love the people around me, even though they might reject me or cause me pain, because they’re not perfect. and I’m not perfect either. I can do no less than what Jesus does for me. And when that is my foremost desire, when all I want is to be and love like Jesus, my Lord and Savior, then the things of this world will pale in comparison, and this place will be a place I am just passing through on the way to my eternal home.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Monday’s Quiet Moments

Jesus said this to the disciples in Mark 6. “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” It was said after ministry had been done and amazing things had happened. Jesus knew his disciples would need rest after all their efforts which is why He made the offer.

It got me though to thinking of my own life and what I do to balance between activity and rest. It also made me think of when I hear God’s voice the most. Surprisingly enough, I hear it the most when I’m quiet. When the distractions of this world are few and my mind is focused on God. That day, for me, strangely enough, is on Monday. A day when I have time to reflect on what I’ve heard on Sunday and let it penetrate to the deepest reaches of my being. A day when I can think about how I need to apply Sunday’s message to my own life. A day when I can hear God speaking to me with clarity.

That’s doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with Sunday. Far from it! On Sundays, I pray just like I pray every other day of the week. I gather with my Christian brothers and sisters to worship. The angels sing as we pour out our hearts to God in worship–as we sing, as we pray, as we listen and the message cements itself on our hearts. God wants us to gather in community to worship Him just as much as He wants us to listen to Him in the quiet. I do my best to practice both of these sides of my faith–dichotomous though they might me, but I fail often especially at taking the moments just to listen to God.

So, during this Lenten season, on Mondays especially, but every day particularly, I plan on doing what was suggested yesterday during the sermon at my church. To take my time of contemplation and listening to God to a deeper level. To ask the question, Jesus, what do you want me to know of you? To develop a desperation and reinforce my dependency on the only One who is enough–my Lord and Savior. To know that His love for me knows no bounds and to be able to turn that love back on everyone in my community.

If I have nothing else in my life, my Lord and Savior is enough! I look forward to exploring this love more fully and deeply as is stated in John 13:34-35.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The End…of This Blog Series (Beyond Our Walls)

Written earlier this morning.

Today is the 40th day of my church’s 40 Days of Prayer. We will go to church this morning and make our pledge to the capital campaign. I will think about what I’ve learned over these last 40 days about myself and my faith. When we were given these devotions, we were encouraged to share our thoughts on social media which is when I came up with the idea for this series. It’s been a quiet statement of faith for me. Before I started, I had trouble thinking of writing topics and wondered if anyone was interested in what I wrote. Mid-way through, I realized God cared about what I wrote and started writing them like He was the only one reading. If anyone else read them, it was a bonus.

I think that’s similar to what today’s devotion topic is (Are you Surviving or Thriving?) For a long time, I’ve just been surviving and covering up the wounds from my past. God knew I couldn’t go any further unless I dealt with those wounds so that’s what this time of prayer and reflection has been for me. I don’t want to just survive. I want to thrive in everything I do–thrive in my teaching, thrive in my writing, thrive with my family, thrive with my church family, and thrive with sharing Jesus’ love to those around me.

The way to thriving is through these verses from Scripture. Matthew 22:37 and 39 say, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

If I follow Jesus’ words, there’s no way I can not thrive. His love filling me, in every part of me, always spills out to those around me. That is how we thrive as Christians–with love. Love for our Lord and Savior, love for our neighbors, and love for ourselves. He gave us the formula to thrive, and if we keep these verses in mind and the order in which they’re stated, (This is important. We need to love him first and others second before we love ourselves.), I believe we can thrive.  At least, that’s my plan going forward. 🙂

Yes, you will still hear from me as there are many, many topics related to my faith I haven’t even addressed. I’m thankful for those of you who have read any of the posts of this series and very thankful for my Lord and Savior who stays with me as I heal from my wounds and who gives us all the formula to thrive as His disciples!

God’s blessings to all of you today!

Our Church Family (Beyond Our Walls)

I’ve seen several memes on Facebook with the statement I’m about to quote. I always share it when I do because of how much it means to me.

“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”

This is what our church families are supposed to be like–the ones who love us no matter what. It is also the subject of today’s devotion (The Body That You Choose). We choose our church families. Over the years of our marriage, my husband and I have made choices that haven’t been so good because we and the people around us didn’t understand the previous paragraph and didn’t understand the Scripture that calls for the body of believers to live together in love and not in judgment of one another. Fortunately, we are in a much better place now.

I say this with a true gratitude of how God brought us to this church family and how much we’ve grown in our faith because of our church family. They are people who genuinely love one another with the love of Jesus, and they’ve taken us under their wing even though we are messed up and broken people.

