PUT. ON. LOvE.

The Creator created.  A living organism so complex and intricate that it works with twists of nerves and the beat-beat-beat of a heart and a neck that turns a head pregnant with brilliance and glorious emotion any way it wants.  A myriad of colors doesn’t splash across our wings like a humming bird in flight, but it formed together in our mother’s womb, stringing together DNA to gaze across from us in the form of violet or topaz eyes, or maybe eyes the nondescript reflection of a cloudy ocean.  Yes, the human body almost taunts us with its miraculousness (is that a word?).

The body of Christ was meant to function in comparison.

“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  Ephesians 4:16

I confess that the body of Christ drew me to Christianity.  The joy, the love, the peace that bonded the lives of the college students I knew who embraced this thing called a relationship with Jesus left me wanting more.  Finally, a place to be accepted for who I was, a place where honesty replaced pretense and grace trumped the need to succeed.  The body of Christ must be a strange term to those who look from the outside in. The body of Christ was meant to shine like a city on a hill, its mystery is in the love that those people who are the head and hands and feet and mouth of Jesus all give to each other and then in turn encourage the Godfidence to pour it out to a hurting world.

But just like the human body sometimes turns on itself with mutated cells or fights the invasion of foreign bodies that sicken it, I learned the hard way that the body of Christ is no different.  Perhaps a part of the body of Christ blocked your heart like so many constrictions or a wounded person in turn wounded you.  Perhaps you limp along because you have been blindsided by the sometimes sickness of these humans.  After all, the Apostle Paul wrote with that infuriating thing called a conjunction -”when.”  When means ” during the time that” so Paul added a condition to the body growing and building itself up in love.  During the time that each part is working properly, the body will grow and build itself up in love.

What do you do when the body of Christ, made up of miraculous creations who profess a relationship with the Son of God called Jesus, does not work properly?  I search my own heart,  asking God to change me.  Change me.  Protect me from bringing harm.  Enable me to be a part of healing in the name of Love- that God man who forgave on the cross and from the cross.  That God man who cried at the death of his friend, even though He knew- HE KNEW- that death was only temporary.  He still knows.

I see more lack of love in the body than at any time in my 35 years of relationship with Christ.  I read unkind and hateful comments on social media, written from “Anonymous” sources.  Church members become judge and jury, accusing each other and arguing over trivial concerns that take away from sharing the good news of the Gospel.  Rather than helping the wounded, we condemn and bury them.  Arguments erupt over worship style, leadership style.  Maturity is not “in.”  Required for upcoming church leaders: Facial hair and hipster glasses, acid washed jeans and shirt tails untucked.  Is LOVE required?

Am I part of the problem?

WE.  MUST.  STOP.

STOP what you are doing.  DROP to your knees.  and PRAY.

Jesus did.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and PRAY for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers,iwhat more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”   Matthew 5:43-47

We think love binds like so many strands of thread bind together to make a beautiful garment.   Love also separates.  It separates us from hatred.  It separates us from vengeance.  It separates us from envy.  It separates us from self-seeking.  When we are too consumed being about the business of loving, we are too busy to hate or judge, accuse or envy.

Put on love.  Adorn yourself in your finest.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Colossians 3:12-17


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When Yes to God Means No

“Be on guard.  Stand firm in the faith.  Be courageous.  Be strong.  And do everything in love.”  I Corinthians 16:13-14

Kicking and screaming in 2007.  Like a disobedient and overwhelmed toddler drama queen, that’s how my heart responded to the circumstances I found myself in.  And no choice.  No way out.  Really God?  I mean, hadn’t He given me enough in the past year?  A husband deployed to Iraq for a year, a senior in high school applying to colleges, a daughter getting married in the summer, a junior higher with a bad case of mono and a cancerous lesion on her shoulder needing surgery?  And now I was supposed to move to Germany?  Leave two daughters and aging parents an ocean away?  We were to ship our car and household goods, saunter back and forth across the entire country for the wedding, drop our daughter off at the college dorm curb and move to Europe.  All within 2 weeks.  I felt abandoned.  I didn’t know how to physically do it, much less emotionally readjust to a husband who had spent the last year in a war zone and say goodbye to two daughters at once.  I wrung my heart out to God, “Why have you abandoned me?”

