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That Agape Muscle

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 meyou 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,

Michelle

This day in 1988

It’s not just Lenae Michelle’s 24th birthday, it’s the 24th anniversary of our lives being turned upside down. Just like anyone else who becomes a parent, everything changed overnight. Literally. She was born just after midnight (12:22 to be exact). From March 29, 1988 on, things that didn’t matter that much before took on a whole new meaning. Politics mattered, who was on the school board was of most importance, nutrition, child training, making a home, being a better person, the list goes on. Most importantly, things eternal trump all things because of the life-changing event of becoming a parent. Thank you, Lenae, for being the catalyst for all the changes that matter. Yes, I know this was God’s idea – I thank and praise Him first and foremost for each and every life-change known as a baby He has given us. I love being a mom.

I was told throughout high school that “these are the best days of your life.”

1. Thank God that’s not true because my teen years were tumultuous at best. (I often wondered, “If these are the best days then what is there to look forward to?”)

2. The years I’m in right now are the best days of my life. They lied. “They” just wanted to sell lots of memory books, yearbooks, and class rings.

I am the mom of toddlers, youngers, middlers, olders, and young adults. It’s a new season having young adults and I’m still a little nervous as a mom as how to “mom” at this stage but it is such a privilege to see all the years we’ve muddled through together come to fruition. Lenae is a blessing and I am so thankful as I watch God work in her life. I am grateful God placed her in our family.

Happy Birthday Lenae!

What’s not shared is lost,

Michelle

The Last Supper- “Will you marry me?”

I’m trying to establish routine so I’ll post more often. I know myself and if I have  a “system” for something, I’m able to work it. I figure Sunday is a good day for “Eye Drops & Q-Tips” – “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” Matt. 13:15-16

I know God has spoken into my life, but He has spoken into so many others that have blessed me, convicted me, taught me and challenged me. So I am compelled to share what they have to say once in awhile.

So I give you the anointed Mike Donehey of Tenth Avenue North. The first time I saw TAN in concert,  I was blown away by the teaching of  this amazing Jesus Freak and his passion for the Word and for others. Be blessed!

What’s not shared is lost,

Michelle

Love is not blind

“Love is not blind – it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.” –Rabbi Julius Gordon

I’ll be honest. I’ve always thought that phrase “Love is blind” is stupid. On the one hand, if you love someone without knowing (seeing) them, you don’t really love that person; you love your idea of who that person is or you love pretending to love or you “really have a good impression of them and could possibly love them….eventually.”  On the other hand, if you REALLY know someone, odds are you see crud that isn’t very loveable. If a person REALLY knows you, they see the same in you. Makes love a tad inconvenient, I think. And, frankly, exhausting at times.

So much has been written about unconditional love and commitment, I’m not sure I need to add to the list but I do have a different angle at the moment. My thing is- why do I bother? Why do I keep loving or trying to love people who make it difficult? Especially when they don’t return the favor.  I just want to be loved where I’m at. You know? Unconditionally? I don’t need every stinking shortcoming pointed out.  OH, and how I love it when I hear I’ve been mentioned in conversations where I was not present. (It’s okay – I know they’re just jealous they’re not as awesome as me.) I have been stabbed in the back, belittled, berated, exasperated and exhausted from folks not willing “to see less because they see more.”  I want to “return the favor” sometimes and often, I do. Other times, I just give up. But something keeps bringing me back for more.  I could just leave these people behind. “Eat my dust.” That’s what I want to do. But, apparently, I’m a child of God and He won’t let me. I say apparently because, I confess,  I see how bad I can be, like those folks who see more, and I hear the voices say I really can’t be adopted or I wouldn’t be so bad.  Quite often, I’m the exasperating one who loves conditionally and can be difficult to love.

But Christians have the Holy Spirit in them and I know He’s in me because He won’t let me quit, grows love in me when I want to hate, gives me joy when I feel depressed, lifts the guilt when I know I’m guilty and helps me find love in others when “those” others show how me NOT to love. So why love?

Jesus loved me enough to die for me. I didn’t do anything worthy of that. In fact, quite the opposite. Motherhood has given me a taste of why Jesus did what He did. These little people can drive me crazy but I love them like crazy! They can act stupid, annoying, & infuriating (kind of like me) but I love them enough to die for them. I don’t claim to love as unconditionally as Christ (as evidenced by this post) but I can say He has done something in me that doesn’t make any sense – He loves me and His love is in me. It sounds weird but it’s the only explanation for why I love the jerks in my life.  That doesn’t mean I have to be a glutton for punishment – one of my mantras is “I have enough of my own drama. I don’t need anyone else’s.” But it’s a comfort to me just to know I love another because I can’t help myself – it’s a Jesus Freak thing.

