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.

 

 

 

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! 

Healing Love

Last weekend we flew to Kansas City to spend the weekend with my oldest daughter and her family. Unfortunately they were in the full throes of flu-like symptoms and we spent the majority of our time together fighting fevers, soothing coughs and wiping runny noses. On the positive side, after a sick and sleepless Saturday night, my normally super-charged two-year old grandson was in “cuddle me” mode so we spent Sunday afternoon curled up watching Veggie Tales.

As Bob and Larry bounced across the screen entertaining the fevered toddler in my arms I began to thank God for allowing me the privilege of being there to offer healing love and comfort. There was no place in the world I would have rather been than to be lying on a basement couch with my precious patient resting against me. And as I drifted in and out of my sleep-deprived state a thought came to me. “This is how God loves me.” Arms wrapped tight, enveloping warmth, can’t-get-enough-of-me love. The very thought of it is almost startling and overwhelming to think that God desires fellowship with me at all. Why in the world would the God of the Universe want to know and love ordinary me?

But it’s true.

1 Corinthians 1:9 tells me, “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” God calls me into fellowship with Jesus. He desires to have a relationship with imperfect me. Loving me so completely that He was willing to give Himself up for me. So when I am sick with sin and burdened with the world’s worries I can turn to the Great Physician, fall into His forgiving arms and receive the comfort and benefit of His redeeming and healing love.

Bless the LORD O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. He heals all my diseases and lifts me up out of the pit. Thank-you LORD, for Your healing love in my life.

Interpretations

My two-year old grandson is learning more words every week. It’s such a delight to listen to him try to put his thoughts into words in a way that I can understand. Of course, attempting to hold a regular face to face conversation with a toddler who is in the room with you can be a challenge let alone trying to do that using Skype. Often my daughter Rachel has to play the part of the UN translator and interpret the word exchange for me. Usually it goes a little like this:

Rachel: Tell Gigi what you did today.

Isaiah: Uhmmm. I creek.

Gigi: Oh did you go to the creek?

Isaiah: I kirl.

Gigi: Did you play with a girl?

Rachel: No, he saw a squirrel. Tell Gigi what the squirrel did.

Isaiah: (No verbal response. Starts bouncing up and down.)

Gigi: Did you see the squirrel run up the tree?

Rachel: No it shook its tail at him. Remember, Isaiah?

Isaiah: (No response since he has become bored with the conversation and has run out of the room.)

Isaiah reminds me a bit of Dug, the befuddled little dog in the animated movie, Up, who is constantly distracted by squirrel sightings. Dug would be engrossed in a conversation with the other story characters then would suddenly halt mid-sentence to point and shout, “Squirrel!” Funny how that behavior also occasionally mirrors my conversations with God. There are times when I try to pray, but my mind seems to chase after every “squirrel” that enters my brain. What am I to do?

I guess the first thing is to admit to God that I am distracted at that moment. Too often, I try to jump into serious conversation without readying my heart and mind.  I certainly agree with the apostle Paul when he writes in Romans 12:12 that we should, “pray without ceasing,” keeping an ongoing conversation with God as we move through our day. However, I also have a daily need to lock myself in my prayer closet and devote undistracted times for worship, thanksgiving and petition. When I am having trouble focusing I pray something like, “Lord, I want to talk to You about this, but other thoughts keep creeping in and pulling me away. Father, center me on You alone.” If I remain quiet and focus my mind on God, my heart and spirit follow.

Even in those times when I am unable to verbalize exactly what I want to say I am assured that I am heard. Romans 8:26- 27 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” What a wonderful promise that is!

Lord, Jesus, thank-you for the promise of your Holy Spirit who lives and dwells in us interceding to the Father on our behalf. I am so grateful that You hear me when I call out to You even in those times when I cannot adequately express myself. I love you, Lord.