Not too long ago, I posted about how Love Is Not Blind and it’s been on mind again how we are to love unconditionally (agape). It’s on my mind because, being honest, sometimes I don’t want to love unconditionally…which isn’t very unconditional. When I’ve been hurt or someone is simply a jerk, my inclination is to furrow my brow and ask, “What is wrong with you, you moron?!”
“Love is patient, love is kind, It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Sigh. This passage has become a thermometer as well as a thermostat for me. As a thermometer I can use these “measurements,” if you will, to “stretch” to each day. I long to be patient, kind, content and humble.I have good intentions of being all of the above but the agape muscle gets a daily workout. Workouts can be exhausting. Especially if you have kids….and a spouse….and a Basset Hound. And then there’s “those” friends and customers and people with different political opinions, and, and…people are dorks, let’s face it. We’re all dorks. Dorks require agape. Everyone is capable of being awesome, adorable and lovable but deep down (okay, maybe not so deep), we are all selfish, stupid dingbats in need of a Savior.
It’s when I go back to the thermometer I can get a reading. For example, I am pretty darn good at keeping records. I can also justify the record-keeping and convince myself the record-keeping is necessary then BAM, this passage sticks in my face and tells me I’m sick. The agape muscle is weak, I have a fever and I’m sick in the head and heart – I’m not loving. I am NOT loving. If I have been impatient, it’s not because “he’s really trying my patience.” If he’s “trying” me and I’m being patient, he’s the one being tested, not me. (That smarted, didn’t it? Yea, me, too.) The realization that there are times EVERY day that I am not loving my kids pierces me. These verses lay out before me the times I am not expressing love. When I am putting my interests ahead of someone else, am easily angered, am thinking more highly of myself than I ought, I am not exercising my agape muscle; I am not loving.
You know what else smarts? This:
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
It would be A LOT easier if everyone were loving and obeying what Jesus commands every hour of the day but we can’t grow stronger and grow to be more like Jesus unless we’re loving unconditionally. Seriously, look at the idiots Jesus ran around with. If we’re honest, most of us wouldn’t put up with the nonsense He did and we’d pat each other on the back saying, “I don’t blame ya, man. Who needs that in their life?”
Love is not a warm, fuzzy feeling. Love is something you do. The warm, fuzzy feeling comes when I adore the person I am loving. I adore my cutie-pie 2-year-old. He’s two. It’s easier when they’re cute. But if I lose my temper when he’s acting like a terrible two, I have, for the moment, stopped loving him. This is convicting for me because I do lose it at times! A lot. Mostly with the older ones, though! When I am training my agape muscle through the Word and practice, I can instinctively remember that the training and discipline of my 2-year-old, Seth, is my service to him. I am loving him through the trial and I’m a much better mommy.
If my husband is acting….like a guy (men can be such <fill in the blank>), and I huff and puff and justify my anger and, um, lack of kindness, I have decided he is not worthy of my love (pride) and I am being bitter and conditional. Here’s another thing: people who “fall out of love” don’t fall out of love; they have chosen to not love. They have decided this person they are with is no longer worthy. Period. There – I said it. Shoot me. I have “fallen out of love” with my husband before but seeing how it affected my kids convicted me. I know how it works. I have seen couples separate for nothing more than petty selfishness. I have also seen and read about men and woman who loved their spouses despite circumstances that would have sent me running. Some have had to separate. Some never saw that spouse overcome their addictions. Some divorced but kept on loving and serving. That being said, the outcomes have not always been the love story “happy ending.” Sometimes, the overcoming isn’t overcoming the obstacles but overcoming ourselves. If we can love in the midst of unbearable circumstances, we may not be “living the dream” but we will become more like Jesus. “That doesn’t make sense,” people will say. If you’re not happy, you should leave. Folks, the cross doesn’t make sense and I’m pretty sure Jesus WAS NOT happy hanging there on the cross. It’s just a hunch. He wasn’t happy but he was loving.
