Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: God’s love

Write Stuff Wednesday: Love You Forever

child“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” – Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

I doubt any children’s book garners reactions as strong as those elicited by Love You Forever. Those reacting in the negative find it kind of creepy. The elderly mother pretty much drives across town, breaks into her son’s home, and holds him like a small child to sing him her song of love. I get the creepy vibe, but it is only a story meant to bring home a point. I can overlook that particular part of it.

For others, the book is a wonderful story of a parent’s unending, never changing love for her child. At each stage of his life, the mother never fails to remind her child that her love won’t fade away. When she is too weak to sing her song to him, the son responds to that constant love by singing the song back to her and then continuing the song by singing it to his newborn daughter.

Anyone who has spent time with children know there are less than lovable times. Whether it’s fits in the toddler years, questioning authority in the junior high years, out and out rebelling in the teen years, or knowing everything there is to know about life in early adulthood, a parent’s patience and child-rearing know-how is tested at various times throughout the process of raising their children.

Even if we remember to cherish each stage of development, we pray for strength to survive it and bring our child through it successfully. We hurt with them when they fail, even as we encourage them to get back up again knowing they’ve not learned yet and will fall again. We repeatedly face disappointment and frustration as we watch our children act against what we’ve taught them. At their worst times of disrespect and disregard, our patience wears thin.

But even when we’re pushed to our limits, our love remains strong. No matter what our children do, we love them. We may not agree with their choices. As they choose paths better left untraveled, we hurt for them. We pray for them and try to guide them as we see them head toward sin. The pain and frustration we feel runs deep as we watch our children choose lives that take them further from God instead of to Him. But even then, we love them.

It’s a stunning picture of God’s love for us. We have hurt, disappointed, and betrayed Him time and again. We’ve chosen to ignore Him to go our own way until the results of our choices send us crying to Him to fix the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. When He doesn’t fix it, we treat Him like He’s the one responsible for our pain.

We act this way even though He’s given us everything. In our sin, God is the one who provided the way for us to be reconciled to Him. He is the One who sent His Son to die on the cross in our place to take the punishment for sin that only we deserve. He is the One who promises to make us His children and heirs with Christ when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior. He gave us His Holy Spirit to live in our hearts so we can know and follow Him better in our earthly lives. He allows us to be part of reaching others with the gospel. And He promises one day we will spend eternity in His presence.

God hasn’t blessed us with these things because we deserve it. Our continued failure to turn to Him, seek Him out, learn from Him, and live the way He wants us to live is proof enough that we aren’t deserving. But God gives anyway. Though our continued sin and reluctance to follow after Him in everything we say and do has to sadden our Heavenly Father, He always forgives. Though He doesn’t always remove our consequences, He is always willing to bring something eternally beautiful from the chaos we find ourselves in. God does all this for one reason. Love.

Jeremiah 31:3 is God’s own Love You Forever to us. He tells us, “‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.'” Everlasting is forever. It isn’t contingent on us. It relies solely on God’s love, on God being love. 1 John 3:1 reminds us that it is God’s love lavished on us that allows us to be called children of God. His love isn’t dribbled down over us. It is poured in abundance over us.

God’s love is freely given to everyone. We don’t earn it through being good. God acted in love toward us while sin still made us His enemy. We can see what love is not because “we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”.

Unlike our fallible love, limited by our weaknesses, God’s love for us will never fail to do what’s best for us. It will never let us down, no matter what our circumstances may try to tell us. It is forever, unchanging, and perfectly given. God will love us forever and for eternity His children we will be.

