Long-Distance Love

Long-distance grandparenting – ouch! Sadly it’s the norm for many families today.

Some families move across town, some across the country, and some across the globe.

Our only two grandchildren live literally on the other side of the world. Our son and daughter-in-law work for a non-profit humanitarian agency whose home leave policy is three months at home for every year on the field. Most families in their agency save up leave to come home for an entire school year. For us that year was last year, ten months packed with intentionally made memories large and small, from camping at the Grand Canyon to geocaching in the parking lot of our neighborhood drugstore to just plain babysitting so our son and daughter-in-law could have real “date nights,” a hard-to-come-by commodity when they were on the field.

So much fun meant so much heartache saying good-bye. Though our grandchildren were only three and six, they knew they were going back to another far-away country and culture. The anxiety of leaving family spilled out of our grandson’s heart, eyes and conversations during the final month of their home visit: “Grandma, I wish we could stay here with someone until Mommy and Daddy are finished with the work they have to do.”

“You can stay with us!” my heart cried silently, protesting the words coming out of my mouth, “I know, but you’d miss Daddy and Mommy. I’m sure your friends there have missed you, too, and can’t wait to see you again!” Over my heart’s objections, true love told me I needed to do something to help our grandkids make the transition, so through my tears I wrote a poem – with a bow to Dr. Seuss – to tuck into their carry-on bags along with toys and treats for their 32-hour journey – a fun surprise for them and therapy for a grieving Grandma’s heart!

I’ve been blessed to visit them three times since, to see where they live and share in some of their adventures and favorite places in the towns they’ve lived in. I am so proud of my son and daughter-in-law for providing love, grace, shared faith, strength and the stability of love for both of these kids we share in family love, wherever they are!

back on good bed at Suan Bua

Home is Where the Love Is

On the grandkids’ moving day, they were scared to move away,

So Grandma called them on the phone to say, “You’ll never be alone.”

“No matter where the road may wind you, know my love will always find you.

If you move to Timbuktu, I’ll still come visit you.

If you fly to Zanzibar, my heart won’t think that is too far.

If you’re as close as Nacogdoches, I’ll come hug you so ferocious!”

“If you wake up in Jingxi, you both mean the world to me.

Take the bus back to Nanning?  Call on the computer and we can sing.

I’ll send you packages in Key Largo, even though it’s farther than Fargo.

If you drive to Jodrell Bank, my love will fully fill your tank.

If you stop in Honolulu, my love won’t stop; it will pursue you!”

“Ride a camel to Kyrgyzstan, and I’ll still be your biggest fan!

If you get hot in Madagascar, Gram still thinks you’re cool – just ask her!

Sail a boat to Truk or Yap? My heart won’t even need a map.

Cruise the Strait of Kattegat? My heart always knows where you’re at.

Stuff your backpack for Hong Kong? You’re carrying my heart along.

Forget you in Ulaanbaatar? No way!  My thoughts are where you are!”

“Across the globe while you are sleeping, I’m awake; you’re in love’s keeping.

When I sleep and you’re at play, your hearts are just a dream away.

Around the world we’ll rendezvous because I think the world of you!

It’s true, no matter where you dwell, your Grandma loves YOU. Can’t you tell?

From east to west, Cape Town to Nome, where family love is, there is home.”

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Grace – Freedom FOR Responsibility

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If we’re honest, probably most of us long for the job, or the time, or the money to allow us to be free FROM responsibility. That’s part of the appeal of retirement and financial independence: no accountability to anyone but ourselves, for nothing but pleasurable purposes. Fun! Me time! Freedom!

How long, I wonder, would that lifestyle provide meaning and satisfactions to us? If today I could go anywhere I wanted, do anything I wanted to do, eat whatever I wanted, buy whatever I wanted, would I feel validated as a person? Isn’t that what that kind of “freedom” means when we examine our motives in wanting it?

If what I truly long for is validation, a sense that my life matters and has meaning … then I look to the Cross of Jesus, the sacrifice that set us free from the law, keeping an interminable set of rules, constantly failing in some point and feeling the sting of knowing we didn’t “measure up.” Performance: we look for it in cars, from each other on the job, and sadly from each other in relationship. “I will love you IF you …. WHEN you…BECAUSE you ….”