If He can do that for me, by golly, I can love my kids, I can love my husband, I can love people at the theatre we work with (You’re all crazy. You know that, right?), our neighbors, my mom and in-laws. I can love my customers (some of you procrastinate worse than me, you know that right?), I can love those turn-coat Republicans and Democratics ;o), I can even love Obama. Yep, there I said it. Some people force you to look at them through the eyes of God because left to my own devices, there’s NO WAY I could bring myself to loving them. But I love our President by praying for him not only because I love our country (also unconditional – it’s a mess but still blessed) but because God sent His Son to die for Him just as He did for me.
We’re all dirty, rotten sinners. I didn’t set out in this rant to bring myself to a Third Day song but here I am. God told Hosea to love Gomer. Gomer was a prostitute and was repeatedly unfaithful. God told Hosea to take her back and love her. He wasn’t given the option of “feeling” love for Gomer. He was obedient and unconditional. (To get the whole story, read the book of Hosea). Third Day’s song, Gomer’s Theme, is precious to me as it reminds me that I am loved no matter how far I stray but it also reminds to me to love others even though they don’t deserve it. It’s a beautiful song – do take a listen. (And this is why Third Day psycho fans are called Gomers - so we can tell you that you are loved no matter where you’ve come from or what you’ve done. )
When I am having a hard time with another because they’re being…human….I flex my bicep (what there is of one) and say, “It’s time to exercise (imaginary kiss of the bicep) the Agape Muscle.” It ain’t easy but if you don’t use it, i.e. get comfortable being bitter, discontent, unforgiving, prideful and selfish, you will develop Love Atrophy and, while you may feel very justified for being so, you will end up in a spiritual wheelchair. Good luck with that.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Thanks for hanging in there with me for such a long one. That was very unconditional of you.
Time to excercise :* the Agape Muscle!
What’s not shared is lost,
Well, I had a feeling. I had a “feeling” in January that I would be going to the Third Day concert in Lexington in March. As the time drew near, it was NOT looking good. I was hoping to take Ben and Noah as I knew I would be taking Jillian and Natalie on a road trip in May and wanted to spend some “hang-out time” with them. Gas prices being what they are and deposit on a cruise being what it is, I had pretty much given up hope but I still felt like I was suppose to go. As it turned out, the boys were invited to an Air Soft War the same weekend and they would much rather go shoot and be shot than tag along with me to a concert so I asked Craig if he wanted to go. OF COURSE he wanted to go but he couldn’t get off and was still concerned about the cost. Last Wednesday, two days before the concert, I got an email from Merchandise X saying they needed help with A-team (my preference). My only hope for even being able to be admitted to the concert was working merchandise as it was a sold-out show and you get a free ticket when you work merchandise. You also get a t-shirt. Sweet deal. That same day, my dear Gomer friend, Robyn from Detroit, called about going to the show with me and splitting gas. God cares about the little things. Especially me because I’m His favorite.
The next day, Robyn was crashing at my place and Friday morning we were up and on our way before dawn. I love road trips! We worked merchandise together before at the Ft. Wayne concert and we make a pretty darn good team. It’s work but it’s fun and a “relaxing productivity.” We were just starting to get busy when some goofball came out on the balcony walkway over the foyer and started singing opera or something to us. I looked up to see who the weirdo making me laugh was and it was Tai Anderson. He he he….
After working, Robyn and I hung out a bit and debated on whether we wanted to risk giving up our sweet parking place. The threat of rain said, “You know, if you walk to get lunch, I’m going to dump buckets on you.” So we drove and it just drizzled. We ate at J.J. McBrewster’s, some mighty fine barbecue! Our table greeted us with this:
We were so humored, we bought a bottle for Mac.
The pulled BBQ Pork with fixins was DE-lish! We were so stuffed!
