Love God. Love Others.

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

This was the text for the sermon our pastor preached on this weekend. Isn’t it funny how you can read a passage over and over – even memorize it, and then one day it jumps off the page like you have never read it before? That’s what happened last night when I read these verses.  As children we sing, “Jesus Love Me” and are taught to follow the golden rule. Love is the premise of the Christian walk. Unfortunately, I think it becomes like the picture you hang on the wall. When you first purchase it, it’s all new and you notice it every time you walk past it.  Fast forward a few months or years, you still love the picture, but you rarely notice it. It’s just become a comfortable part of your life.  I just love those light bulb moments when you see something fresh and new, as if you are seeing it for the first time.

Pastor began his sermon sharing a story of Green Bay Packer’s football coach, Vince Lombardi who delivered a powerful speech. He walked in with a pigskin in hand and one the group quieted down said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He went on to describe the fundamentals of football. You take this football and get it across the opponent’s line. You keep the ball from crossing our line. You tackle and block to accomplish this.  Pastor then when on to say John 13:34 is a lot like the speech Vince Lombardi gave his team so many years ago.

The Christian life can be summed up in two things.  Love God. Love others.

What a great reminder! Life can get so busy – How refreshing to stop and focus on what really matters. But, Pastor didn’t stop there. He made it practical. What does love mean? It means doing the right thing even when you don’t want to. Ouch. Now that’s making it personal. I thought about the times in my heart when I just couldn’t get there – when I just wanted my way so badly. I wanted to love, but I wanted my way so much more!  I knew at that moment God was asking me to go deeper with Him. He was asking me to make a commitment to love others and love Him, so the next time I was faced with a choice, the decision would already be made. I would remember this commitment and regardless of my feelings, I would choose love. As I’m mulling over what this commitment would look like, Pastor shared a story from Corrie Ten Boom on forgiveness.  If you know anything about Corrie, you know she was a prisoner in the concentration camps and suffered greatly. She spoke about forgiveness of a guard who mistreated her.  This video shares her story in her own words. It’s just a few minutes and so moving – it’s well worth your time to watch it.

As I’m listening to the suffering Corrie faced and processing all the suffering Jesus faced, my own seems so small.  Yet, I know when the going gets tough, I will be tempted to turn back to my selfishness and choose to love myself over God and others. I pray and ask God to show me clearly, beyond a certainty that I am to love, whatever the cost to me.  Wouldn’t you know it, Pastor concludes with a series of verses on love. One right after another.  After the first two, I told God I understood.  But Pastor kept reading verses and reading verses.  It became almost comical as I’m thinking, “God, I got it….really, I got it.”  But, I think He knows me and knows I will quickly turn from obedience and love to my own self-centered choices.

It’s so clear. The whole Christian life is summed up on loving God and loving others.  It seems so easy – but in reality it is impossible without God’s help. Love is a choice. Make a commitment before emotions get involved.  Then, follow through on that commitment regardless of how you might feel in the moment.  Trust God to meet you where you are and help you when you don’t think you can do it.

Luke 10:27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself

Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

James 2:8   If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well

1 Cor. 14:4-7 “ Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Eph. 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Rom. 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves”

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First Day of Teaching

Daily Prompt: First!

Tell us about your first day at something — your first day of school, first day of work, first day living on your own, first day blogging, first day as a parent, whatever.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us BEGINNING.

Although it happened over two years ago, it still seems like yesterday. I can remember the fear that gripped my soul as I looked around the table of eight women who had come for a Ladies Bible study. A Bible study I was leading. How did I get myself into this. I wondered.  I was so far outside my comfort zone it wasn’t funny. Did everyone at the table notice it was my first time to take attendance or pray with a group of adults?  Was I doing it right?

I have been teaching children since forever.  I’m comfortable in most any setting with most any subject. Education, experience and a love for children has lead me to spend most of my life with children. And by children, I don’t mean junior high or high school. I mean two year olds to about sixth grade.  So, when I was approached about leading a women’s group, I was excited for the teaching aspect, but knew it was outside my comfort zone. But, I’ve been trying to do things outside my comfort zone, so I said I would lead.

Ah, yes.  I remember those emotions of the first day so vividly.  I also remember starting a habit that continues to this day. I prayed  about everything.  I prayed for the weeks leading up to the study, for each woman who would be attending, for God to be the ultimate leader – leading and teaching each one there.  That habit has freed me from my fears and allowed me to enjoy seeing God change lives, including mine.  I have seen him answer so many prayers and my faith has grown so much as a result of that.

Some verses I have prayed are:

Ps. 141:3-4 “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” I asked God to shut my mouth when I needed to shut it and open it when I should speak. 

John 14:26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  What a comfort these verses were to me.  God was truly the leader.

2 Cor. 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” How often driving home from the study was I amazed at God giving me the right words or just working out details of the night in a way I knew it was Him.

I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone those years ago.  It is a privilege and blessing to be able to learn from and grow with all the beautiful women God has brought into my path. I’ve come to realize that adults aren’t much different than children.  Each has a story, if we take time to listen.  And adults like stickers too.  At least I think they do, because everyone says the memory verse each week. Or maybe they are just humoring the kindergarten teacher that still lurks inside of me.

When Hope is all You Have

Darkness

Black enveloping my very existence

Hopelessness – what an ugly word

Yet in the distance I can still sense hope. I hang on to the thread, knowing I will be ok.

Lord,

I’ve told you over and over if you can bring more glory to your name with me having difficulty seeing than if I had full sight, that was ok with me.  Yet, you see my heart. You know my pain and in the moment when the reality of loss hits me and all I see is black, there, in that moment I feel your loving arms engulf me. I know you are God and all is going to be ok. Even if ok means I don’t see any better than I do at this moment again. All that I spent a decade being afraid of, is beginning to become reality.  

I feel my faith grow and I instinctively know there is good in pain. It’s one thing for me to say I’ve given something to God. It’s another thing for Him to take it – then I see what’s really in my heart. When that which I love is gone and I can still say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” – what peace. I relish in that moment. Gone are the carefree, innocent laughs of my youth – replaced with a deep sense of calm and a feeling of maturity. 

So, God, when I tell you I release my child to you – I realize as you always have – that it is a two step process. While every fiber of my being wants to cling to him as tightly as I did when he was an infant wrapped in a swaddling blanket, deep down, I know I can’t. It would end in disaster. Everything done apart from you ends that way. Will you take him – if I give him to you? I guess that’s the point of trust. I don’t know now what the future holds. So, while my words give what was never mine to keep, my heart knows that if you do indeed take that which I love, you will meet me inside the darkest black. And in knowing that, I know, come what may, I will be ok.