Grace turns that kind of thinking radically on its head, where it belongs, swept away from our lives, thoughts, actions, and relationships because of the immeasurable grace God gives us daily in the death of His son Jesus on the cross in our places.

“What do you mean, God, I can’t do anything to EARN your grace? What do you mean that I can’t possibly measure up? That means I have to ADMIT that I can’t measure up, and that makes me invalidated, worthless … doesn’t it?”

NO, it means exactly the opposite; each of us has immeasurable value to God, just because he WANT us in relationship with Him. How in the universe can that be? Because He is love, period.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3: 21-24 NIV

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2: 19-20 NIV

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,  because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2: 12-13 NIV

Responding to that merciful love means I want to show it, return some measure of my limited love to that limitless love. I WANT to give! Love is the illogic that stands logic on its ugly head and liberates everyone who embraces it to FREELY give, to take on responsibility with a joyful, willing heart.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10: 8 NIV

My neighbor was living on rice and beans, and I had the ability to buy a package of chicken at 50% off the usual price. Was I legally responsible for my neighbor? No, but out of love, could I say she was loved in a tangible way? Yes, freely.

 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3: 16-18 NIV

At a fund-raising yard sale at my church, a woman admired a red two-piece suit I had for sale. She couldn’t afford the yard sale price. Did I OWE it to her to give it to her? NO, but did God’s GRACE, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, give me freedom to give away something I could give to bless the heart of someone else? Yes, and to joyfully put the $5.00 in the mission fund myself! Wow, she was going to feel beautiful in that suit!

I hurt someone’s feelings. But God, they hurt me, too. If I apologize – no, if I say the dreaded three words “I was WRONG” – won’t that diminish my value? Won’t that make ME wrong, mean I failed and I lose my worth? NO – grace gives me the freedom to admit I was wrong, knowing the person I hurt is immeasurably valued by God AND so am I! He wants right relationships for our mutual good.

Freedom to BE responsible, freedom FOR responsibility toward God and toward others.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8: 1-5 NIV

 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. Romans 6: 11-22 NIV

Purify my heart, my longings, my desires, Jesus! Set me free from selfishness and self-absorption to live freely and give freely. As the song says, I am free to love, I am free to dance, I am free to live for YOU, I am free!

A “…BUT…” to move: Oh, God, your mercy for me, your unmerited favor you lavished on me through the gift of your Son Jesus given freely for me to bring me into family relationship with you as your child and friend gives me the heart to be glad to return Your love in serving. I admit I’ve lived for myself and my own pleasures in ________________________________ and frankly, that never gave me the value and worth that living freely IN your love to GIVE your love GIVES to me. I want real freedom! Show me who needs your love today as I ________________________ and give me the courage of love to _________________________________. In the name of the awesome lover of my soul, Jesus, AMEN!

No Pigs in theTemple

As Simple as it Gets

A sacred space. So very different from the way 99% of our culture views the physical relationship between a husband and wife, a man and a woman in covenant, but I awoke literally to that understanding. When I spoke my covenant promise 45 years ago, I meant it and intended to keep it, “For richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, for better or for worse, forsaking all others keep myself only unto him so long as we both shall live.” Many churches in the Christian community consider marriage a sacrament, right alongside communion and, for some, baptism.

Full Definition of SACRAMENT according to Merriam-Webster:

1a :  a Christian rite (as baptism or the Eucharist) that is believed to have been ordained by Christ and that is held to be a means of divine grace or to be a sign or symbol of a spiritual reality

directly from Latin sacramentum “a consecrating”; from sacred directly from Latin sacrare “to make sacred, consecrate; hold sacred; immortalize; set apart, dedicate,”

This I know is true from Scripture: when I received Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, God’s Spirit then lives in me.

But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8: 10-11 NIV

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-10.

