Thursday, June 20, 2013

Love is......♥

As part of a class assignment I was asked to write a paper on "A Love Worth Giving" by Max Lucado and how it's impacted me personally. Below is the paper I will turn in. I plan on writing another Blog that will go into deeper detail as to how it has changed my view on what love really looks like to me, but for class I was supposed to limit the paper to 300 words ~ That was impossible to do and I have so much more to share. 

When I began reading this book I had no idea what to expect. Even reading the first few pages of chapter one I didn’t know how it would or how I could apply it to my life. I thought I knew what “love” was and I guess to a certain degree I did, at least from the viewpoint of society, from what I was taught from my parents and all my other relationships. I could even possibly make excuses when we I was ridiculed, degraded, made feel less than by saying, “Well, that is the way they show they care for me. That is how they show their love.”

After reading this book, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only excuse we can offer is that, they themselves can’t give what they have never received. In order to love, we have to first have love deposited into our lives. Receive first, love second. As I went through each chapter and read what each part of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 truly means, I reflected on my life, and how each act of love was missing from my life, and what I could do to correct it going forward.

"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. Love never fails."

This book has given me the tools of what it means to love, how to love and examples of what it looks like. I’ve learned I need patience with others by not making a judgments on a behavior or circumstance until I’ve taken it all in and listened and have a heart of understanding. In patience, I become kind. Giving allowances for my and others shortfalls I show kindness. It’s taught me how to let go of envy and comparison. I must allow God to fill me with his love and remove my desire to rely on fulfillment by others. Filled with Gods love, I’m reminded what God has given me, and it’s only because of His will, not mine. As I accept this in total humility, I see past myself and see others for the beauty they possess. I learn how to respect who they are and treat them in a respectful manner, without rudeness. As I remove envy and rudeness I learn to love in a non self-seeking manner. I look toward them and keep eyes off me and my desire turns to do what benefits others.

Jesus who was perfect in loving others was repeatedly rejected and ridiculed but we didn’t often see him angered. And when he was angered, he did not sin. I will seek Christ in my times of rejection. I will seek his acceptance to diffuse my flame of anger. His love, grace and forgiveness teaches me to keep no records of wrong. He does not track my shortcomings, instead covers them with His grace. I choose to do the same toward those who have hurt me in my past and who will in my future.

More than anything I want to point people to Christ because of what I have experienced in his presence. In my past I’ve done things to drag others down. If I’m not uplifting, encouraging with truth and love, I’m not loving others. I think at times when I brought others down I was trying to play God and conform them because I didn’t like certain parts of them, a habit, personality trait, the way they dressed or spoke. Love accepts the whole package - flaws included, just as God accepts me wholly. When we have difficulties accepting the whole package, it’s easy to point it out to others by gossiping or in other harmful ways. Today I try to protect others from being torn down, and often find that the best way to do this is through silence and not engaging in the gossip. If I don’t have anything encouraging or uplifting to say I keep my mouth shut. God uplifts us when we need it, he gives hope and encouragement and I choose that path.

In protecting others, we say we believe in them. We may not like their habits, they may not be the most moral person, but believing in change within them can be powerful. Giving hope to others can break down walls that once seemed unbreakable. Our endurance to love others, not giving up on them, even when we are exhausted or in our own hopelessness can be encouraging and affirms we loved them enough to never give up on them.

Those we love will fall short but, one thing we can can have certainty in is that - Love Will Never Fail in Christ. If we cling to his love, fill ourselves with Jesus, when those moments of hurt, disappointment and pain enter our lives, in Christ we will rise because LOVE NEVER FAILS.


Monday, June 10, 2013

~ Pulling Weeds and Cleaning your Yard ~

It happens to us all, at one time or another in our life.  We become depressed or allow pride to consume us. The tragic event that occurred in our life becomes more than we can handle. We feel lonely or angry because of a recent break-up or maybe we just become tired of life.  Regardless of what we encounter, if we allow it to manifest inside of us for too long, it will grow into something bigger and bigger, like weeds in a yard.

The weeds in our life do not grow overnight, but usually over a season. It typically begins with allowing a small thing to be planted within us.  It could be making an acception of a behavior we typically don't allow.  It could be turning a blind eye to something we know we should speak up about.  It could be getting stuck in a funk of some sort that we choose not to come out of.  As we continue to nourish it little by little it continues to grow and it's root begins to dwell within us. As we continue to water it, it grows larger and out of control. Before we realize it's there; the bad relationship, drug or alcohol addiction, our love of money or status, the new job that takes us away from our family, co-dependency, eating disorders, habitual lying, anger, sex addictions, whatever it may be, it's roots have taken residency in our life. 

It's growth can be so subtle that we aren't even aware of how big and out of control it has become until it's reveals itself as interference someway in our life, or when someone close to us has brings it to our attention.

