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Monday, February 17, 2014

Praying Dangerously February Week 3

I hope you all were able to consider what love has to do with your everyday actions and to see much good come from those ponderings. 

So my question for you this week is a simple one:  how do you show love? 

Agape love. God's love.

What are some practical ways to serve that, once infused with love, can change the world? 

As a single, I'm learning how  God can use my singleness to serve others. 

Without the life I have now, I wouldn't have gone back to teaching. And I love teaching. Every week I get to pray over my students and inspire them to seek God's heart. Not just for their writing, but for their lives. 

I fully believe God is changing the world for good through my teaching, both at home and at work. 

For those of you who are single, how is God changing the world through you? 

As a parent, we have the awesome privilege and responsibility to show and teach our children how to love with God's  love. We can point them to Jesus every day- through the things that go well and through our failures too. 

God uses all things to teach us and teach through us. 

One way my family loves and serves together is through supporting ministries that serve the least of these: Samaritans Purse, Compassion, World Vision, Operation Christmas Child, and giving to local food banks and shelters.

Something we started doing years ago was to keep some cash in the van to give to people our paths cross who are in need. This year my children bought gloves, scarves, and hats to give away too. 

I've taught my children to look people in the eyes as they give to them and to listen. Those short moments of respect are moments I pray will touch their hearts as much as the physical things we give. 

It's not much at all, but these are tangible ways to say to someone that they are important and loved. 

So how is God using you as a parent to inspire your family to love others through serving? 

How about you teens? How can God show love through you?

So many of my students and other young people I know go on mission trips around the world or in their hometowns. 

The teen and college years are amazing times of opportunity to love others through service. 

But in all honesty, at every age and stage in life there are things we can do to love and serve others. 

So how about you? How is God loving through you right now? 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Praying Dangerously February Week Two

Bible Verse Pictures

What's love got to do with it?

Who's singing the Tina Turner song along with me? :-)

Seriously though, as thoughts turn to Valentine's Day this Friday, my thoughts are turning to this question- how much of what I do is done with love?

What does love really have to do with it?

My days include teaching my children, laughing with my kiddos,  teaching high schoolers online, grading papers, talking with friends, praying, Bible study, fixing broken things around the house, exercise, training for a marathon, square dancing classes, writing, Writer's Club, grocery runs, church activities, bills, emails, meal prep, and occasionally sleeping...and sundry tasks that come up unexpectedly.

I'm sure your days are equally packed.

Have you ever considered what portion of your daily tasks are done with intentional love?

If I'm honest, too much of what I do is rote and required. I don't like that.

Thankfully, God has been changing this over the last few years of learning to be single.

For one, I no longer pay bills by rote. It is an exercise in faith and love and praise when the bills are paid and the pantry is full.

Grocery runs are a chance to crunch numbers and comparison shop to find a way to bring home a treat for my kiddos that makes them smile. Last week it was cheddar popcorn on sale that we enjoyed while laughing at a favorite TV show.

Family activities are chosen with care now. Not just because of finances, but so that the time we spend relaxing is really that- relaxing, a chance to laugh together and grow closer.

Home schooling is now a daily reminder that God provides. It's not a task but a privilege. It's always been a calling and a gift to me, but now it's even more. It's an act of faith and hope and joy to see God provide a way.

But then I think about things that have been a part of my life for so long that I do them by rote. Going to church, reading my Bible, sometimes even prayer.

There have been so many days on this path where I did these things because I had nowhere else to go, no one else to turn to.

And I'm so thankful that even when my heart hurt too much to be fully engaged, God met me there.

Now I'm finally at a place again where I'm doing these things because I love Jesus. Because I'm learning to be intentional and thoughtful and aware of what motivates me.

Of course there are still those days when I hit the alarm and beg for a few more hours sleep or a day when the responsibilities of it all don't rest on my shoulders.

And there are still days I sleep walk through, and when the day is over, I've never even thought about why I did what I did.

Then one of my kiddos stops me for a hug or a Bible verse breaks through my muddled mind or someone asks for prayer, and my heart catches- this is a chance to show love.

However you will celebrate Valentine's Day, I pray you view it as a chance to show love to someone- a child, a friend, a coworker, a stranger, yourself ...God.

Stop and consider that you are loved beyond your greatest dreams and childhood hopes. God knows all about you and rejoices over you and invites you to come and experience His forever faithful love. Each and every day.

I also pray you'll join me in considering what love has to do with it...every day.

May more and more of our everyday activities be transformed by the amazing gift and beautiful fragrance of love.

Love that makes even the smallest acts treasures.  

Monday, February 03, 2014

Praying Dangerously February Week One

Our next dangerous prayer is a fitting one for February: Love through me.

At first glance this prayer doesn't seem dangerous at all. Not like praying for God to change us.

But think about it a minute.

Who do you not want God to ask you to love?

If I'm gut level honest, there are people I'd rather not love. People who have hurt me so badly that I'd prefer to pray certain Psalms for but not welcome them into my life again.

So during a month where Hallmark dominates our thoughts, God loves me- and you- too much to let me ignore this selective love problem.

I wonder if I'm alone in this.

I think the first problem with my thinking here is that when I think of love, I think of the people I love the most and define love by the way I love them- I would give my life and everything I have if they need it. I can't wait to see or talk to them. I write them notes and sing goofy songs to them. I snuggle with them anytime they come near.  We have silly jokes and crazy sayings that make us laugh anytime we think of them.

I'm of course talking about my children.

I also define love in terms of my family and friends- I'd do anything in my power for them. I pray for them and can't wait to see them. And I know I will continue to love them and they will love me even when they hurt me or I hurt them because forgiveness is part of real love.

But love- Biblical love- isn't butterflies and beautiful memories. Not always.

The Bible is pretty clear on what love is- love is laying down your life.

Love is dying to self so that God is glorified.

Biblical love is the cross.

Love is messy and heartbreaking and hard.

Love is sacrifice.

It's sometimes unreciprocated.

Love is God. Love is Jesus. Love is the Holy Spirit.

We have to be very careful defining love without some clear words about what love isn't.

In fact, there are some important things love isn't. Love isn't abuse- emotional, physical, or spiritual. Love isn't manipulation.

Love doesn't ignore sin or make excuses for sin- yours or someone else's.

Love isn't a doormat or a punching bag.

Love doesn't wear itself to the bone or work itself to death.

These are just my thoughts on what love is or isn't. And sometimes they get me into trouble.

Especially when I argue with God about what it means to love those I'd rather not love.

So maybe the best place to go is to the Truth. The very definition of Love- God.

He says if we love Him, we will obey Him. John 14:23

In other words, when God says do this or that, I must do it. Even if I don't want to.

Sometimes love has to let go and hand a person bound in sin over to God. And that's hard. Loving someone who doesn't love you back.

That's when love is a cross.

And I don't like it. I'd rather define love as butterflies and beautiful memories, silly songs and snuggles.

Until I get on my knees to ask forgiveness.

Then I'm overwhelmed and thankful that love is the cross, and Jesus bore it for me long before I came to be.

I'm also thankful love is so beautifully portrayed in 1 Corinthians 13...

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endure through every circumstance.....Love lasts forever. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

I think silly songs and snuggles pass the Biblical test. Just like wiping fevered brows and praying at bedsides.

But most of is God and God is love.

How do you define love?
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