After lunch, we returned to Quest Community Church to find that our ringmaster, Lisa, did in fact, need more help which we were happy to provide. After that, the crowds started to arrive and the Wired wristbands were being distributed. That was another treat – our Wired membership expired in December and we can’t afford to renew just yet. I had resigned myself to just going to the concert – that was enough for me! Robyn had mentioned that she was pretty sure we could figure something out but the thought occurred to me that I have wonderful friends called Gomers and I knew several were going to the Lexington concert. I posted on the FB page asking if anyone going with a family membership could add me as a friend. NatiGrl Gomer came to the rescue so I was able to go the Meet & Greet, too! Thanks so much Natalie!
It was great to see several friends there and to partake in the Q & A and M & G. The guys are so genuine and a joy to be around. They really are some of the friendliest people and, though some M&Gs are crazy like Friday due to large crowds, that they take the time to visit with as many of their fans as possible shows just what gents they are.
After the M & G, we went to the auditorium, and it was packed. We just “so happened” to sit just across the aisle from the DeChants, dear friends we met a Third Day concert some time ago. They are sweethearts and I was SO happy to see them! Another Gomer, Chelsie & her mom sat with us. Gomers behind us. Worshiping together was tremendous!
Robyn had led the way to seats that “just so happened” to be where the guys parked their acoustic set (which I had forgotten about). I’m tellin’ ya, I’m God’s favorite.
SO, we were treated, not only to front row, they also played Love Song which I had requested on Twitter. Whether that’s the reason they decided to add it to the set list or not, who cares? They played it and it was Goosebump-worship-time!
This was the next best thing to being in front row. Just sayin’.
As if I had not been spoiled enough, there was an after-show acoustic concert with Nigel (he sure knows what to do with a harmonica), Matt Maher, Trevor Morgan and Mac. It was incredible! I got a feeling, alright: that I’m God’s favorite. Have I mentioned that?
Third Day rocked the house. But more than that, I was lost in worship during this concert. The fellowship, singing and dancing – that’s what I was needing after being over-extended and overwhelmed for way too long. God knew that. I “had a feeling” He knew what I needed.
If you’ve never been to a Third Day concert, you don’t know what you’re missing. You also have to go to at least one to be qualified to make fun of how psycho us Gomers are about our band. Then…you’ll be one of us and find yourself making fun of yourself for being so psycho! Besides….
I got a feeling we’re going to have a fantabulous time in Raleigh when we gather with Gomers for a big partay! (FYI for those not in the know, I Got a Feeling is a Third Day song, just in case you didn’t figure that out.)
What’s not shared is lost,
Last month, I read Mark Lee’s encouraging blog post about journaling and being self-disciplined so decided I was going to get on the stick with my blog. Unfortunately, right at that time, our family was thrown into a whirlwind of spiritual attach via another family that left me, um, speechless! I didn’t allow myself to blog because I didn’t want to be tempted to, you know, SIN, and since we were in the midst, I felt it would be lying to journal and act as if none of it was going on. And, honestly, I don’t know how I could have written anything without writing about that. Hopefully, the worst is behind us but I still can’t seem to write without addressing it. It’s a part of our story, now, and it certainly isn’t my favorite part. It was a brief (again, I hope) trial, rather bizarre and we learned a lot. Aspects of this part of our life would certainly qualify as dirty laundry so, therefore, I don’t plan on hanging it out there. But…I also am not going to ignore this part of our lives as it has made such an impact on us.
Some of what I have learned from our experience doesn’t necessarily sound positive. For example, I won’t be so trusting of people from here on out. Just because they are a Christian, homeschooling family doesn’t mean they are like-minded, or even stable, for that matter. There are folks who give a pretty convincing performance but God has a way of revealing who a person really is behind the masquerade. I sensed something was awry at the onset of this trial. While some may chastise my distrust of people, God calls it discernment and if we’re walking with Him, His Spirit gives us “nudges” that let us know something isn’t right. I was nudged. A lot. I/He was right. Every hunch I had was right. BUT, I trusted that good, Christian people only have the best intentions. Turns out I was wrong.