The next Sunday, I took my angry heart to our military chapel with our two youngest daughters.  Another well-meaning military wife had just encouraged me, “Oh, you’ll love Germany!”  I didn’t want to hear it again.  Not one more time. How could they understand?  And why was I attending a place of worship?  I sat during the singing, arms folded tightly.  Don’t. talk. to. me.  The  chaplain took his place in front of the congregation.  What he said next I’ll never forget.

“I had a sermon all prepared, and last night, God told me to change it.  There’s someone or maybe several people in here who feel like God has abandoned them.  And so, today, my message for you is: God has not abandoned you.”

I’d like to say that after that glimpse- into- eternity encounter, my heart changed completely.  It didn’t.  Yet this God of grace took the screaming toddler inside of me and held me close.  He did not condemn. He held my hand across the country and back, at the wedding, and on the dorm curb.  He took it again as we crossed the Atlantic Ocean.  I learned that saying yes to God means saying no to me.

I have met many women who live out extraordinary circumstances in what may appear to some as mundane existence.   Some reside in small towns where they were born and will probably live out the rest of their lives.  Some don’t know where to call home because the military has moved them so much. Others press on in ministry, whether it be in rural churches or urban soup kitchens. Women who have turned their palms up and said, “Yes, God!” with bowed hearts to the Creator, even though they may not understand His ways.  Women who may never be well-known by the world’s definition of fame, but by exemplifying strong faith inspire others to follow Christ with abandon.

The beautiful, energetic Army wife whose second son was born with Downs Syndrome.  She and her husband named him William for William the Conqueror.  And he conquers milestones.  His optimistic, hilarious mother handles her life with grace, humor and thanksgiving.  She said “no” to self-pity. Yes, God.

The mother of 2 young children and a husband who is gone literally half the year who stays home to give her family stability.  She and her husband have an intentionality about their marriage than I don’t see in relationships where both people are home 24/7.  She said “no” to the pressure of needing more. Yes, God.

A woman who works as a children’s speech pathologist, mostly with at risk families in poverty.  She considers her position a calling, regularly praying over her patients and asking for intercession- that God would intervene in their lives and that she can be the hands and feet of Jesus.  She said “no” to doubt.   Yes, God.

The church planter’s wife with a passion for Jesus and His Word who wonders every day, “Who will you put in my path to introduce Jesus to? When will You establish this church?”  She homeschools 3 kids, clings to God’s promises with her husband, stands firm and shows courage.  She said “no” to things seen, believing in the things hoped for. Yes, God.

A young teenage girl over 2000 years ago who met an angel and was told she would bear Emmanuel, Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Literally, breath.  God chose her because she was an ordinary girl-woman whom He knew would say yes.  She said “no” to needing all the immediate answers.  Yes, God.

Ordinary women.  Extraordinary faith.  What can we learn from those that God has called to say no to say YES to Him?








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Love. Is. Hard.

“You can’t sit here anymore.”

My seventh grade brace-faced, frizzy-haired self felt that plummeting, sickening feeling in my stomach.  Rejection.
“Why not?” I asked the girls who were supposedly close friends.
“We have boyfriends, and you don’t.  This is a ‘boyfriend only’ table now.”

Occurrences like this one happen so often that comedy movies are made to record the culture of junior high and high school.  But to the person they happen to, there is nothing funny about them.  Fortunately, we matured out of our 7th grade days, and many of us remained friends through high school.  But I still remember what happened.  Not because I want to relive junior high, but because I ache for fringe people, people who hang in there with a group and are never quite accepted.  People who seem, well, lost.