What I'm Reading: The Sister Circle

womenI’m the youngest of three children and the only girl. It almost goes without saying that I was a little bit of a tomboy. I had a dollhouse, but the G.I. Joe’s would often invade the house during war time. Sure, I watched My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake cartoons. I also loved B.J. and the Bear, The A-Team, and Air Wolf. I liked to wear makeup occasionally, but I had no idea how to make my hair look good like the other girls in class. To be honest, that’s something I still don’t get!
I was always curious about what it would be like to have a sister. I’m not sure why. I had female friends, but I tended to get along better with the guys. I had little patience for the manipulation games that girls tend to play. Besides, it worked out just fine for me to have guy friends. At least it did until I hit the age that I wanted to be more than “one of the guys”. Then, I was stuck without hope of escape.
I never got a sister, and I was okay with that. I think I realized it would have been a disaster, especially if she’d been more girly than me. But God did bless me with girl friends throughout my life. I never had more than one at a time. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have handled more than that. And they were usually very different from me. One was very girly. One seemed to know how to talk to guys in ways I didn’t get that got them to see her as more than one of the guys. Some were definitely extroverts. I’ve rarely had girl friends similar to me, even in adulthood.  Of course, we had some things in common or we never would’ve become friends, but the similarities were more superficial like similar music tastes or favorite television shows.
These differences could cause issues, but they could also be exactly what I needed. It’s a lesson the women of The Sister Circle by Nancy Moser and Vonette Bright learned as they lived together in Peerbaugh Place. Some would say fate or fortune threw them together. Others in the group would say it was God at work. At first their differences seemed trivial, but it quickly became apparent that these ladies had extreme differences in personality, experience, and beliefs.
It’s the differences that threaten to tear the tenants of the boardinghouse apart. But it’s also the differences that open up the avenues God wants to use to bond these women together as a family. Together they learn about themselves and grow in faith and love. Despite their differences these women become sisters who would do anything for the others in the group.
Like the women of Peerbaugh Place, women, even Christian women, can hold at arm’s length those who are different from us. Instead of getting to know each other and trying to understand one another, we push others away. God didn’t intend this. While scripture is specific about not engaging in sinful behaviors and beliefs, God never wanted us to use this as a reason to segregate ourselves from the people in our lives.
Scripture tells us repeatedly to love one another. The story of the Good Samaritan was used to teach us we are to show practical love to everyone, even those who our differences would encourage us to walk past without a second thought.  We are to be the image of Christ to the world around us, not just in the church pews with like-minded people. We are to reach beyond the doors of the church, and there are great differences when we decide to step outside the circle of believers.
The women in The Sister Circle worked together despite their differences. They faced challenges for sure, and we will too. But the end result of learning to look past differences and care for the people we come in contact with is the world seeing God’s love in action. And experiencing God’s love will change the world for the better.

What I’m Reading: The Sister Circle

womenI’m the youngest of three children and the only girl. It almost goes without saying that I was a little bit of a tomboy. I had a dollhouse, but the G.I. Joe’s would often invade the house during war time. Sure, I watched My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake cartoons. I also loved B.J. and the Bear, The A-Team, and Air Wolf. I liked to wear makeup occasionally, but I had no idea how to make my hair look good like the other girls in class. To be honest, that’s something I still don’t get!

I was always curious about what it would be like to have a sister. I’m not sure why. I had female friends, but I tended to get along better with the guys. I had little patience for the manipulation games that girls tend to play. Besides, it worked out just fine for me to have guy friends. At least it did until I hit the age that I wanted to be more than “one of the guys”. Then, I was stuck without hope of escape.

I never got a sister, and I was okay with that. I think I realized it would have been a disaster, especially if she’d been more girly than me. But God did bless me with girl friends throughout my life. I never had more than one at a time. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have handled more than that. And they were usually very different from me. One was very girly. One seemed to know how to talk to guys in ways I didn’t get that got them to see her as more than one of the guys. Some were definitely extroverts. I’ve rarely had girl friends similar to me, even in adulthood.  Of course, we had some things in common or we never would’ve become friends, but the similarities were more superficial like similar music tastes or favorite television shows.

These differences could cause issues, but they could also be exactly what I needed. It’s a lesson the women of The Sister Circle by Nancy Moser and Vonette Bright learned as they lived together in Peerbaugh Place. Some would say fate or fortune threw them together. Others in the group would say it was God at work. At first their differences seemed trivial, but it quickly became apparent that these ladies had extreme differences in personality, experience, and beliefs.

It’s the differences that threaten to tear the tenants of the boardinghouse apart. But it’s also the differences that open up the avenues God wants to use to bond these women together as a family. Together they learn about themselves and grow in faith and love. Despite their differences these women become sisters who would do anything for the others in the group.

Like the women of Peerbaugh Place, women, even Christian women, can hold at arm’s length those who are different from us. Instead of getting to know each other and trying to understand one another, we push others away. God didn’t intend this. While scripture is specific about not engaging in sinful behaviors and beliefs, God never wanted us to use this as a reason to segregate ourselves from the people in our lives.

