Love Never Fails

I’ve had a knot in my stomach since Tuesday.

And my neck hurts, too. My shoulder muscle started contracting election morning, pulling my neck into spasm, and has not let up.

My body reacting to the tug-of-war in my spirit.

I’m unsettled.

And sad.

And so, so disappointed in us.

I thought we were better than this.

And I’m not talking about the results of the election, but our reaction to the results of the election.

On both sides.

Let me be clear.

I have people in my life I dearly love and respect who voted blue.

I have people in my life I dearly love and respect who voted red.

But the aftermath of this election is sickening. Since when do we take to the streets screaming venomous, vile profanity stringing up our president-elect in effigy Ku Klux Klan style? Is this who we are now? An angry hate-spewing mob?

And since when is it permissible to say to our hurting brothers and sisters that they need to “suck it up”, “stop whining”, and “get over it”? When did we forget to show compassion to the devastated and desperate? When did we become so heartless and numb to the very real fears of the slighted and marginalized?

When did we become a nation of bullies? It seems that all the lessons about kindness and tolerance taught in every classroom have been wasted.

My heart is breaking.

But I am not without hope. Never without hope.

Because as a Christian, I believe that the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases. Even when things look dire and hate runs rampant, His mercies never come to an end. They are an ever-present reminder that LOVE is stronger.

So I continue to pray. And I ask you to pray, also.

For our fractured country.

For our future leaders.

For our children who will live in this legacy we are creating.

And remember the words the apostle Paul wrote about love. That love is patient and kind. It’s not rude or arrogant. Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

We fail, but God never does.

Have faith, my friends.

The Word of God is alive and active. It was true yesterday and it will be true tomorrow. And it’s very clear on this point.

Love never fails.

 

 

 

The Place In Between

During a recent conversation with my youngest daughter, I was surprised to find that she had never stepped inside a Hardee’s fast food restaurant. The most shocking part of the revelation was that I was the reason. She reminded me that years ago I had vowed never again to eat at Hardee’s and out of loyalty to me she had never eaten there either. Lest you think I have some undying vendetta against Hardees let me elaborate.

I can only barely remember what happened. When she brought it up, it was a minute or two before a vague memory slowly surfaced. Honestly, I had long forgotten ever making that declaration of war, but she had remembered the shenanigans between me and a less-than-polite teenager manning the drive through window. And my reaction had stuck with her. The truth be told, I am pretty sure I have eaten there a time or two since then.

It’s slightly disturbing to me what I choose to remember about people and situations. (Of course if I’m being honest, what I really mean is it’s slightly disturbing to me that I have no control over what people ultimately remember about me.) What I say and do in my home, my classroom, my community matters because I am representing myself as an ambassador for Christ.

So what does an authentic ambassador of Christ look like? In a word – Love.  Looking to 1 Corinthians 13 I can find a very accurate description of who I want to be. A true ambassador is patient, polite and kind. Promoting peace, she doesn’t keep score or have to have her own way. She always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres believing with her whole heart that love triumphs.

I know that every day I fall short of that description. I can only pray that the ones who know me won’t remember me on my very worst day or even on my very best, but somewhere in between. It’s that place in between that my most authentic self lives. And ultimately it is the place where I have the most influence for Jesus. The place in between – where every day the messiness of life has an opportunity to be washed with healing and forgiveness. Where rude drive through employees are forgiven and forgotten and people get to eat at Hardee’s again. Where Jesus assures us that He is with us – on our best day and on our worst day and every day in between.

The Casual Gardener

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Dinner at my house this time of year means garden fresh vegetables on the table. Tomatoes, green beans, radishes, and corn are plentiful. Daily we enjoy the results of my husband’s efforts. Throughout the spring he diligently tended to the generous plot of garden space in our back field. Tenacious tilling, planting, weeding and watering have rewarded us with a delicious harvest.

His work ethic is to be commended. And each day I have the opportunity to apply that same principle of “you reap what you sow” in my own life. I must ensure that I am not a casual gardener of the soil that God has allotted me. For it can be so easy to carelessly sow a crop of hurt with a hasty word or thoughtless action without considering the fragile soil into which it is thrown.

Also I must be aware when seeds of unforgiveness have rooted themselves in my spirit to the point of choking out loving thoughts and words. When I begin to feel “prickly” about someone or react in a way that is contrary to love’s requirements I need to stop and examine my heart. What seed has begun to grow there that would result in bitterness, selfishness, anger and score-keeping? I can be sure that anything that is not creating a bounty of love is a seed sown by the enemy.

Look at the apostle Paul’s familiar words describing love’s harvest, “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.” There is only one way I can hope to produce this beautiful crop. I must give myself over the to Master Gardener to prune my heart. Painful though it may be, in due time it will yield a bountiful and beautiful harvest for the Kingdom.

Galatians 6 :9 “Let us not grow weary in doing good, in due season we will reap, if we don’t lose heart.”

As Far as the East is from the West

This weekend I had the awesome opportunity to speak to a beautiful group of ladies at a women’s conference. As we explored what it meant to be a woman after God’s own heart using 1 Corinthians 13 we took a hard look at forgiveness.

1 Corinthians 13 verse 5 says that love keeps no record of wrongs. What a wonderful thing it is to know that this is God’s attitude toward my sin when I repent. Psalms 103:12 tells me “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

As I was preparing to speak at the conference I ran across a letter that one of my daughters had written to me when she was very young, probably age eight or nine. This is what the letter said:

 

I am so so sorry Mother. I love you. I do not hate you. I was just mad. I’m sorry. Can you forgive me? Please. You mean a lot to me. I tried doing it without you and I couldn’t do it. I need you.

 

That letter was not kept as a reminder of the unkind thing she said to me, but instead because of the love it conveyed. In truth, I do not even remember her telling me she hated me or why she said it. What I do remember is her repentant heart and the great compassion I felt for her plea for forgiveness.

That is how I have come to the Father many, many times over. I have never told Jesus that I hated him, but my words and actions toward someone or something else certainly did not convey love. My prayers could have mirrored her letter.

 

I am so, so sorry Father. Jesus, I love You so much and yet my actions tell a different story.  In my anger at someone else I have sinned against You. Please, Lord, You mean everything to me. I have tried doing it my way and it just hasn’t worked out. I need You.

 

The Lord has great compassion on us and we too need to have compassion on others when they sin against us. We are called not to hold grudges, but to forgive and forget. The world tells us to remember, but God says to forget. How do we get to that place of forgiveness? Very often I cannot get there on my own, but must rely wholly on God. I must pray Psalms 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

 

Love does not keep score. In a world where we want everything to be fair, that is hard. Almost every day at school some child wants me to mediate a disagreement.  I try to be fair. But in general, life isn’t always fair. People I love hurt me and I hurt them. My sense of earthly justice wants to keep score.

 

But then I remember that in my relationship with God I do not get what I deserve. My sinful nature merits justice. I deserve punishment and condemnation, but God gives me pardon and mercy instead. And when I pour out my heart to Him asking for forgiveness and expressing my absolute need for Him he looks at me in love, chooses to forget my transgression and pulls me close. Thank-you, Lord for the undeserved gift of mercy!