I have also learned that real friends who really love you can really be trusted to stand up for you. It was SO tempting to try to set the record straight, to defend our family, to retaliate. We chose to hold our tongues. We knew that “the accuser” was being given reign to attack our family through some folks and that we should not “answer fools according to their folly, or we would be like them.” Proverbs 26:4 It was also just easier to be quiet. The amount of emotional energy that is required for psychodrama is just not worth it! Meanwhile, friends…real friends stood up for us and tried to speak truth on our behalf. Unfortunately, those friends who were willing to stick their necks out were also abused verbally. We were also encouraged by those who told us that our actions in response to the outlash showed integrity, dignity, etc. Here I thought I was just being lazy. Seriously, though, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Proverbs 17:28 We could have rebutted, but as it was, if these folks were truly brothers and sisters in Christ, they would have been following Matthew 18 and coming to us to discuss “their version” of the situation. I struggled for a bit with whether we should follow Matthew 18 and go to them but when my DH pointed out that they were using Facebook (and you thought it was just for social networking) to lambaste our family and would not listen to anyone who tried to discourage their behavior, he deduced that they would not be people to recon with and that we should NOT treat them as siblings in Christ. So we are praying for them and regarding them as deceived people who really do have problems – problems God can use if they will choose to follow Him.
I need not go into detail but I did learn that when we raise our children by teaching them God’s Word, by doing our best to set an example worth following, discuss life issues on a regular basis, and have their hearts, I can trust they will choose to do what’s right. They will make mistakes. They will fall. That’s been a hard lesson to learn, too. As a mom, I want to keep them safe and guide them to do what’s right. But when they grow into young adults, the only direction I can give them is the direction I have earned the right to give. It’s at this point my children look for direction when they think they need it. If I’ve done my job right, they will look to God, come to their father or I, and seek wise counsel. We all screw up, though! I need to remember that, though I think my children are awesome, they aren’t flawless and will make mistakes, will break my heart, will disappoint me and themselves! My goal is to be ready with open arms to accept my children with all the dirt and scrapes, clean them up and patch up any wounds IF they want it OR show them how to do it themselves. I’ve also learned that my children will shine their light brightest through a trial, that they want to do what’s right, will take a bad situation and do their best to turn it around, and will do like I’m doing here, learn from the situation.
As if the lessons weren’t aplenty, I know that I have a husband who will stand up for his family, will confront head-on those who would seek to do us harm, and will speak wisdom into your life whether you want him to or not. (Here’s hoping seeds were planted!)
I can honestly say I have been blessed through this ordeal due to our family coming together to carry each other’s loads, our friends’ wonderful support, and seeing how individual yoots handled themselves. I am so proud of my kids!
What’s not shared is lost,
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:19,20
Everybody showed up for church today. It was a packed house and it was so nice that the weather allowed us to open windows to welcome the breeze and rain cooled the air. When that many peeps pack a house, it can get mighty warm mighty fast. But today was pleasant and folks hung out later than usual. The small fries were able to run amuck outside and the older set played Ultimate Frisbee and some basketball. The dessert table included Pumpkin Rolls, Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Whipped Cream, and we made Pumpkin Crunch. The singing is always great and, though I’m dead tired and kept trying to fall asleep, there was a teaching time that was anointed. I was also blessed simply by the conversation shared among sisters. Very convicting. I was reminded of how a wife has the power to turn a perfectly decent husband into a monster, a lame husband into a worse one, or a monster into a perfectly decent husband. That’s another blog post.
