Tag Archives: love

Love One Another. Even Just the One.

“And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us.”
1 John 3:23 (ESV)

love one another. even just the one.Photo credit: Alene Snodgrass

For the past several months, I’ve been intentionally asking the Lord to give me opportunities to love people more and to love people well.

He’s answering that prayer, though differently than I anticipated, I think.

It seems He’s answering in the simplest way imaginable (though it’s really not simple at all). By bringing just one individual to me at a time to love more and to love well.

He’s leading me to discipleship with just the one (or two), to praying for just the one who needs to read each blog post, to being fully present in each moment so that I can invest in just the one in front of me, to making a difference to just the one instead of one thousand.

It takes intentionality. It takes vulnerability.

It requires me to be all in.

It may not be building much of platform or making much of a name for myself.

But it’s showing Jesus to that one. It’s kingdom work. And it’s beautiful.

It may not change the world. But it may change that one.

And I kinda love that.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
1 John 4:11-12 (ESV)

What I’m Learning In the Everyday

Lately, it seems I’ve been in one of those seasons that is mostly characterized by the routine of the everyday.

what i'm learning in the everyday

Oh, sure, I have a couple of trips planned for later this year, I’m doing my fair share of dreaming big (which if I’m being totally honest, still feels a little different and uncomfortable because I’ve always tended more towards the practical and logical side of, well, everything), and there are new things potentially surfacing in the distant horizon, but they’re not right around the corner. So I find myself doing life right now in the everydayness of it all.

It’s good. It’s full. It’s rich. It’s demanding.

It’s just the everyday.

But I want to be wildly, unashamedly, with-abandon passionate, faithful, and focused on the Lord in the midst of this.

Because this is real life. This is relationship. This is walking with Him, trusting Him, depending on Him even when it doesn’t always “feel” like I need Him. Because I do. Desperately. In each moment of the everyday.

And perhaps because of this particular season, when it comes to living this life worthy of my calling, I find myself in the middle of learning so much that serves as a constant reminder of how unfinished and how desperately-in-need-of-Him-each-moment I really am…

I’m learning to keep my eyes fixed on Christ … even though I’m really bad it.

I’m learning to live by the Spirit in each and every moment.

I’m learning to accept the grace upon grace that Christ so freely gives.

I’m learning to walk by faith and not by sight … even when my calendar is too full and I feel like I’m operating in survival mode.

I’m learning to ask God for big things according to His will.

I’m learning to see the beauty in the small things that I far too often overlook.

I’m learning to love well by allowing Christ to fill me, so that I can be emptied on others.

I’m learning to rest in the fullness of Christ rather than attempting perfection by my own strength.

And I’m learning to crave more of Jesus Christ above all else because He is the only One who truly satisfies.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John 3:30 (ESV)

His Presence, His Arms, His Love

Some things really rock your world. Losing my little brother as a teenager was one of those things.

I always knew he had a heart problem. And I knew open heart surgery was a big deal. But I was young and never fully understood (or cared enough to recognize) the seriousness of his condition, so his death seemingly came out of nowhere.

Life as I knew it was interrupted and in many ways ceased to exist altogether. Normal was no longer a word with any meaning. Family was a term that needed redefining.

Everything needed redefining.

But eventually, I settled into a new rhythm. It took a long time to label it anything closely resembling normal, but the acuteness of the initial grief faded. Things that became different overnight eventually became less different. The deep ache that made it hard to move let up every once in a while, and then more often. And then quietly intertwining and invading without any fanfare, a new normal began to seep into the everyday.

It’s now been years since I’ve lived under the weight of just-get-through-one-moment-at-a-time fresh grief.

But some days…

His presence, His arms, His love

I didn’t expect simple things of no consequence to trigger such deep emotions. Grief can be so unexpected and beyond all rational explanation.

Ten years later, it can still break in with a vengeance and then fade just as soon as it swells.

Often completely unprepared for it, all I know to do is ride the wave of overwhelming emotions so deeply felt that I’m sometimes left knocked down and gasping for air. So I ride. I let it happen. I sit with the grief and allow myself to just be in that moment. To let the wave hit and break and crash and drift away. To experience the torrents of emotions as they come and then ease.