Scripture tells us repeatedly to love one another. The story of the Good Samaritan was used to teach us we are to show practical love to everyone, even those who our differences would encourage us to walk past without a second thought.  We are to be the image of Christ to the world around us, not just in the church pews with like-minded people. We are to reach beyond the doors of the church, and there are great differences when we decide to step outside the circle of believers.

The women in The Sister Circle worked together despite their differences. They faced challenges for sure, and we will too. But the end result of learning to look past differences and care for the people we come in contact with is the world seeing God’s love in action. And experiencing God’s love will change the world for the better.

Pure and Undefiled Religion

givingSix months after I was born the Southern Illinois Christian Conference held their first summer camp. It was held at a local camp since the conference didn’t have a place of its own to use. That would quickly change. One family donated a large piece of land that would become the property of the conference after one hundred years being used as a Christian youth camp. After the first hot summer, my grandpa told the kids there would be a pond to swim in the next year. There wasn’t money for a pond. There wasn’t really money for anything since the camp was run on donations.

One night after dinner a couple men came knocking on my grandpa’s door and said they would like to build the pond for the camp free of charge. Campers still swim in that lake each summer. Cabins were built by a man who knew construction, and volunteers provided the labor to put them together. Every time there’s a need, people show up to help. Sometimes it’s just a handful of faithful workers, but the work gets done. We’re getting ready for our 42nd camp season now, and it runs like it has since day one, through love and labor of faithful volunteers and donations. It’s amazing watching God work to provide for the needs of the camp each year.

It’s that same spirit of coming together to watch God work through the faithful I found as I read Callie by Sharon Srock. Callie Stillman’s love for the hurting doesn’t seem to be a match for the pain she feels after unthinkable circumstances leave her shaken to the core. After all, it was her desire to help that put a toddler back in the home of his abuser. It was her lack of judgement that allowed that abuser to take the life of the little boy she’d come to love. And her guilt from that innocent life lost is what immobilizes her when Sam, Iris, and Bobbie come into her life.

God speaks to Callie’s spirit that something is wrong when she meets her granddaughter’s new friend, Iris. Even though Callie refuses to get involved, she feels God’s call to do so. With baby steps and a lot of wrestling with God, Callie goes from simply trying to find out what’s wrong to being fully immersed in the lives of this struggling family. But Callie isn’t alone. The core members of her Monday night Bible study are determined to be right there with her encouraging her and helping the family. When Callie shares with them the needs, they spring into action without a thought for what it will cost them. They simply love God by loving the family in a practical way, and their care opens the door for Sam, Iris, and Bobbie to experience life in ways they’ve been forced by circumstances to abandon.

It’s God’s love in action in the lives of those with needs. I’ve seen it in our church camp. Sharon Srock portrays it clearly for readers in Callie. And I’ve experienced it in my own life as God moves in people’s hearts to aid our family when we’ve had needs we couldn’t meet on our own. It’s a powerful testimony to God’s care and provision. It’s a blessing to both the receiver and the giver as God uses the act of giving to speak to their hearts and grow them in their understanding of who He is.

Jesus lived life ministering to those in need. He encouraged his followers to do the same. In Acts, the believers sold their individual belongings in favor of sharing all things and taking care of each other’s needs. The story of the good Samaritan shows us that giving goes beyond the boundaries of friendship and our individual houses of worship, reaching even to those we might see as enemies. James directs us to “look after widows and orphans in their distress”.  And Jesus’ own words tell show us his heart on the matter in Matthew when he tells us whatever we did “to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” A heart that listens to the Spirit when it says go or give is a heart that will leave a lasting mark, a testimony to God’s love to draw those in need into the arms of God.

By the Book: Do you take time to listen to the urgings of God when He’s directing you to go, to give, or to speak? What keeps you from it? Can you remember a time when someone else made God’s love real for you through their actions?

