Me Too . . . .

After hearing their stories, I have told countless new Clients,

“I won’t pretend to say that I know exactly how you feel,
but there is little that comes through my office door
that I haven’t had at least a taste of.”

It’s true . . . and most seem to know it, as I look them in the eye with as much tenderness and compassion as I can muster.

I thought about this as I scrolled down my Facebook timeline last week and noticed several “Me Too”* posts entered by people I care about. Knowing personally the powerlessness of being a victim of abuse (sin imposed by others), and having listened to countless stories in the Counseling Room, I was deeply saddened by the dark reminder that such evil continues.

While a sympathetic, “Me too”, may offer temporary comfort, the larger question remains, “Where do I go from here?” 

Christ Jesus–the Ultimate “Me too” . . . .

That is the question we face in the Counseling Room, and the answer is always the same:

“We go to God and the Scriptures,
for the wisdom and perspective we lack.”

Why?  Because, while the world offers theories that change with the seasons; God calls us to trust Him as He speaks to the heart of our problems in every season:

Genesis 4:6,7 (the first counsel offered in Scripture):

“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry?
Why is your face downcast?

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?
But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door;
it desires to have you, but you must master it.’”

Isaiah 30:15,19:

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
‘In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength’,
but you would have none of it . . . .

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!”

In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus said,

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.

Of the many places we visit in the Scriptures, Psalm 139 is one that speaks light and hope to every possible challenge we face:

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your Presence?
If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there Your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.”
(Verses :7-10)

To those who isolate themselves from the world to avoid further pain or heartache, Psalm 139 reminds us, there’s nowhere to hide from a Sovereign and Good God:

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,’
even the darkness will not be dark to You;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to You.
(Verses 7-12)

Truly, when the whole of Scripture
and the ultimate, “Me too” of Christ on the Cross is received,
a new dawn speaks light, hope and ultimate joy
into the darkness of brokenness.  

This is why I urge Clients to enter into the Journey Notes process, to discover God has so much more to say to them personally.  As they do, I am always profoundly touched as I watch God’s peace pushing back the darkness.

“He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.
Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His Name,
He gave the right to become Children of God—
children born not of natural descent,
nor of human decision
or a husband’s will, but
born of God.”
John 1:11-13

So my question to you, no matter what your past history is: “What are you waiting for?!!”

All to His Glory!

*Part of a movement on social media, meant to expose the problem of sexual harassment and assault in our culture.  “Me too” was a quote taken from a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano.

Principle #1: God Convicts/ He Does Not “Guilt” . . . .

It is a simple teaching given us by Jesus:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
John 10:27, 28

It is also a powerful declaration:

A reminder from our Good Shepherd, that He will see His children safely home.  Even so we struggle, as guilt, all too frequently, holds the upper hand.

How we think (and who we listen to) impacts how we respond to problems.  That is why helping people get into the wisdom and perspective of the Scriptures personally, is key to resolving (or at the very least coming to terms with) their problems.  In the Counseling Room we talk about looking at our problems and learning to discern between the voice of Scripture and the world around us.  We also talk about how conviction by the Holy Spirit is a gift from God, meant to direct our steps by keeping us on His path.  When we respond to conviction by going to God in faith and repentance–seeking forgiveness and to “make right” any wrongs committed toward others–we are freed to once again live for, love and serve Him with glad hearts.

God convicts us to free us through His Son.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation;
in quietness and trust is your strength.”
Isaiah 30:15

We also talk in the Counseling Room about the danger of being run by guilt:

Guilt is used by the Accuser*
to darken our perceptions as we give way to fear.

To illustrate, I share this story:

While on a trip to Israel, my friend (and the small group she was traveling with) enjoyed spending an afternoon watching a shepherd working with his flock of sheep.  As they watched, their tour guide talked about the relationship between shepherds and their sheep.  They learned that sheep are very vulnerable and need constant tending. The rod the shepherd carries is used to protect the sheep from snakes and other wild animals. The staff, many times crooked at the end, is helpful for pulling back a wandering sheep from danger, is used to lift lambs to return to their mothers and rescuing sheep caught up in thorn bushes or other dangers. Their guide emphasized that sheep are very vulnerable and that a good shepherd never hit his sheep.