Today’s biggest focus, besides Christ, of course, was the imminent departure of our friends from South Africa. Walter, Elaine, Janna, Nadia, and little François. They have spent the past year with us as dear friends and members of our church. For most of the past year, Lenae took Autumn and Isabelle to the our friends’ home each Monday to give a ballet lesson to help them learn English, have friends their own age and, of course, learn ballet basics. Lenae used what she has learned from working at Dance Techniques and it was fun to watch her put together lesson plans for them and talk about how each lesson went. There were days they stayed longer so the girls could play. The friendships made between the girls and the bond that Lenae developed with Elaine were precious to watch. We’re already talking about sending Lenae to visit in South Africa after we can save up enough money.
It’s been fun learning about the differences as well as similarities in our cultures. What’s been especially enjoyable has been sharing the love of cooking with Elaine. She’s a fabulous cook and always goes over the top. We’re likeminded in the importance of presentation and experimenting. When we asked her what her likes and dislikes of American cuisine are, she said she likes it all. If she weren’t moving back, we would put her to work at our shop. She said if she were staying, she would love to. Man, I wish we had opened earlier!
Elaine and I also like to laugh. We enjoy good humor and good jokes. Her joy is contagious and I’m going to miss having that around. If laughter is good medicine, I’m a healthier person because of Elaine. As it usually goes, I regret I didn’t take the time to get to know her better earlier in the year.
So, this week, our friends will be heading back home on an 18 hour flight with little kids (pray for them!) and they have so many mixed emotions. They’ve missed their family and friends and country but will miss being here. My emotions aren’t mixed at all. I’ve already had the tears fall a few times the past week (and tonight) and I would love it if all of their family just moved here. But, since that can’t happen, we’re already having serious discussions about saving for a trip to South Africa, preferably around New Year’s because they have this way-awesome international fireworks competition at Cape Town! Who knew? Until then, thank God for internet. I’m gonna have to learn to use Skype.
Play With Your Food!
That’s the word that describes a day like today. Of course, during the morning rush to be ready to host our home church, I gave my traditional threats to never host again. But things came together, our church family arrived, a meal was shared, and the weather was hand-delivered from Heaven. Being able to, once again, be outside for our worship time was such a blessing! I wish I could describe the serenity that comes with home church. All of our members are still sinners, mind you, but having been over-committed and too busy for livin’ in my previous life in “regular” church, “doing” church as described in the New Testament has been such a sanctuary. Sanctuary is the very reason we started fellowshipping with this group; we were struggling with how involved with youth and children’s activities we should be. We’re already homeschooling and peer dependency/pressure was one reason we chose that route. Watching our young ladies struggle with there self-image, attitudes toward their siblings and
parents, and basic respect and maturity caused us to prayerfully consider the possibility that all those books and homeschool convention speakers were right about the negative effects of youth group. (A brief trip down memory lane helped as well). Michael Pearl wrote and excellent article on Sanctuary that convicted us and led us to home church. In the article, he talked about how the church today is more of a mission field than a sanctuary and families need sanctuary; it’s how we’re wired and what God intended the church to be. The church was never meant to be an evangelistic tool, believe it or not. WE are the evangelists and the church is for, eh hem, the church. It’s for building each other up, teaching, singing praises to our Creator. But what about seekers? That’s what hospitality is for. But people are too busy doing church crud, school band and athletics, etc. to be hospitable. Nuff said.
I believe it pleases God when his church gathers as a family reunion and spends the day together. You get to know people when you spend that much time together, and they get to know you. There’s no faking it – problems can’t hide, sorrows will be shared, as will the joys. There’s no denying that God works through institutional church and that the Holy Spirit moves amongst His people wherever they are called to be. I just know that more and more folks are feeling the weight of doctrines and activities and division and activities and pressure and traditions and activities, and, and, and just want to be with God’s people. Winds are changing – this may be a part of it.
I posted on Facebook that I’m sure they played Ultimate
Frisbee in Corinth. A friend said,”They probably called it
Ultimatum di Fresbee.”
Natalie and friend in
our “balcony seats.”
Judah is all snips and snails. This time, he has a toad. He played with it for hours. Try getting away with that in children’s church.
What’s not shared is lost,