In its whole context, this passage reads:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:15-20

I’d been Christian a long time before I recognized the truth that, when we are joined with Jesus, our body becomes the dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit. In truth, our heart becomes a type of the Holy of Holies, the place in the physical Temple where God’s Spirit dwelt, the place where only a consecrated priest could enter at specified times to meet with God.

This lives, alive in spirit and I think in real, tangible truth, in marriage between two Christians. Even for two human beings who aren’t Christian, physical union creates a spiritual reality:

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 NIV

Married to my husband, when we came together in the physical bond of intimacy, we created a spiritual bond as well, and a oneness in spirit even truer than the physical union. If our bodies were the Temple of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, then that union creates a sacred space where the Holy Spirit in him joined the Holy Spirit in me – a consecration, held dedicated, set apart, a means of divine grace – expressing a spiritual reality in physicality. That was God’s intent for marriage from the beginning of creation.

God’s Temple was meant to be and remain undefiled, a holy space set apart for man to meet with God. Nothing unclean was allowed in the Temple, particularly in the Holy of Holies. But enter the Greek Antiochus IV, the 8th ruler of the Seleucid empire centered in Babylonia and covering the eastern p[art of Alexander the Great’s former empire. He gave himself the surname “Epiphanes” which means “the visible god” (that he and Jupiter were identical). He acted as though he really were Jupiter and the people called him “Epimanes” meaning “the madman”. He was violently bitter against the Jews, and was determined to exterminate them and their religion. He devastated Jerusalem in 168 BC, defiled the Temple, offered a pig on its altar, erected an altar to Jupiter, prohibited Temple worship, forbade circumcision on pain of death, sold thousands of Jewish families into slavery, destroyed all copies of Scripture that could be found, and slaughtered everyone discovered in possession of such copies, and resorted to every conceivable torture to force Jews to renounce their religion. This led to the Maccabaean revolt, one of the most heroic feats in history.

What in the world does Hellenistic history have to do with marital intimacy? Simply put: no pigs on the altar. We bring pigs into the sacred space of our covenental union when we bring in corruption and loose standards from popular culture, when thoughts of being with anyone other than our marriage partner enter our minds, when we set any “unclean thing” before our eyes other than our spouse and the sacredness of that person’s body and spirit.

I always wanted to write, and decades ago I began composing a romance novel in my mind. I set out the slot, the setting, and the characters … until I saw the trap I could easily have fallen into. I could have created a male character, a hero so perfect in my eyes that the value, worth, and person of my own husband might have begun to diminish in my thoughts and eventually my heart. A pig on the altar. Immediately I dropped the idea. No one and nothing was going to take the place of my husband in my thoughts, affections, or body, period. He was God’s gift to me, God’s Spirit lived in him, and bringing anything else into our relationship was, to me, tantamount to bringing a pig into the Holy of Holies.

My husband regarded our bedroom as a space off-limits to our children. Even more off-limits were both of our bodies, reserved for each other alone, held apart, sacred, meant to be consecrated to each other alone.

Yes, sexual intimacy is meant to be pleasurable, enjoyable, even fun, but above all and surrounding all, sexual intimacy creates a sacred space between two people. I’ve found few in the world of online dating who believe this is true, but I know in the core of my being that it is meant to be so – a sacred space – by the One who created our sexuality to begin with. All you have to do is read the Song of Songs in the Bible to know that god didn’t create sexual intimacy to be something stuffy and ethereal; he meant it to be physical and spiritual at the same time.

Pigs in the Temple? Pornography: A pig in the Holy of Holies. Thoughts straying to anyone else: a pig in the Holy of Holies. Selfishness, or bitterness toward your spouse: a pig in the Holy of Holies. Sleeping around casually because that’s the way to know if you’re “truly compatible” with someone else: a pig AND a statue of Zeus in the Holy of Holies, your own and the other person’s heart and spirit as well as body. Adultery, or “just” an emotional relationship with someone of the opposite ex when you belong to someone in covenant: a herd of pigs, the swine that should be run over the cliff carrying the demons of ” okay if it isn’t touching and feeling” with them.