Several days later, while waiting with the rest of her group for a bus, they noticed a small flock of sheep being forced along the road by a man beating them with a stick.  Shocked at the sight, the group looked to their guide with confusion on their faces.  The guide responded. “Don’t be fooled by appearances.  That man is not the shepherd of that flock; he’s the butcher!”

That story profoundly changed how I viewed myself and other people, how I perceived my problems and (most especially) how I saw God.  I realized that to doubt God in my heart, I was playing Satan’s game. By giving way to fear or anguish–assuming the worst of God–we lose sight of our faithful Shepherd.

A couple of questions:

  • How good are you at beating yourself up–when you realize you have failed God–AGAIN?
  • Do you isolate yourself from God–what I refer to as, “Put yourself in a spiritual corner”–because you think you should be further along in your walk with Christ than you are?

Principle #1:

God convicts our hearts to draw us closer to Himself;
He never “guilts” or beats up His kids.

The key to breaking such unhealthy patterns, is to refuse to play Satan’s game.  Instead of isolating yourself, run to the Shepherd in repentant faith:

  1. Give thanks to God when He convicts you.  (Conviction alerts us to potential dangers we might otherwise not recognize.)
  2. Refuse to doubt God’s Goodness–instead invite Him to reveal other sin areas as you open your mind and heart to Him.**
  3. Repent of your sin and give thanks for His forgiveness.
  4. Commit to honor Him every area of your life by refusing to doubt His Goodness.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again
by a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

All to His Glory!

*This link offers a helpful perspective on Satan’s role in history.
**Psalm 139:23-24 provides a helpful pattern for repentance:

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

 

To Speak Truth In Love . . . .

WORDS TO GROW BY:

“Then we will no longer be infants,
tossed back and forth by  . . . every wind of teaching
and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
Instead, SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE,
we will grow to become in every respect
the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

Ephesians 4:14-15

When the miraculous working of God’s Spirit changes a human heart, it is no less meaningful than when the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land.  Yesterday, I was privileged to witness such a miracle.  I share it here to demonstrate the beauty that is possible when truth is spoken in love:

We speak truth in love

When she walked into my office, there was no hint of the struggle that had been ongoing in her mind and heart for a very long time.  I saw relief on her face, as I explained how we would be looking to the Scriptures for the wisdom and perspective needed to help her.  She responded by saying that was exactly what she wanted but hadn’t known where to turn.  She expressed her fear of receiving counsel that would urge her to follow her heart, knowing how doing so would devastate her family.

As she talked and I began to ask questions, her struggle touched my heart.  Married and with children, she confessed her unhappiness . . . her “discontent” that weighed so heavy on her.  Though tempted, she expressed her conviction–“In my gut, I know it would be wrong to leave.”

My heart quickened as I remembered a similar time in my life:

Feeling like a complete failure as a wife and mother . . . thinking they wouldn’t miss me, I had prayed: “Lord, help . . . .”

I remember, the deep silence that surrounded me before His voice spoke truth into my heart:

“Kathie, if your critical spirit would get out of the way,
my Holy Spirit would work a lot faster in their hearts and lives.”

In a split second, the pain of truth, spoken by God in love, seared deep within me . . . even as it’s light offered HOPE.  It was true, MY critical spirit had been a roadblock in countless ways, but I hadn’t seen it.  I thought of the prodigal son* who, “came to his senses” and returned home to the father he had forsaken.  In that moment I was both humbled and grateful to God, for opening my eyes to my blindness.

As I told my story, I anxiously watched her countenance, hoping that the truth spoken to me so long ago would minister to her heart.  As I watched, her face softened for the first time.  She was so absorbed in her thoughts, that she did not look up until after she wrote the words on her notepad–“CRITICAL SPIRIT”.  Only then did she look at me with a softened smile and (dare I say it?) a slight glimmer of hope on her face.  In that moment I knew that God’s words had pierced her heart and the possibilities to move forward were limitless.