Yet even though it’s uncomfortable, even though it’s painful, there are few moments such as these where I sense a more immediate need and know a more intense desire to just sit with my Heavenly Father … in His presence, in His arms, in His love … allowing Him to speak truth over me and listening with a ready ear as my mind goes back there. To that night, to that hospital, to that hallway, to that room.

But at the end of the hallway, there’s the embrace I’ll never forget. The arms of strength that still give me permission to fearlessly collapse and release. The words that still echo in my heart. Not of empty promises or meaningless platitudes, but quiet whispers of love and grace and a sure promise of His presence.

Arms that weren’t letting go. Love that wasn’t going anywhere.

And in the arms of this Abba Father who so intricately orchestrates every detail of this life for His glory, who loves this child unconditionally, who sees the worthiness and righteousness of His perfect and blameless Son when He looks at this face, there is peace. there is calm. there is freedom.

Because even in the midst of the tears and ever confusing grief that ebbs and flows, His presence is strong, His arms are solid, His love is fierce, His embrace is secure.

Because in these moments He’s as close to tangible as I sometimes suspect He’ll ever be in this life.

Because I know this ever present Holy One knows, sees, and understands the deepest parts of my grief.

As I sit with Him, as He draws me near, as He holds me close, He grieves with me. We cry together. He is faithful to His promise. He is the God of all comfort and He is close to the brokenhearted.

And though it doesn’t make it easy, though the grief still runs deep and the loss will not simply be written off, there is hope in the midst. This world is not the end, this life is not all there is, and this earth is not my home. Because in the arms of this Father, through the sacrifice of His Son, there is the assurance of eternity in His presence without the earthly pain and grief. An eternal reality that far surpasses this momentary one.

I still find rest in His sovereignty and His goodness.

Grief doesn’t change that.

Yes, grief is hard and makes my humanity painfully obvious. But the Father’s promise to be close, to bear the load with me and for me is unchanging.

And in the sitting with Him through it, as He draws me near and holds me close, in the wake and the aftermath of the moments of poignant grief, the release and collapse into His presence, His arms, His love is strangely sweet.

“…and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)

Crazy Love

crazy love

And just like that, with a weekend trip to Northern Virginia and some poor planning thrown into the mix, this supposed-to-be-up-on-Friday post turned into a Saturday post.

But before I headed the 6.5ish hours north yesterday, one of the Bible Study groups that I’m in this semester met Thursday evening to discuss chapters 5 & 6 of Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

Towards the end of a great discussion about the central themes of the chapters including following Christ with our all, desiring an intimate relationship with Him first, loving Him above all else, being willing to give up everything in pursuit of Him, and selflessly serving and loving His people as a result of our love for Him, as our conversation shifted to acknowledging we can’t do any of this on our own, someone said this:

“Asking God to help you love others is a really scary prayer.”

And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since.

Yes, asking for God’s help to love others is scary. Because we know He’s a God who hears and answers our prayers.

And praying that particular prayer requires much of us. It requires that we set aside our own selfish desires for His glory, and it requires a willingness to obey when He makes His answer obvious. But scary or not, oh, how I want that to be the prayer of my heart. I want to love well and love more. And I need Him to do it.

“Is loving God – and, by extension, loving people – what you are about? … Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts. The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives.” (Crazy Love, p. 102 & 104)

Just Keep Going

just keep going

Sometimes I read stories of and/or watch those a few years younger than me, those just out of college, who seem to know exactly what they want next, are sure of their calling in this life, or are passionate about one particular cause. And instead of taking time to consider how to best execute their dreams, or getting caught up in a cost-benefit analysis for their proposed plans, or worrying about how finances will fall into place, they just get to work and do something or go somewhere.

They seem so young, and sometimes their actions seem a bit impulsive and carefree, but they’re already doing what they love and living out their passions and dreams.

When I consider their path versus my own, it’s easy for me to fall into the ugly comparison trap of thinking I’ve somehow missed something, or in the very least that I’m behind.

That because I didn’t have the focus or the dream 5 years ago, I didn’t get it right.

That because I don’t have the life now that I envisioned then, something didn’t go right.

That because I still don’t have a clear vision of what this life should be about, I’m still not getting it right.

