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.

 

 

 

Signs and Wonders

We saw them as we were stopped at the traffic light. At the time I wondered aloud about what they could be doing on the corner of the highway. Camped out under a group of decorative trees and bushes the young trio resembled scouts on an overnight.

Turning into the entrance of the mall I could see that two of them were holding signs. However the line of cars on the other side of the divider obscured my vision so I couldn’t really see what was printed on them.

They’re raising money for a cause, I thought to myself. After all, in our town it’s not unusual to see people standing on the corner asking for donations for the fire department or the humane society. In fact, kids are always waving signs urging me to pull my car into the parking lot for a quick wash in exchange for dollars toward funding the cheerleading squad or purchasing new band uniforms.

I knew that following our Sunday-after-church-lunch I’d have another opportunity to see what charity they were fundraising for and be able to drop in a dollar or two if I liked what I saw.

And after about an hour, that opportunity came. As our car waited in line to make a righthand turn onto the highway I saw them again. And this time I could clearly read the words on the signs.

They read:

“We are hungry” and “Food”

I know, I know. It could have been a scam. Another attempt to bilk me out of my hard-earned money. Perfectly able-bodied human beings looking for a hand-out.

But in the moment there was a choice to be made.

And because I have free will I could look the other way and drive by.

Or…

Or I could look at the one who was looking at me and choose to be present.

To be kind.

To give hope.

To share what I had.

Whether I judged them to be deserving or not.

So I asked Phil to hand me the bag of food from the back seat. Inside were two large portions of beautifully prepared Italian dishes complete with bread.  I rolled down the window and handed that bag of warm deliciousness to one of the women dressed in khaki and green. She smiled broadly and uttered an enthusiastic, “Wow!”.

I met her eyes and returned the smile.

And then we drove away.

The world is always looking for signs and wonders. If they would only see a miracle, then they would believe. The strange thing is that those very signs and miracles are all around us every day. But our ability to sense them has become dulled.

I choose to see this encounter with the woman on the side of the road as a sign of God’s good provision.

Even a miracle of sorts.

You see, during our lunch our waitress had approached us and told us that she had made a mistake when she rang up our order. It seems that she had charged us for a dinner portion instead of a lunch and it qualified us to pick another entrée to take home.

For Free.

We had wondered how in the world we would be able to eat all of that food.

Hmm… a wonder.

Another sign that if I keep my heart open I can be an active participant in God’s blessing to others.

And to be a witness to His daily miracle of love.

One wonderful, miraculous, blessing at a time.

 

 

 

The Great Amen

Our gregarious grandson recently spent some glorious extended time with us. Pulling us into his full – speed – ahead,  precocious preschooler’s approach to life, my normally active routine paled in comparison. Although nap time was not high on his priority list it became a necessity – for me!

Each day after stalling for as long as he could, he reluctantly went to his room. To ensure he stayed in bed, I would sit on the family room couch just around the corner. He couldn’t see me from the bedroom door, but I could hear him get up and open the door in search of me. When he didn’t see me he would say, “Aww, man!” before closing the door again. I guess he was hoping to convince me to let him get up.

Hearing his plaintive “Aww man!” reminded me of how often I also utter that phrase in frustration. And as those syllables rolled off his tongue, Holy Spirit drew me into an interesting language perspective. By slightly changing the last vowel sound, “Aww man” suddenly became “Amen”.

Hmmm…. the “what if’s” began to percolate in my brain.

What if in every set back I would utter up a resilient  “Amen” in place of a combative “Aww man” ?

What if I resisted the temptation of exasperation and leaned in further to the “Amen”?

And what if I allowed Jesus, the Great Amen,  to reign in my life as the ultimate “so be it”?

I waste a lot of time fighting against opportunities that may be kindling for the first spark of a refining fire.

Experiences that I deem as negative may eventually spur me toward joy. Experiences that can help me rejoice when I run into problems and trials.

For I know that they help me develop endurance.

And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens my confident hope of salvation. (Romans 5:3-4)

When life’s doors of opportunity seem to block my temporary goal, am I cracking them open only to rail an “Aww man!” at life?

Or am I acquiescing to the great Amen as I embrace the peace and joy of Jesus?

The choice of one syllable is up to me.

And it changes everything.

 

 

 

 

Owwies Make You Stronger

This summer I made a new friend.

Three-year old Titus.

His father, Daniel, is one of the pastors leading the Urban Youth Outreach in Englewood – a gang-plagued, violence ridden neighborhood of Chicago.

A gregarious little guy, Titus loves to talk and play with his older sister Arielle and all of the other neighborhood children who flock to the outreach play yard. With his charismatic personality and gift for gab, Titus is surely an evangelist-in-training.

One morning as he mingled with our mission team he showed off his finger with a dangling bandage. He bravely peeled back the adhesive strip to show each person his “owwie” long enough for each one to commiserate with him.

After several people had gotten a good look at his wound he smiled confidently. “That’s O.K. because owwies make you stronger.”

Suddenly, innocence deafened the world’s cacophony that had dulled my ears.

Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Are you listening? I am speaking.”

A truth renewed.

Trials make you stronger.

Pain can be a stimulus for growth.

And when rooted in the Word and will of God, perseverance in trial brings hope.

And perhaps most importantly, as children of God, we are never alone in our sufferings.

Years ago, I endured a season of brokenness. I felt completely worn. As my young daughter lay in the hospital, critically ill with a failing heart I searched the scriptures for a word to sustain me. God did not disappoint. He led me to 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; (just breath, child, He whispers)

perplexed, but not in despair; (don’t over analyzeinhale my peace)

persecuted, but not abandoned (relax in my love, I am right beside you)

struck down, but not destroyed (my hand will lift you up, I will protect you).”

The word of truth forever sealed in my heart.

Trials hurt.

But Love heals.

Love is waiting. Embrace the truth.