To speak truth in love is a skill that does not come naturally but is worth cultivating:

  • It involves risk–that of being rejected by the one it is offered to.
  • It is a God-thing that can only be cultivated by investing quality time with Him.
  • It is evidence of a mature faith–bent on replacing old ways of relating to others with the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

The Bible talks about “putting off” old ways of thinking and behaving as we “put on” new ways that are pleasing to God. In the Counseling Room we look to Colossians 3 to gain insight into the process;

“Rid yourselves of all such things as these (put off):
anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self
with its practices
and have PUT ON the new self,
which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

(Verses 8-10)

To put off our old ways of relating to others, the Apostle Paul urges us to check our motives:

  • Manipulation
  • Fear of rejection
  • Saying what others want to hear at the expense of truth,

have no place in how we love others.  Instead, Paul encourages us on the basis of our identity in Christ (verse 12) as, “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved . . .” to, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” 

Paul says further in verses 13 and 14:

“Bear with each other and forgive. . . forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

So how can you develop spiritual maturity by speaking truth in love?

  1. Keep Christ central in how you respond to others.
  2. Prioritize personal time to be spent in Scripture and prayer to get to know Him better.  (The Journey Notes process is an excellent way to do this.)
  3. Join a Bible-teaching church for worship and fellowship with other Christians.
  4. Attend a solid Bible study that will encourage you to go deeper in your faith.  (Community Bible Study (CBS) has been a personal encouragement to walking my faith for over 35 years, but there are many others out there.)
  5. Prayerfully watch for ways to honor Christ, by loving and serving others in your community.

Paul affirms this in the rest of the passage:

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
And be thankful.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly
as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom
through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Colossians 3:15-17

All to His Glory!

*Luke 15:17, “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!”

 

A Lesson on Trust . . . .

From the beginning of our relationship, God used my marriage and three children to convict and speak truth to my heart.  Believing that some of those lessons might encourage you, I asked for (and received) permission from my family to write a series of posts featuring a few of those lessons.
I offer them in the hope that God’s loving faithfulness
will speak encouragement to your hearts. 

It took me a while to learn that when God’s Spirit works conviction in a Believers heart, His intent is blessing. Jesus confirmed this as He spoke about the role of the Holy Spirit:

“But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.
He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears,
and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you.”

John 16:13, 14

Once we have repented of our sins and embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior,
God’s Spirit convicts our hearts to free us from the plague of sin that pulls us down.
God does not “guilt” His kids into submission,
but convicts us to free us to serve Him well.

Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:7, 8

It had been a rough couple of years.  Ever fearful of the potential harm that could come down on our firstborn’s penchant for excitement, I had become a roadblock to almost everything she wanted to do.  Much of the time I felt as if I was a single mom with my husband, then a pilot for the US military, being away more than he was home.  My lifetime dream of being a mother had become a nightmare as fear and resentment grew in my heart.

Then one day it happened: I became convicted that I had lost sight of loving my daughter.  I realized that I was so busy roadblocking her every move, that I had forgotten to lean on God for the wisdom and perspective I lacked.  I was horrified and embarrassed at myself as I wondered: how I had fallen into such a trap?  Part of me was tempted to beat myself up at my failure.   Instead, I opened up my Bible to 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter.  Intent on making things right with God’s help, I read each piece of instruction aloud as I committed to apply it to my daughter:

“Love is patient” . . . “Yes Lord, I can be more patient with Kara.”
“Love is kind” . . . “Yes, Father, I certainly can be kinder than I’ve been lately.
Love . . . is not proud . . . is not easily angered . . . keeps no record of wrongs . . . .” I responded without flinching, “Yes Lord, I am willing to do all of those things.”  

I continued until I got to verses 7 and 8,

Love–“always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

I started to choke (literally!) and confessed in a panic, “But Lord, I CAN’T trust her right now . . . we have a track record . . . she’s 15!”

It was then that I heard what is referred to in the Bible as, “that still, small voice”, speak softly but firmly:“But you CAN trust ME!”

It took a moment to process what had been spoken to my heart.  Then suddenly, the burden I had carried far too long, rolled from my shoulders as I thought, “Yes Lord . . . YES!  I can and DO trust You!”

Looking back it is still amazing how easy it was to love my daughter again.  Once I handed that burden over to Him I was FREE!  Oh, there were still challenges that came up, but when I responded with loving kindness and refused to keep that record of wrongs, I was freed to love and even enjoy my daughter.