SO, ya freaks, just ‘cause I love ya doesn’t mean I don’t see how rotten you are, too. It just means us brothers and sisters in Christ can be rotten together and know that when God looks at us, He sees what Jesus did for us so that’s what we should see, too.

What’s not shared is lost,

Michelle

Hoping for a growth spurt

SO….for the first time in about a decade, I went to a ladies Bible study Friday. The subject matter, of all things, is contentment and peace. The book we’re studying is Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow and I’m sure it’s just a coincidence the ladies started a study on a subject I happen to be struggling with at the moment.  Actually, I felt compelled to join because of the subject matter AND because of the lovely ladies participating. I confess I have not been in the Word nor have I been praying through my struggles. I’ve been “avoiding.”

I was given a book A LONG time ago called Always Daddy’s Girl by a counselor who observed habits I had developed during my upbringing in relation to my father. The book addresses how a girl’s relationship with her earthly father has a profound effect on her relationship with pretty much everybody but especially her heavenly Father. SO,  I have this flaky thing I do – when I know I’m not “living up” to my Father’s expectations, I “avoid” Him.  Yea, I know, AS IF one could really avoid God.  And, yes, we are to put childish ways behind is but it’s always beneficial to realize the weird things we do and why we do them.  When I was growing up, if I knew I was doing something that would earn my father’s displeasure, I would, of course avoid him. Because my father was volatile and unpredictably angered, I avoided him a lot. So, the more I’m afraid of displeasing God, the more I avoid Him, the further away from I pull and “hide” (laughable), the more I struggle with my bents toward sin, the more displeasing I am, the more I avoid…you get the idea.

Something else I’ve observed in myself and others, the more disappointed  I am with myself, the more discontent I become with my circumstances and those around me. Dang! Will I ever learn?

So I opened up this book and on the first page I read, “What we are on the inside, what we continually think about, eventually shows in our words, actions, and even on our countenances.” O-U-C-H.  Yea, we all know this but sometimes we need smacked in the face with the reminder. We all try to do this wife & mom thing in our own strength but our families see right through it.  Their reactions to our behavior speak volumes.  We tell ourselves, “but I’m trying so hard.” Oh, pooh, who are we kidding? I CANNOT be who God wants me to be in my own strength. Duh. So why do I try?  I’ve spent A LOT of energy of worrying about our business, money, struggles, you name it. That draws me closer to God how? Losing sleep just makes me…tired.  SO, I’m praying that I wise up and learn from these sisters in Christ and learn from the book that which will draw me closer to God, to my family and friends, to contentment and closer to His likeness.

What’s not shared is lost,

Michelle

Dirty Underwear. Filthy Socks. Muddy Jeans. Stained T-Shirts. What To Do With Dirty Laundry?

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,

Michelle

“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

You’re causing me to stumble!

Reckless words pierce like a sword but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

Sometimes I wonder why God blessed me with children because my mouth isn’t always a blessing to them. I’m focusing on memorizing verses that focus on the tongue so I will have those handy reminders stuck in my head and heart so they will nudge me whenever I open my big fat mouth. We’ve memorized these verses together as a family but the problem with being the one holding the verse card is I’m not memorizing or reviewing; I’m making sure everyone else has “got it.” So, I’m working on these on my own and will start sharing the responsibility with my olders so we can all learn together. That being said, I struggle with thinking before speaking sometimes! God knew I needed work in this area so, for this and a plethora of other reasons, He, in His Wisdom, gave me children. For those of you with small children and are thinking, “Oh, I feel your pain,” I’d like to say…you have no idea. Yes, it’s hard when they’re small. But when you have a young adult i.e. a thirteen-year-old boy with a built-in argument mechanism or a rebellious daughter who can get your blood a’boilin’…on purpose, there is a whole, different dynamic! Of course, there’s something to be said for child training when they’re young. That’s another blog post. But the self-control that must develop when you live with adolescence can only be accomplished with exercise and supernaturally! There is NO way anyone can withstand the temptation to verbally retaliate against their mouthy yoot without God. I’m convinced of it. It’s hard enough when God’s got your back. Compound that with today’s trend to raise brats (through lack of training) rather than responsible, contributing adults, and you have a formula for disaster.