I need to learn to regard everyone I see as a repository for the image of God, every heart as a holy place, but I must reserve the Holy of Holies in my heart and body for the Holy of Holies in only one other vessel, exclusively. One sacred space, one place of consecration, held apart, honoring the God who created this place for two to meet with Him as one, out of honor for the Spirit in us each and both. together

Are you bringing pigs into your temple? Confess it as sin, cleanse the altar, dedicate yourself to God, keep your space sacred, and hold it as consecrated until you enter the sacred space of lifelong covenant.

A “…BUT…” to pray: Oh, Holy and righteous God, you created my body, my heart, my mind and spirit to be a vessel for your Spirit, sanctified, holy and set apart for you through Jesus first of all. Show me where I may have brought pigs into my temple by _____________________________. Show me where I may have desecrated my husband/wife by bringing ____________________________ into our union. Help me/us to consecrate this part of our lives again to you, give us joy in the holiness, and help us to ___________________________ to honor you, Holy Spirit, in the center of our union. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!No Pigs in the Temple.

I Think; Therefore I …Dance!

left_verse_right_brainI’m   not throwing stones – I am perplexed by something I cannot fathom. Granted, every one of us has two sides, two halves, two hemispheres that constitute our brain. And granted, we tend to operate more easily or more usually out of one hemisphere, depending on the need of the moment. Oversimplified, the left side dominates in analytical and objective information, while the right tends to dominate in recognizing faces, intuition, subjectivity, art and music. The two sides are separated by a groove, the medial longitudinal fissure (aren’t you impressed?) and connected by a band of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. Granted, all of this is neuroscience, but I’ve observed (both from my left analytical side and my right experiential side) what seems to be a medial longitudinal fissure within the Body of Christ that, for the life of me, I can’t make sense of!

I’ve attended some wonderful Bible-based, God’s Word honoring and teaching churches where the pastor and Adult Sunday School teachers are seminary-trained, steeped in cultural and historical context for the Scriptures, delivering, proclaiming and applying God’s truth to other Believers. But I’ve seen very little passion or spiritual/emotional enthusiasm in worship in these churches. Conversely, I’ve attended churches where joy and unbridled enthusiastic worship open every service, but there is no intentional, serious discipleship training. To quote the book of James out of context, “My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

I’ve discovered in myself that the more I learn, the more wonder I see in the world. I take clouds for granted until I stop to think they are collections of water molecules in gaseous state suspended on and driven by air, a collection of invisible gasses trapped by earth’s gravitation that amazingly enough have mass and volume! As I think deeper, I realize that water vapor is nothing more than a bonding of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom held together by a force I can’t begin to comprehend. It is at this point that the very existence of water absolutely astounds me, and my spirit falls down in awe that the Being we call God Almighty, Yahweh Adonai, not only THOUGHT of hydrogen and oxygen but CREATED hydrogen and oxygen. My next question: Why? Whatever for? What kind of mind intentionally creates the infinitesimally small building blocks necessary for life as we know it? And I fall on my face in wonder that He created collections of water, amino acids, minerals, fats, proteins, and biochemists only know what else who have the ability to possess AWARENESS of themselves, others, the world around them, HIM, and who carry deep within themselves a yearning desire for relationship!

The more I know on the left side of my brain, the more my right-hemisphere awe and wonder wants to leap and dance.

If water vapor can generate that kind of active, alive,, passionate amazement in me, why can’t the Word of God? Why must reading, hearing, and learning God’s Word be free of emotion, passion, joy, living fire and longing to experience Him? And why can’t passionate experience and enthusiasm drive us to KNOW and desire to know more about the Word of the One who fuels our hunger and longing to relate to Him out of love? And that moves me to ask why we can’t relate to each other out of that amazement.

Bringing this back down from the clouds to the ground, our cataloging, categorizing, assessing, differentiating, and looking askance at might benefit greatly from a connection across our spiritual corpus callosum to generosity, appreciation, gratitude, empathy, compassion, wonder, amazement, and brotherly love. Polarization has no place in the brain or in the Body of Christ. “Right Brain” Pentecostals need the understanding, knowledge, and biblical scholarship of more cerebral “Left Brain” traditions, and highly liturgical and cerebral traditions need the passion and alive, emotionally connected experiential relationship of charismatics and lively worship churches. How refreshed I’d feel to find a fellowship where Believers do – I could do –  both!

