Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Love God. Love People" . . . it may not be easy, but it is simple!

"Love God, Love people" are simple words on one hand, but words that I think are the most difficult to live out.

Love God.
To understand who God is, you think that loving Him would come easy . . .

God is Love.
God is Unchangeable.
God is a Miracle Worker.
God is Ever Present.
God is Mighty to Save.
God is Truth.
God is Life,
God is Faithful.
God is For Us.
God is Healer.
God is Peace.

He is a God who is worthy of my love. I proclaim to love Him, yet there are times when I look at my own life and I see just how miserably I fail at this. There are days when my words fall empty, and the actions of my heart, speak loud. There are moments when my self-serving desires raise their head, and I quickly forget my prayer of "not my will, but Yours." Jesus says in John 14:15 "If you love me, obey my commandments."  While the commands of Jesus and his teachings are many, I think we can say that they are carried out ultimately in the context of a single command. In just a few verses prior to John 14:15 Jesus says ". . . Just as I have loved you, you should love each other." and He reiterates it a few verses after John 14:15 "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you."

Love People.

If I wrestle with loving a God who is good, and for me, and who is unchangeable, can you imagine my struggle to love people? People are messy and complicated and at times unkind. And sadly, sometimes it's us church people who can be the messiest and who greatly miss this mark of loving others as Christ loved us. I've been there. I've been that Christian that judged you, pointed fingers at you and made you feel unwanted as you sat in the pew beside me on Sunday morning. But more recently I've been on the other side. I've been the filthy sinner who by God's grace alone found the strength to walk back into the doors of the church. To sit and feel unwanted as judgmental eyes burned the back of my head and as faint whispers pierced the ears of my heart. It's on that other side, standing in the grace of God amongst the mess of people that I learned and continue to learn that it's not easy.

It's not easy, but the solution is simple.

It is in setting aside me, my agenda, my opinions, my expectations, what I hold to as right, and begin listening to you, getting to know you, and trying to understand who you are and what makes up your story. It doesn't always mean that we will agree, or that my opinions or yours will change, but it does give God the opportunity to work--to teach us about grace and compassion, to see that the messes of my life are no different than the messes in yours. It's then that our focus is on Jesus, and that we can truly learn to love people.

And it's there, in loving people that our love for God reaches it's fullest expression. It's impossible to love God and not love people--all people. And I haven't learned to love people without setting myself aside. Even though along this journey I have learned more often than not that it's not easy, especially in the midst of divorce, disease and disasters, it is possible. The more we love others the more we see a God who is . . .

All Sufficient.
A Sure Foundation.
The Door of the Sheep.

So may Jesus's words be the direction our days: "...Love each other in the same way I have loved you." And brace yourself, because when you start walking out this challenging life of extravagant love, EVERYTHING changes and may all the glory and all the praise go to a God who is more than worthy.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hey YOU, some Valentine Day thoughts.

Dear You,

It's impossible for me to go through my day and not think of you. Like this morning, I saw one of those red heart helium balloons and was immediately taken back to our last Nerf gun battle, watching you read my "rules of engagement" and seeing that childlike grin spread across your face. Whenever I spot a "tweetie" on 95, I remember those days we would rush home to see who had counted the most and would be deemed champion. And when Blackbird by the Beatles or Better Together by Jack Johnson play through my speakers I am reminded of text messages and road trips. When I get a craving for Mexican, it's your face I envision at the other end of the table, and when a bad day has been served or an enlightening thought erupts, you are the one I want to pick up the phone and talk to. When I am feeling adventurous and desire to push against the boundaries of comfort, you are the partner in crime I choose, and when thoughts of the future invade my today, it's you who I want to do the dreaming with. You, my dear have been woven into the workings of my life!

As Valentine's day approaches and I reflect on "us" Ecclesiastes 4:12 comes to mind. "A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." In my understanding, this verse isn't complicated, but I never knew how to walk it out. Our journey has helped me to realize that despite how amazing you (and you are) or how lovable I am, the fact stands that if He did not love first, our story would be drastically different and short lived. Standing back-to-back with you is a blessing I hope you know I do not take for granted. But even more so, I lack the words to express my gratitude that He loved first-that He has faithfully guided us into a deeper understanding of how to love one another and how to build our relationship where He is what holds it together. I know that we do not and will not always get this right, but it's my prayer that as our lives continue to be woven together, that we seek Him first and that we let him be the cord that makes us into something strong and beautiful.

"We love each other because he loved us first." 1 John 4:19

Here's to a lovely Valentine's Day :)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hello, I am Mel, and I'm selfish.

Hello, my name is Mel and I am selfish.

This past week and a half I have had to wear more hats than I normally do. The flu invaded my home and completely took out my right hand man. At first I didn't think much of it, but as the days went on and the patient's condition worsened, I knew we were in for a ride. As the weight of my daily responsibilities coupled with the weight of our joint responsibilities fell solely on my shoulders, I'll admit that there were some ugly moments and that my attitude was not always noteworthy. As my college professor use to say, "Life is filled with teachable moments..." and this past week and a half I learned a lot.

I learned that my mother is a super hero. That day in and day out she selflessly and willingly gives up her time, her desires, and her agenda to care for my stepfather. When cancer attacks, fatigue sets in and your heart is weak, there are limitations to daily life that just simple can't be done, and a caregiver is needed. Not only did I see a clearer picture into the life she daily lives, and of the amazing woman that makes up her core, but I learned more about compassion and what is means to be a suffering servant. Sometimes as a thirty-something with good health it is easy for me to forget that just walking and breathing and living a "normal" pain free life are luxuries in this world that many do not know. Not only should I live mindful to not take those blessings for granted, but in turn use them to be the blessing in other's lives--to set aside my agenda, my desires, and my time & walk into the pain, illness and suffering of others. To be a friend, to point to hope, and to bear their burden.

I was humbled by the reminder that when you rely on your own strength, very little gets done, and often a poor temperament tags a long for the journey. But when you lean into those everlasting arms, peace that surpasses all understanding and inexpressible comfort mysteriously take over, more gets accomplished and those you are caring for feel the unconditional love and immeasurable grace of a Mighty God.

I struggle with the selfishness of my humanity, some day more than others, but the battle is never too far off in the horizon. I'm thankful for the example of my momma, and hope that the older and wiser I get, I will find that I too have a heart to serve and give as selflessly as she does. I am thankful for the patient who survived my care, who stands by my side on good days and bad, when health is present and when illness has taken over. And I'm thankful for a God who can do wonders with a willing spirit, even one who wrestles with selfishness.

As a little girl, I use to love singing:

"He's still working on me, to make me what I outta be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and Earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and faithful He must be, cause He's still working on me."

So, yes, I am Mel, and I am selfish BUT, He's still working on me!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I Shall Not Want

I have been working through the book of Exodus these past few weeks (a fascinating read). It’s the story of God’s chosen people being lead out of a life of slavery into a life of fulfillment in the Promise Land. A story that should exude celebration, hope and thanksgiving. But as I flipped the pages I read more about fear, and doubt and complaining. If I am honest, it was very easy at times to read this story and to judge the faithlessness of God’s chosen people. 

As I sat under the dim light of the early morning hours today, the words of Audrey Assad became my prayer:

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions 
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

Like the Israelites, I too at times cling to my comforts, cling to my worldly passions, cling to what I know, and when they start to slip away, I too have fears and doubts and I often tend to complain. 

Deliver me O God. And when I taste your goodness, I shall not want. Deliver me O God.

Listen here: I shall Not Want