SO, as I’ve been trying to focus on replacing a bad habit of being reckless with the good habit of being wise, I’ve asked my kids to be patient with me and to forgive me when I mess up (another good habit to teach your kids via example). There are times when I’m worn out from all of the exercising the self-control muscle and just want it to be “easy.” You know, so I can be lazy. :oP I know…endurance, perseverance and all that. That’s how the supernatural exercise works. But I’ve decided some of the “responsibility” does fall on my brood. I’ve starting reminding them that they are not being “wise” with their mouths by telling them….”Hey! You’re being a stumbling block! You’re tempting me to sin. Knock it off!” He he. Okay, it doesn’t sound very deep but it does bring a chuckle. They say laughter is healing, right?

Moments that are not shared are lost,
MF

Farewell Aunt Corky

My Aunt Coralie died yesterday. Due to the fact that she hadn’t been to church in years and didn’t have friends, it was decided there will be no funeral. I have mixed feelings about my aunt and her passing away. She babysat me, came to the hospital when I had my first baby and brought a large, pink bunny due to Easter being the following week…I think she may have visited with at least one other birth. She was tickled each time I had a baby and just thought it wonderful we had so many. Somewhere along the line, she was introduced to alcohol and started drinking herself to death. When her health started to decline and she became near blind and housebound, unable to go out to get her booze, she replaced that addiction with food. She was already overweight but her drinking and dietary habits sent her body to the point of no return. I think she was 55. That’s pretty young, IMO. I was angry with her for awhile as her health became a burden on my mom. My mom took care of my bedridden Grandma and Grandpa for years and she found herself trying to take care of a bitter, miserable, sick alcoholic who was ungrateful and witchy to my mom all of the time. Yes, she had been sweet and still could be but alcohol ruins people. Though I would get angry at her I kept finding myself just feeling sorry for her and praying for her. I prayed she would remember the seeds planted when she had sought after God, was baptized and attended a church. I am heartbroken that a person can go through life only to come to the end friendless and feeling so miserable you’re willing to drown your sorrows in booze until it takes your life. I pray I live in such a way that friends and family will want a service of some kind to say goodbye not because I want to be popular, but because I want to be a blessing to others. This is not to say my aunt wasn’t a blessing. Obviously, I was blessed by her being my aunt or I wouldn’t feel grief. I just wish she had found herself by looking outside of herself and looking to God.

1 Peter 2:12
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

P.S. I Love You


My older daughters and I watched that movie last night and boo-hooed all over ourselves. It was one of those movies I should have previewed first – when will I learn?- and I wish we had had Guardian installed on our DVD Player – the language really was overkill, as usual in movies. BUT, the movie was otherwise, very well done in that it really tugged at the heartstrings and caused one to hate death the way we should. It was especially touching as a family in our area recently suffered the tragic loss of the husband and father after he fell from a ladder landing on his head. This father of eight died three days later. Yep, death sucks.

Sorry if that word offends but I chose it because “death stinks” isn’t heavy enough or exemplify the disgust I’m feeling so, death sucks. One thing that frustrates me about movies is when they ignore God in situations where even atheists would be forced to at least consider the possibility that God exists whether by pleading for help or yelling in anger to him. (Like Castaway! Any normal person stuck by themselves that long would at some point say, “God, if you’re there…”) P.S. I Love You did not pretend that God doesn’t exist and the main character, Holly, does ask, “Why did God kill my husband?” A valid question and I’m happy they included it among other questions of “Why?” And “why” do people have to die? Sin. Sin sucks, too. I’m sorry I’m not being very ladylike but I’m feeling ticked that MY sin is the reason people die, why I’ll have to die (should the Lord tarry) and why Christ had to die.

I’m also ticked that people choose sin instead of Jesus then whine about how God has been unjust. In a way, they’re right; it was unfair that Jesus had to die when He wasn’t guilty. It was unjust that he was tortured. It was unjust that He had to leave His Heavenly throne at all. But instead of being grateful, most folks are still hurling insults at Him and declaring “there’s more than one way to heaven!” If that were true, Jesus wouldn’t have had to come to die…duh. Many people say, “Why would God condemn the pigmies in Africa just because they didn’t get to hear about Jesus?” It’s not hearing about Jesus that condemns us – it’s our sin. Again, duh. If it was about knowing Christ, He could have stayed in heaven and saved us, and Himself, a lot of headache. IOW, if it was about knowing about Him that condemns us, His coming is what condemned us, not our sin. But, sorry, it’s our sin that does us in! Jesus has given us the way out. Without that, our “Why God?” remains unanswered. But with Jesus, the “Why God?” turns into “I understand….thank You. And, because of Christ, we can see our loved ones again.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.”
1 Timothy 2:5, 6

P.S. He loves you.