Several months later a friend mentioned something Kara had done that I knew nothing about.  I decided to mention it when she arrived home from school, not so much to accuse her, but to ask if she’d really done it?  When she came in we chatted about school before I asked, “Kara, did you . . . ?”  (Don’t ask me what it was, I’ve totally forgotten.)

Kara stood quietly looking at me for several minutes before pounding her fist on the table, “Doggone it Mom–I give up!  Every time I try to get away with anything, God totally rats on me.  I give up!”

Stunned, I started laughing as Kara grinned back at me.

Lesson learned:
Conviction by the Holy Spirit + Humble Repentance = Opportunity to TRUST God more.

No matter what you may be facing, run to Him and to the Scriptures for the help you need.  He is totally worthy of your trust.

All to His Glory!

 

 

 

Wisdom, Courage and Confidence in the New Year . . . .

Happy New Year!

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly God can speak to the human heart.  From the very beginning of my counseling career, I learned that the best way to minister to the hearts and minds of hurting people is:

  1. To offer a listening ear and
  2. Help them get into the Scriptures to gain God’s perspective on them and their circumstances.

What I am about to share is a lesson I learned from many of the Clients I have been privileged to serve.  Many who seek counsel are broken . . . others are angry . . . ALL are in need of direction, feel misunderstood and often are devoid of hope. Respecting the it took courage for them to make that first phone call asking for help, I am humbled by the privilege and responsibility that I bear–not only to them, but to God–as we work together.

I decided to write this post as we enter this new year:

Journey Notes: All to His Glory!
Journey Notes: All to His Glory!
  • To offer wisdom and courage to those of you who are struggling with fear and trepidation in these uncertain times,
  • To help deepen your relationship with Christ as you gain confidence in His ability to shepherd your heart through any storm,
  • As a practical means of helping you encourage a friend or family member who has been spiritually or emotionally”stuck” for too long.

So what is the means by which you (and/or your friend or family member) can move into the new year with wisdom, courage and even confidence?  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 provides our first clue:

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work.
For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.
But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up . . . .
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

We use this passage in the Counseling Room to illustrate God’s vision for healthy relationships.  We talk about how helping others honors God’s command to love one another–two ARE better than one!  However, we need God as our third strand, to gain the wisdom, courage and confidence needed when we are in trouble.

More than needing a listening ear to talk to,
we need to develop an ongoing conversation with our Lord and Creator.
That is the benefit of Journey Notes Praise Journaling

If you are not familiar with Journey Notes Praise Journaling, the introduction and instructions are accessible at the top of this page.  It is a process I developed twenty-plus years ago when I started counseling–believing that as a Biblical Counselor, my Clients deserved far more than just a “good listening ear.”  My goal for my clients as they entered into the Journey Notes process was that they would gain wisdom and courage as they worked through their problems.  This they did as we worked together over weeks and months.  The benefit that I did not expect was how the vast majority gained confidence in God’s ability to shepherd their hearts.   Most notable to me were those Clients whose problems remained about the same, but who no longer looked at themselves as victims, but actively chose to trust and honor God as Sovereign and Good.  It has been amazing and humbling to watch the transformation that takes place in those Clients who enter a conversation with God through their Journey Notes.

In the Counseling Room, there is a simple principle we go by:

With every tragedy/ disappointment that comes our way,
we are gifted with an opportunity to trust God more.

For those who have learned to rely on God’s Spirit and His Word using the Journey Notes Praise Journaling process, this makes total sense.  It makes sense because they have experienced the faithful working of God as their Shepherd, not only helping them with their problems, but in transforming their minds and hearts as they endeavor to apply His teaching to their lives.  It takes courage to trust God like that, but when we do the outcome is nothing short of miraculous.

The times Jesus lived in were also perilous.  Knowing that He would soon be arrested and taken from His disciples, Jesus sought to prepare His disciples for what would be a frightening turn of events for them.  In John 14:18-20 Jesus offered words of assurance that they would not remember until later:

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me.
Because I live, you also will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in My Father,
and you are in Me, and I am in you.”