I thought when I left adolescence behind that mean girls would be left behind, too. I was wrong.  Insecure teens grow into insecure women.  I was one of them. Whether it be the unheard thoughts of criticizing a woman for how she looks or the somewhat intentional shunning of one who hurt our feelings or not reaching out to someone who is different or we just don’t want to take the time to bring a woman into our private circle, we all have the potential to be a mean girl.  Mean girls cross socio-economic and racial boundaries.  In other words, mean girls aren’t just rich and beautiful or whatever mold we create for them.

Only the power of a relationship with the living Christ can truly change us.  When we give our broken pieces to Him, when we rest in the power of purpose…His purpose…we can love with abandonment.

Isn’t that what Jesus did for us?  Love with abandonment?  It started with His birth, really.  He gave up His rightful place in heaven to become Immanuel, God With Us.  Fully human and fully divine.  And then He submitted Himself to God the Father’s purpose, which was to go to the cross for us.

I have been through times when friendships were hard to come by and mean girls flourished in abundance.  God wants us to be women of grace, not girls who are mean.

Women of grace reach out in the power of love even when it’s out of their comfort zone,  rather than finding protection in numbers.

Women of grace work out differences when they’ve been hurt or offended rather than shunning the offender.

Women of grace help each other grow, as people, as Christians, as mothers and wives, as leaders, even when it involves loving dialogue that is hard.  Mean girls use the faults of other women to feel better about themselves.

Women of grace recognize their own needs for forgiveness and readily forgive others.  Mean girls find reasons why others don’t ever deserve forgiveness.

Yes.  Love. Is. Hard. Let’s be women who love with abandonment and forgive the past.  Even yesterday can be a past that sets the course for a future we regret.

 


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Love Is Hard

“You can’t sit here anymore.”

My seventh grade brace-faced, frizzy-haired self felt that plummeting, sickening feeling in my stomach.  Rejection.
“Why not?” I asked the girls who were supposedly close friends.
“We have boyfriends, and you don’t.  This is a ‘boyfriend only’ table now.”

Occurrences like this one happen so often that comedy movies are made to record the culture of junior high and high school.  But to the person they happen to, there is nothing funny about them.  Fortunately, we matured out of our 7th grade days, and many of us remained friends through high school.  But I still remember what happened.  Not because I want to relive junior high, but because I ache for fringe people, people who hang in there with a group and are never quite accepted.  People who seem, well, lost.

I thought when I left adolescence behind that mean girls would be left behind, too. I was wrong.  Insecure teens grow into insecure women.  I was one of them. Whether it be the unheard thoughts of criticizing a woman for how she looks or the somewhat intentional shunning of one who hurt our feelings or not reaching out to someone who is different or we just don’t want to take the time to bring a woman into our private circle, we all have the potential to be a mean girl.  Mean girls cross socio-economic and racial boundaries.  In other words, mean girls aren’t just rich and beautiful or whatever mold we create for them.

Only the power of a relationship with the living Christ can truly change us.  When we give our broken pieces to Him, when we rest in the power of purpose…His purpose…we can love with abandonment.

Isn’t that what Jesus did for us?  Love with abandonment?  It started with His birth, really.  He gave up His rightful place in heaven to become Immanuel, God With Us.  Fully human and fully divine.  And then He submitted Himself to God the Father’s purpose, which was to go to the cross for us.

I have been through times when friendships were hard to come by and mean girls flourished in abundance.  God wants us to be women of grace, not girls who are mean.

Women of grace reach out in the power of love even when it’s out of their comfort zone,  rather than finding protection in numbers.

Women of grace work out differences when they’ve been hurt or offended rather than shunning the offender.

Women of grace help each other grow, as people, as Christians, as mothers and wives, as leaders, even when it involves loving dialogue that is hard.  Mean girls use the faults of other women to feel better about themselves.

Women of grace recognize their own needs for forgiveness and readily forgive others.  Mean girls find reasons why others don’t ever deserve forgiveness.

Yes.  Love. Is. Hard. Let’s be women who love with abandonment and forgive the past.  Even yesterday can be a past that sets the course for a future we regret.

 


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