I know God still works miracles of healing, deliverance, provision, and creation. The Holy Spirit is moving undeniably in other parts of the world in things unexplainable by human intellect. I can’t deny the miracle healing I had in my own body in 1980, being saved from a plane crash in 1987, moving me across the country in 1997 to meet a woman who’d be part of a miracle I’d need nine years later. Yes, those encounters with God make me want to shout and dance! Considering the clouds drops my jaw in wonder. And the more I know and experience God intellectually, the more I want to know and understand about Him, about the Bible, about the world, about others and my relationship to them, about the purposes God created me for – the more I want to experience the passion of experiencing and encountering Him more in my life every day. Oh, for that “bundle of nerves” we need to connect us both mind and heart to Jesus!

And oh, the more I should be taking both right and left, my knowledge and my compassion and passion outside my personal quiet time and corporate worship to the dying, the hurting, the hungry, the needy, the “have it all” but empty, the lonely, the lost.

I think; therefore I dance. I dance; therefore, I think!

I am known; therefore I want to know Him MORE! Therefore I want to make Him known in both fact and experience to people who don’t know Him! Amazing – to truly love with ALL my HEART, all my WILL, ALL my MIND, all my strength, and truly live.

 Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 NIV

A “…BUT…” to move: Lord, Beautiful Savior, I want to know you fully. I sometimes have trouble with _________________________________ in my relationship with you. I can get too _____________________________. Help me, Loving God, to both know you and experience you. Deepen my understanding and heighten my joy in You. Holy Spirit, come into my life and do what I can’t do for myself. If I could ask you for one thing in my relationship with You, if you were sitting right here beside me, I’d ask you to/for __________________________. Thank you that you WANT me to know and experience more of you.

Can you see the “angel” blowing a trumpet on the left side of the cloud? Let’s dance! IMG_0264

I Want (to be like) Candy

Rear view of three young female friends at music festival

This title is from an old song by the Strangeloves in 1965. The lyrics for the first verse are:

I Want Candy
By The Strangeloves
I know a girl who’s soft and sweet
She’s so fine, she can’t be beat
Got everything that I desire
Sets the summer sun on fire
I want Candy, I want Candy

I know a woman named Candy. Nobody would give her a second look. Yes, she has long flowing hair, but there her resemblance to the girl on the beach in 1965 ends. Strangely enough, I know this Candy is infinitely more beautiful than the Candy of the Bo-Diddly beat, and if I could have a heart half as caring and kind as hers, I’d be glad, because Candy’s self-less self-giving love humbles me.

I met her one morning at church in our women’s ministry: long hair stringing straight down, carrying extra pounds, some teeth broken, wearing glasses, shorter than my 5’5″, not well-educated, completely ingenuous and genuine, from somewhere around the hills of West Virginia, a woman who used the phrase “I might could …” betraying her humble roots. There I was, the morning speaker for the message, table discussion leader, former National Merit Scholar, blessed with a good education, born in the Midwest where yes, my extended family used the term “red up” to mean clean the table, but I’d never said that in my life. Candy was the kind of person that some shy away from in order to not be considered as simple and “un-cool” as she. We shared wearing glasses and we shared loving Jesus. I might have been delivering the morning message, but I had a lot to learn from Candy.

We’d talk when we met in the lobby at church, but I never called her or went to lunch with her. Some days she needed a ride to the women’s meetings, and I’d pick her up and return her home. There I was, doing my “good Christian duty.” Oh, was I about to be set straight! Candy volunteered with the “Friendship Class” at our church, a Sunday School class for the developmentally disabled, including quite a few adults with Down’s Syndrome. She loved those people with such respect and compassion that I began to marvel at the heart in this woman.