But if my one passion and drive is living for the Lord and glorifying Him through loving Him and loving His people, so what?

As I spent the entire month of October over a year ago fleshing out through a 31 Days series, this life isn’t about knowing exactly what comes next.

Yes, God calls some people to very specific tasks that last a lifetime.

But for the rest of us … we just keep risking. trusting. following. loving. going.

By faith. Eyes fixed on the perfect Author of this story. One step at a time.

Of course I’m not going to have it all figured out yet … or likely ever this side of heaven.

This life isn’t over and that’s not my job.

My job?

It’s to just keep going.

I will likely make hundreds of more wrong turns and try hundreds of more things … some of which may succeed, others of which will almost be guaranteed to fail.

But this God, this Jesus, whose way is perfect stays the same and never fails.

He’s got this world from beginning to end.

This day … this life … is His.

He’s got this.

So just keep going.

“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”
Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

“With Me”

with me

I don’t know when it happened. Or how it happened.

It certainly wasn’t intentional. I barely noticed it.

But somewhere along the way, as the future became less clear, as everyday life became a battle to survive, as my own selfishness became too prominent, I began holding the Lord at arm’s length – at a perceived safe distance. There, but not present. Close, but not intimate.

And in the moment when I realized it, as my heart sank and the tears flowed, all I could think was, “I know better.”

But that was just it.

The “know better” part of me gets caught up in thinking I can somehow do this on my own. That I can get close to God, do all the right things, build this relationship, and somehow win His favor, His grace, and His love.

And yes, my heart’s desire is to please Him, and that’s a really good thing, but when it’s born out of trying harder and doing better and achieving more, it’s all wrong.

I can’t do any of this on my own apart from Him. I am nothing and have nothing apart from Him.

And I don’t have to do anything to win His favor. I already have it.

The grace and love that I too often try so hard to earn is already mine to rest in and enjoy.

Yet I still somehow had been approaching God as if He was like me, as if because I had been holding Him at a safe distance, He had been holding me there, too.

But for the record, He is nothing like me.

He is not made in my image. He is not made at all.

He holds all things together, this Sovereign Creator, and He doesn’t put me in a corner when I mess up or stray or fail.

Yes, He disciplines like a loving Father to teach me, to prune me, to sanctify me, but He doesn’t leave me in the process.

Even when I leave Him.

So this holding Him at a safe distance?

It’s wrong. It’s self-centered and self-serving. It’s lacking in trust and honesty and brokenness and humility. It’s hiding. It’s prideful.

None of which works with Him at all.

God never intended for me to view Him in my image. He never intended for me to project onto His character the human elements of my own.

He is not bound by my rules. He does not regard me the way I far too often regard Him.

He IS better, higher, greater.

He is God.

He IS.

But in the words of Chris Tomlin, “The God of angel armies is always by my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine…”

And yes, that’s said with a healthy dose of reverence, fear, and adoration. It’s said with the recognition of His righteousness, His holiness, His sovereignty, and His greatness.

But He’s so close – He’s here – before me, beside me, behind me.

He’s not a God who will allow me to keep Him at a distance.

And in that very moment of recognition when I stripped it all down bare – when I removed all of the complicated layers, the circular logic, the selfish needs and desires – and prayed, the purest question on my heart was simply:

“God, where do you want me?”

His answer wasn’t a particular job or a physical location or a ministry direction. It was just this:

 “With Me.”

And with that, all I wanted was to collapse into His everlasting arms, completely exhausted from all of the trying, to rest in His presence with the renewed realization that this life is so much less about what I do for Him and so much more about simply knowing Him and trusting Him through all of the unknown details, to allow Him to spill over into every area of my being.

He’s not lost on this journey and He hasn’t lost me. He sees the whole, while I only see a small part. And He’s already written the ending.

And no, complacency is not okay, but maybe contentment is somehow settling into the details that He’s already written and just walking with Him along the way.

Yes, He’s the great God of angel armies, but He’s also the ever present, never leaving or forsaking, God with me.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV)

Cling to Him

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you…

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips…

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Psalm 63:1, 3, 5, 8 (ESV)

——

Seek Him. Praise Him. Be satisfied in Him. Cling to Him.