Less Than Blessed on Mother's Day

momAs I think about all the books I’ve read, one book immediately comes to mind when I think of moms. In the Rush of Wings series by Kristen Heitzmann, there is a secondary character who is the matriarch of her family. She’s everything a mother should be though certainly not perfect. She raises her children to love God, she prays for them, and she is protective of them. Celia teaches her children to work hard, value life, and love others. She is a shining example of what a Christian mother should be.
But there are other women that stand out as mothers without having given birth. In A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White, Rosemary has no children. Being an orphan herself, she’s not even had an example of what a mother should be since she was a small child. Yet when as an adult she finds herself in a makeshift family of orphans, Rosemary becomes like a mother to the younger ones. She cares for them and tries to teach them how to survive on the streets. Though her lessons are often how to get by with the illegal without getting caught, she is attempting to protect the children in the only way she knows how. And she does care for them. She would like to see the children have chances she never did. Everything she does is for the good of the family and the provision of food and shelter for the young ones in her care. Though they consider each other siblings, she acts as a loving mother to children who are of absolutely no relation to her.
It’s a better deal than Tess Spencer got in Guilt By Association by Heather Day Gilbert. Her mother was a drug dealer who ended up in prison. The life Tess remembers with her mother was one of lack and neglect. It’s left her with emotional scars. But even though her relationship with her mother is in desperate need of forgiveness and reconciliation, Tess isn’t without a woman in her life to help show her how to be the mother God intends her to be. Throughout the story, we’re shown that her mother-in-law has become the godly example her own mother never was. The relationship between them is full of encouragement, support, and love. Tess has been blessed.
And as I think about Mother’s Day tomorrow, I think knowing we’re blessed should be the main point. There are a lot of situations out there. There are women with healthy, happy children. There are those who have children but have suffered the loss of children as well. Many have had a child only to lose it later on. And there are those who have never been able to conceive though they desperately want to.
Children are a blessing. Scripture talks about it often enough. But that doesn’t mean those who haven’t yet had or may never have children are not equally blessed. God hasn’t looked at their lives and determined they are not good enough to be blessed. Children are simply one blessing from God. There are many other blessings God chooses to give. One blessing is not better than another. They are just different.
For the one who desires children they may never have and the one who has lost a child, my heart goes out to you. My own family has known the loss of one that was desperately wanted and would have been fiercely loved. Now, the baby we never got to meet is missed and still fiercely loved. And it’s that love that makes days like tomorrow hard for some. But, and I do not say this lightly, God has not overlooked you in the blessing department.  Yours may not be the ones you wanted, but you are still blessed. You are still loved. I pray He heals your hurt.
Having a godly mother is another blessing in this life. Just read about Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice, in scripture. The way scripture speaks of their influence in Timothy’s life shows the impact a godly mother can have. Proverbs 31 is dedicated to highlighting the attributes of a godly woman, and caring for her children is included in the verses. If your mother was a godly example to you growing up, you are blessed. Thank her for that.
But if you didn’t, God has not forgotten you either. There are many in the world today that have known pain, neglect, disappointment, and abandonment at the hands of their biological mothers. Their mothers never did anything to care for them much less show them the love of God. But that doesn’t mean God has declared them unworthy of blessing. Their blessings are just different.
Maybe God gave them a neighbor, a friend’s parent, or an older sibling to mother them. Maybe it was a teacher who took special interest in them. Often, grandmothers step in where mothers fail and teach the children right from wrong. If you’ve had any of these people in your life, they are the mother of your heart and you are the child of their heart. That love can be as fierce and protective and giving and encouraging as the love for a child born of blood. I know. I have a child of my heart in addition to children by blood. She is my daughter, and no amount of missing DNA will ever change that. These women are a blessing in your life. Take the time to thank them for that.
But maybe you haven’t even had that. If you haven’t, I am sorry. I don’t have a good explanation for why it happened like that for you other than the fact that we live in a messed up, sinful world. But know this; you are still blessed by God. He has not called you unworthy. You are loved, though you may not have felt it from a mother or mother figure. I pray that God will heal your hurt and teach you how to be a godly person. I pray that if He hasn’t yet, He will send someone into your life to show you His love. And I pray that you will allow Him to use even this disappointment and hurt from your life to grow you into the type of person who can go out and be His blessing for someone else.
By the Book: Who and what are the blessings God has given you? As you celebrate tomorrow, take time to pray for those in your life who may struggle with feeling less than blessed. Ask God to show you how you can be the blessing for others.