John 14:18-20

Such powerful words to be strengthened by!  Jesus offered His disciples (and all who trust in Him) MORE than a shelter in the midst of storms or a place to stand.  Jesus words call us to move forward in faith as He directs our steps:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
 

Matthew 11:28, 29

HAPPY NEW YEAR . . .
ALL TO HIS GLORY!

Simple Kindness, Prayerfully Applied . . . .

It wasn’t until we lived in England, that I learned there is a difference between niceness and kindness.  As one friend put it, “Kathie, ice cream is ‘nice’, kindness goes deeper.”  Looking at several dictionaries this morning, I found the distinction between the two terms is best understood by considering what is at the root of what niceness and kindness do and do not communicate:

Niceness: Synonyms–befitting, correct, decent, well-bred, proper, polite, respectable, seemly.  Antonyms–improper, inappropriate, incorrect, indecent, indecorous, unbecoming, ungenteel, unseemly

Kindness:  Synonyms–benevolence, courtesy, grace, indulgence, favor, mercy, service.  Antonyms: coldheartedness, hard-heartedness, inhumanity, inhumanness, mercilessness, pitilessness

Niceness can tend to be a bit flashy (i.e. “Look at what I just did!”), kindness is more simply applied as it focuses on the needs of others.  It all boils down to this:

Love is kind . . . .
Love is kind . . . .

Niceness is about outward appearances,
Simple kindness, is often sacrificial as it reflects what is in the heart.
Simple kindness is a fruit of God’s Spirit.
Simple kindness, prayerfully applied, is rooted in God’s love. 
“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 

I Corinthians 13:5

When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told a story about two societal “nice guys” and another man, viewed a societal reject in that day, who none-the-less, demonstrated simple kindness:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him  . . . beat him and . . . left him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He . . . bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  (Luke 10:30-35)

Jesus then asked this very important question,

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (verse 36)

The “expert in the law” responded to Jesus’ question–avoiding even mentioning the word, “Samaritan”–answered,  “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him (and continues to tell us), “Go and do likewise.”  (verse 37)

The Scriptures continue to call you and I to,

GO . . . “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:29),

GO . . . “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  (Romans 12:10)

GO . . . “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

What I have learned this week as I have thought about kindness is that:

To act in the simple kindness of Christ, does not require a lot of fanfare,
but for it to be truly effective as a fruit of God’s Spirit,
prayer is essential.

In my last post I wrote about the Duggar’s, a Christian family featured on a reality TV program called, Nineteen Kids and Counting.  Normally I would not write about people on a television program, but as I have watched this family be (essentially) ‘beaten and left for dead’ by elements of the societal elite of our day, I have been challenged to think about MY role in their story.  Am I one of the “nice guys” full of self-importance, who says, “Too bad for them”, as I continue on my busy way?  Or, do I stop and apply simple kindness by praying for the family and asking, “God, what would you have me do?”  

How about you?  Are there people or situations that you are aware of, but manage to “pass by on the other side”, because you feel like you cannot take on one more thing?  Perhaps you avoid listening to the news (like I sometimes do) because it is always seems to be so . . . dare I say it? . . . not very nice.  What I am learning is that, although the world is not a nice place to live and sometimes is even scary, simple kindness applies prayer to every situation, looking to Christ for wisdom as to when and how to help.  Simple kindness challenges each one of us to set aside fear, and even our busyness, as we learn what living by faith is truly all about.  

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:12 & 17

All to His Glory!

Hearts + Chocolate = Love . . . REALLY?

It was fun perusing Facebook last weekend to see what others had received on Valentine’s Day–flowers, chocolates and other gifts.  However, it was the comments written by single friends that touched me.  For many, our cultural emphasis so strongly bent on romantic love, makes the occasion a painful irritant to get through.  While there is nothing sacred about the day, I do believe that to remember the history behind the occasion provides a wonderful opportunity for Christians to love neighbors, friends and family “more deeply from the heart.” (I Peter 1:22)

I was grateful on that same day to find three posts (also on Facebook) that offered a healthier, more thoughtful way to rethink our approach to Valentines Day as a means of blessing others:

  • The first post was a blatant reminder of the gap between how our culture celebrates loving through romanticism, and the actual basis of Valentine’s Day–sacrificial love.  While our culture has largely reduced our understanding in commemorating the occasion with formula of Hearts + Chocolate = Love–Really?–we can richly benefit from the treasury of sacrificial love demonstrated by a man who truly loved God and his neighbors. 