Today’s devotion brings out the other side of this coin. Not only do believers need to be accepting and loving towards others who come into the church; we have a choice at how much we are engaged with our church families. My husband, who is involved with the media ministry at our church, often tells me of people who get up and walk out when our pastor says the final words of his sermon. This saddens me. We are in such a great place now I don’t understand why some people don’t want to be engaged with others. Then, I realize they’ve made a choice like I made all those years ago. They don’t want to be real with others because of the chance for pain. They don’t believe people will love them as they are. They don’t believe people actually want them in their lives. They come to church to hear the weekly sermon, and they figure that’s enough church for them.

How sad! Oh, how sad! But, I understand. I do understand because it’s where I was, and it’s what I still struggle with a lot. We, as the church, haven’t done a good job with loving people. We need to make a choice to be engaged with and take care of our church family just like we choose to take care of our biological family.

So, there are two things I need to think about in regards to my church family. One, I need to make the choice to be engaged with and love my church family. Two, I need to love the people beyond our church’s walls and tell them about the One who loves us all. I can only do these things with Jesus in my heart. Praying for grace and love to share His love during this Advent season!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Courage of Love (Beyond Our Walls)

Written and posted today. 12/02/16

As I reflect on my previous post, I can see how giving in secret is related to the courage of love. God wants us to totally depend on Him for our provision and our strength. He wants us to know in the deepest recesses of our heart that we are loved unconditionally. The courage and strength to reach out to a hurting world comes from this love. No matter how much we love the people around us or how much they love us, it is not the same love as what Jesus gives us–the love that caused Him to be born and to die on the cross for us.

This is why I titled this blog post The Courage of Love. Love and courage go hand in hand. When I think of being courageous which is what the title of today’s devotion is, I think of how the words in Deuteronomy 31:6 couldn’t have been spoken without love. It was centuries before Jesus came, but God still showed His love to Israel.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

God will never leave us. If He spoke these words to His people in the time of Moses, what did sending Jesus mean to Him? He sent everything He had because He loves us unconditionally, and because of that love, He will never leave us.

I’ve had to hang onto that love a lot this year through all of the mess in my life. There were times I didn’t think I had a lot of courage because I thought courage was the absence of fear, but now I realize that courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s having fear and making the choice to go forward anyway. Making the choice to let God stretch me beyond my comfort zone. Making the choice to lay myself bare before my church family. Making the choice to work on healing even when it hurts. Making the choice to let go and let God.

This is also what my church is working through with its capital campaign. It’s not just for the raising of money. We want to love the people who are different from us and introduce them to the One who loves us all. That takes courage–the choice to love someone else even if they are different from you. May we all have that courage today!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Greatest of These is Love (Beyond Our Walls)

God is challenging me today. The devotion from my church is entitled The Way of Love and references 1 Corinthians 13:13 part of which is the title for this blog post.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

I look at this chapter which is known as the ‘love chapter’ in Scripture and think, ‘Do I have this kind of love for people?’ My first thought is, of course, I do. But then I look at the verses again, especially verses 4-7, and realize I’m not so sure.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Whoa! I’m not like that. Not nearly close enough to what Jesus wants from me. My love for people is more like what you’re not supposed to do than what you are supposed to do. I look at my heart after reading these verses and am ashamed.

I mention this today because of two events that have happened over the last two days. The first of these events happened yesterday. I came to a realization of why discussions about money bother me so much. In the past, money has been used against me as a weapon by churches (since I’ve been an adult) and by people. Since I’ve never had a lot of money to give or been completely absorbed with making money, I’ve had love withheld from me–from people who said they were Christians and from people who were close to me. It is painful to realize how many times in my life money or the lack of it has been used to beat me down. So, as you can imagine, discussions about the capital campaign are discussions that hurt right now.

The other thing happened earlier this morning. I woke up to see something in my emails about someone needing help. God said, ‘You need to go do that.’ I’m like, ‘Uh, no God, I can’t. I’m not qualified. You need special training to do that.’ We debated about it for a while because not only did I not feel qualified, I wasn’t sure I wanted to because of other situations that have happened in the past. Nice way for me to make excuses, right?  😦

I figured out something though by looking at both of these situations. I struggle with love, money, and not feeling worthy or qualified because it’s not God’s love that fills me all of the time. Sometimes I try to use my own love for situations and for people, and it’s not nearly enough. Love by itself will never be enough to deal with anything. It’s only when you are loving from the well of God’s love deep inside your heart that God can work miracles in your life and in this world.

I’m still working through these situations, but I’m going to let God lead me first in what I need to do. So thankful for my God who loves me unconditionally, who gives me words to write, and who gives us all power to love others in His name!

God’s blessings on all of you today!