Less Than Blessed on Mother’s Day

momAs I think about all the books I’ve read, one book immediately comes to mind when I think of moms. In the Rush of Wings series by Kristen Heitzmann, there is a secondary character who is the matriarch of her family. She’s everything a mother should be though certainly not perfect. She raises her children to love God, she prays for them, and she is protective of them. Celia teaches her children to work hard, value life, and love others. She is a shining example of what a Christian mother should be.

But there are other women that stand out as mothers without having given birth. In A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White, Rosemary has no children. Being an orphan herself, she’s not even had an example of what a mother should be since she was a small child. Yet when as an adult she finds herself in a makeshift family of orphans, Rosemary becomes like a mother to the younger ones. She cares for them and tries to teach them how to survive on the streets. Though her lessons are often how to get by with the illegal without getting caught, she is attempting to protect the children in the only way she knows how. And she does care for them. She would like to see the children have chances she never did. Everything she does is for the good of the family and the provision of food and shelter for the young ones in her care. Though they consider each other siblings, she acts as a loving mother to children who are of absolutely no relation to her.

It’s a better deal than Tess Spencer got in Guilt By Association by Heather Day Gilbert. Her mother was a drug dealer who ended up in prison. The life Tess remembers with her mother was one of lack and neglect. It’s left her with emotional scars. But even though her relationship with her mother is in desperate need of forgiveness and reconciliation, Tess isn’t without a woman in her life to help show her how to be the mother God intends her to be. Throughout the story, we’re shown that her mother-in-law has become the godly example her own mother never was. The relationship between them is full of encouragement, support, and love. Tess has been blessed.

And as I think about Mother’s Day tomorrow, I think knowing we’re blessed should be the main point. There are a lot of situations out there. There are women with healthy, happy children. There are those who have children but have suffered the loss of children as well. Many have had a child only to lose it later on. And there are those who have never been able to conceive though they desperately want to.

Children are a blessing. Scripture talks about it often enough. But that doesn’t mean those who haven’t yet had or may never have children are not equally blessed. God hasn’t looked at their lives and determined they are not good enough to be blessed. Children are simply one blessing from God. There are many other blessings God chooses to give. One blessing is not better than another. They are just different.

For the one who desires children they may never have and the one who has lost a child, my heart goes out to you. My own family has known the loss of one that was desperately wanted and would have been fiercely loved. Now, the baby we never got to meet is missed and still fiercely loved. And it’s that love that makes days like tomorrow hard for some. But, and I do not say this lightly, God has not overlooked you in the blessing department.  Yours may not be the ones you wanted, but you are still blessed. You are still loved. I pray He heals your hurt.

Having a godly mother is another blessing in this life. Just read about Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice, in scripture. The way scripture speaks of their influence in Timothy’s life shows the impact a godly mother can have. Proverbs 31 is dedicated to highlighting the attributes of a godly woman, and caring for her children is included in the verses. If your mother was a godly example to you growing up, you are blessed. Thank her for that.

But if you didn’t, God has not forgotten you either. There are many in the world today that have known pain, neglect, disappointment, and abandonment at the hands of their biological mothers. Their mothers never did anything to care for them much less show them the love of God. But that doesn’t mean God has declared them unworthy of blessing. Their blessings are just different.

Maybe God gave them a neighbor, a friend’s parent, or an older sibling to mother them. Maybe it was a teacher who took special interest in them. Often, grandmothers step in where mothers fail and teach the children right from wrong. If you’ve had any of these people in your life, they are the mother of your heart and you are the child of their heart. That love can be as fierce and protective and giving and encouraging as the love for a child born of blood. I know. I have a child of my heart in addition to children by blood. She is my daughter, and no amount of missing DNA will ever change that. These women are a blessing in your life. Take the time to thank them for that.

But maybe you haven’t even had that. If you haven’t, I am sorry. I don’t have a good explanation for why it happened like that for you other than the fact that we live in a messed up, sinful world. But know this; you are still blessed by God. He has not called you unworthy. You are loved, though you may not have felt it from a mother or mother figure. I pray that God will heal your hurt and teach you how to be a godly person. I pray that if He hasn’t yet, He will send someone into your life to show you His love. And I pray that you will allow Him to use even this disappointment and hurt from your life to grow you into the type of person who can go out and be His blessing for someone else.

By the Book: Who and what are the blessings God has given you? As you celebrate tomorrow, take time to pray for those in your life who may struggle with feeling less than blessed. Ask God to show you how you can be the blessing for others.

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