This past weekend I spend three hours pulling weeds in my backyard.  This is something I hate doing.  Not because it's laboring, but because of the little critters that surround the weeds - BUGS.  These tiny bugs (some big) prevent me from getting my hands dirty and doing the work necessary to rid the problem.  I allow the bugs to become powerful guards of the weeds.

Isn't that what happens with addictions and bad habits?  In order to get rid of them, we have to get our hand dirty? We have to put effort into it?  We have to go to the root of the problem, which usually causes us to dig through the bugs of our life. Believe it or not, we all have bugs that stand in the way of us getting to the root. 

For many of us, we don't like the discomfort that comes along with that so we usually pretend there isn't a problem.  We pretend to be happy, that life is okay until life becomes unmanageable. How many times have we told ourselves, I can handle it.  I'll never let it get out of control, yet it does?  We tell ourselves, It's not that big of a deal and I'll deal with it next week, and then something occurs and it gets pushed back to next month, next year and before we know it, it's gotten so large it seems impossible to clean up?

I'll tell you something - It's never too late to clean up our yard and those bugs are never too big to overcome. 

As I looked at my yard, I had to come up with a plan of attack.  I began with protecting my mind (through prayer) and asked for support (from God).  Next, I laid out a blueprint of how I would take on this massive chore.  I looked at all the weeds and sectioned the yard into pieces so I would not become overwhelmed.  As I progressed in removing them, because the way I sectioned off the area instead of just randomly pulling here and there with no set goal, I was able to visually see my progress.  I also started in an area where the weeds were smaller rather than attacking the large, scary looking ones first. 

Sometimes this is the approach we must take, start small.  Usually with any new challenge fear comes along with it. Starting small and building up to attack the bigger, scarier obstacles is a good way to go about something that may seem impossible to overcome.  In the process you mentally and physically develop the strength to attack the bigger obstacle and you are also more willing to accept help from others as you get to those bigger weeds.

This was the case for me.  As I reached the last section, I knew I was almost done and I rallied support in my daughter.  She had seen what I had achieved and she graciously offered her support by helping me with the strongest and scariest looking weeds.  I was fatigued, my back was aching, my hands were shaking, and my legs were tired from squatting, so her support in my weakness was exactly what I needed.  In the obstacles of life, the support of friends and family are very important in our times of weakness.

 ~ Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered,two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. ~ 
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 

Looking back on my weekend task I reflected on how how I allowed certain things in my life to grow out of control like weeds.  It began with giving in to a something small and planting the seed.  As I continued the behaviors and habits, made exceptions to things I knew were not of good character or moral standing and continued to water them, I gave them life to grow.  When it finally took root in my life, it felt near impossible to remove because I didn't think I had the tools to get to the root of the issues.  With focus, support and a plan of attack, I've been on a  journey to digging out the roots that have had a hold on my life for so long.

When it comes to weeds, one thing is for sure, the more weeds, the stronger they are. I had to search thoroughly to find where they were growing from. As I pulled and tugged, many were intertwined with one another, and seemed like they had became one.  As I pulled, there were some that I could not get by the root as they snapped at the top of the soil because the root was too strong and deep. 

This is similar to some of the characteristics and behaviors we possess.  I don' think we truly rid ourselves of selfishness, rudeness, pride, envy, lust, etc, because they are part of our sinful nature, but there are some behaviors and addictions we can destroy and remove before they have the opportunity to take root in our heart and life.  For those that are part of our nature, if we continue to work on removing them we won't give them the prospect to grow out of control and take root in our life.  Although, they exist they remain dormant.

My three hour task turned into three hours of mediation with God filled with joy and peace. Only through the presence and company of Him could I have accomplished this task and overcome my fear of the big bad bugs! I spent this time worshiping, praising and thanking Him for where I've been, what I've overcome and where I'm headed. This time inspired me to write this blog and reflect on the importance of taking care of my yard.  I must begin with removing the things that hinder it's growth and encompass my heart, mind and soul with healthy nutrients of fertilizer, which is my life in community with others, water which is accepting the love and grace of God and spiritual food which is the Word of God through daily reading of my bible.  All of these applications, along with a strong prayer life, will help me spiritually grow and produce the fruit of the spirit. 

~When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.~ 
Galatians 5:19- 25

Today my body is sore from my finger tips to my feet.  It serves as a reminder of how hard I had to work to clean up my yard because I had let it get out of control for so long - an entire season.  It reminds me that I must continuously maintain my yard, removing the weeds before they take root.  I will still have to work hard to keep it healthy, but it won't be as painful and strenuous. 

Today, I choose to plant the seeds that will grow a root of God in my heart

~ I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. ~ 
Ephesians 3:16-19