Candy talked with real admiration about comments some of the class members made on Sunday mornings. She was always ready to serve in women’s  ministry, too, helping set and clear tables, giving hugs to anyone who would accept one. She beamed when she and the other class leaders led the Friendship Class onto the stage at church to sing in our Sunday morning services. They always got a standing ovation! Some Sundays they put on skits, and there was hardly a dry eye in the house. Several of those childlike young people also helped usher on Sunday mornings, and why not? Weren’t they fully vested Christians too? Didn’t they merit a chance to use their gifts to serve? Didn’t Jesus count them worthy of shedding his blood and enduring the whip and the cross that they could know how deeply, desperately, relentlessly God loves them?

Candy cried with me when my husband left me and the rug got pulled out from under all I’d cherished and believed – with no recrimination, no condemnation, no “What didn’t you do right?” She simply loved from that genuine, kind, simply good, simply Christlike  heart of hers, and I was grateful. I needed her friendship more than she ever needed a car ride from me.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NIV

So, rightly humbled and blessed and honored to call her my friend – I Want (to be like) Candy, a woman soft-hearted and sweet, fine as gold refined in the fire with a heart few others could claim to approximate. Yes, Candy does have something I desire very much: to love with the selfless, caring, joyfully appreciating and others-validating heart of Jesus. Candy, I respect, honor, admire, and love you, my teacher and my friend!

A “…BUT…” to move:  God, I am so quick to judge and compare people based on outward appearances or superficial qualities before I even take  a few minutes to see who they are in character and heart. Help me, Father, to see the good in ___________________________ today and give me an opportunity to tell __________________________________ how much I value him/her. Keep my eyes open for others who need to know how truly wonderful they are, and give me eyes to see below the surface and honor as you do what you’ve placed inside them. And Lord, when I feel I don’t measure up to the standards others set for me, help me to be gracious and to remember that you dance over me with singing. (Zeph 3:17)

Give as good as you get, or It Takes one to know ONE and to give (to) one

Family-praising-God1Back in the Dark Ages before computers everywhere, I stood in  line to register for my undergraduate college classes. – long lines and no guarantees you’d get the classes you needed.  In Freshman year, of course you signed up for  everything ” _____ 101.”  One course I never saw, though, is one that should be mandatory, a prerequisite for all of us in the “Human-ities” major, but few of us ever seem to even enroll for this one, much less complete the course:  Relationships 101.

I thought today how profoundly simple and straight-forward this should be for each of us. They syllabus would be short and clearly direct, with emotional and behavioral objectives short and sweet, and the professor considered the greatest authority   subject  because he died to prove it:

Week 1: The Students Will Know deeply that they aren’t perfect and they need grace extended to them  on every side.

Week 2: TSW Know deeply the only One who truly gives that kind of unconditionally accepting grace.

Week 3: TSW Know the gret price paid for them to be covered in grace, and that they did nothing nor could they ever do anything to “earn” it.

Week 4: TSW Know that because they have been lavished with loving grace, they are called to extend that same kind of grace to other imperfect persons.

Week 5: Final Project  TSW will apply the grace they live within in every situation and to every person they encounter.

Sadly there are no guarantees that when you extend what you’ve learned in Relationship 101, the other person or people will respond in the same way. Not everyone registers for this course, known in the vernacular as Christianity as taught by Jesus, Yeshua himself, the author and giver of Grace. What do I do then? I only know that we are not to take offense or hold bitterness in our hearts. Easier said than done, but given grace, we are called to give grace.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

For by grace you were saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

See that no one returns evil for evil to anyone, but always follow after that which is good, for one another, and for all.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 World English Bible

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.” John 13: 34-35

How can I call myself His if I don’t know I need Jesus, don’t know how much it cost him to meet my need, don’t know he did it willingly, and don’t willingly give grace out of the grace I’ve been given?

A “…BUT… “to move: Mighty loving Father God, you extend such limitless grace to me that it is more than I can feel worthy to accept some days. But that feeling denies your heart to give and denies the power of the Blood that covers my imperfections and just plain willful sin.  Jesus, give me more of you, the reality of your grace, so I can give grace to ___________________________________, Amen!