“Greater love has no one than this,
that someone lay down his life for his
friends.”

John 15:13 (ESV)

  • The second post was a cartoon, taken from the cover of New Yorker magazine.  I totally related to the worry and doubt on the man’s face as he stared at the series of deadbolts and locks lining the inside of his door. Yet, when I saw the Valentine that someone had slipped in despite all off his precautions, I found it to be a healthy reminder that, while we may be tempted to hide in uncertain times, Christians are called to reach out t0 others in the love, hope and mercy of Christ.  Years ago I was challenged by a question someone asked, “If you were accused of being a Christian in a court of law, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”  Rather than allowing fear to rule us, we are called to love and serve others as we live out the gospel of hope.

    It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."  I Corinthians 13:7-8
    It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
    Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:7-8

“And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is LOVE.”
I Corinthians 13:13

  • The last post was very personal.  My second daughter, Amy, put up pictures of her family observing  Valentine’s Day in the tradition that developed as our family grew. When my children were small and we were living in England, I helped my daughters (then, ages seven and almost five) make heart-shaped baskets “woven” out of contrasting colored construction paper. We loaded the baskets with handmade valentine cards and small, heart-shaped candies imprinted with such messages as, “love” and “be mine.” Early the next morning, the girls and I left those baskets hanging on the door knobs of our landlord and several neighbors who had become friends. We snuck off quickly, leaving no trace of our identities . . . or so we thought! Later that morning I received several telephone calls, thanking us for the baskets. Puzzled, I asked how they knew it was us? One friend laughingly put it this way, “I saw it hanging on the door and thought, ‘It was the Americans!’. . . we don’t celebrate Valentines Day in this country!”  (It never occurred to me that Valentine’s Day was not universal!)  My children still have fond memories of the parties we threw to love neighbors and friends on Valentine’s Day.
Brother loving brother . . .
Brother loving brother . . .

It was after returning to the States and our children entered their teens that I proactively morphed our family tradition to a more personal level.  The change was prompted when picking up my oldest daughter as a freshman in high school.  It was Valentine’s Day and I was shocked to see so many girls walking out of the school carrying bouquets of flowers, balloons, stuffed animals and other “gifts” that had been delivered to them in school from their boy friends. (In a culture that is so focused on building self-esteem, I find it astounding that such a practice was (or is) even allowed!)  Desiring to override the confusion of equating self-worth and being loved by trivial gifts, we shifted gears within our family.  From that time until our children finally left home we made Valentines Day a special day we all looked forward to:

  1. Special cards were made for one another that were affirming to that sibling or parent that was especially esteemed–“I appreciate how you . . . . “
  2. We dressed up to share our meal in the dining room, where the table was set with our best dishes and candles we burning.
  3. Dinner was kept simple but special since it usually was a week-day.
  4. After finishing our meal came the best part: when we opened the cards stacked at the top of each place-setting we had made earlier.  Every card was read aloud and enjoyed as we took time to love each other.

It was interesting this week when I asked my children (long out of the family nest with families of their own) about their memories of those times.  They all said they enjoyed and looked forward to our family celebration.  The memory we all still laugh about was a card Luke (our youngest) made for Amy (at the time Luke was probably eleven and Amy almost 15) that said, “Dear Amy, I appreciate it when you leave me alone!”  (That one kind of slipped under the radar of what we hoped to accomplish, but it definitely reflected the tension between siblings and their parents so it was allowed.)  Another comment I heard, was how reading positive comments from their family at a time when the tensions of daily life seemed to prevail, was an especially sweet gift.

No matter what your circumstance may be, whether you are young, old, married or single, if you are a Christian I write to encourage you to consider looking beyond yourself for opportunities to love others.  We live in a hurting and increasingly dangerous world that tempts us to run, but if we will live our lives intentionally and sacrificially as a reflection of our love for God and others, the rewards will truly be out of this world!  Hearts + Chocolate = Love?  No way!

All to His Glory!