Love That Listens

Love is on the hearts and minds of many this week as Valentine’s Day approaches. Paul talks about love in his first letter to the Corinthians, but he isn’t talking about Valentine’s Day love. Agape isn’t about romance; it is something much deeper. Valentine’s is more about lust and who gets the biggest bouquet, the best chocolates, the most expensive card. That isn’t the love Paul had in mind.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

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 endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7 NLT)

Lust is anxious, jealous, boastful, and definitely keeps score. It doesn’t last and offers little hope. There is no shortage when it comes to lust because it depends upon excess. It breeds and spreads like a wildfire when ignited, but agape develops slowly over time and lasts into eternity. There is nothing more precious in this world or the next.

Our world loves lust, and that creates an environment that revolves around wanting what others have. I no longer want just what I want, I want what I think you want too. Many tears and much blood have spilled as a result of the wanting lust inspires. I’ve fallen prey to lust, but I’ve also experienced agape. Feeling the joy of having someone hear my heart and love me no matter what is changing me beautifully. Being embraced and loved as I am is allowing me to become more than I imagined I could be, That’s the power of love that listens.

Love changes my wants, and that was the sweet message God had for me this morning. I used to dread Valentine’s Day and buy myself a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers to help ease the pain of wanting what I thought I was missing. This year, I’m celebrating agape and plan to enjoy the week with my sweet little granddaughters and my loving friends. My heart is filled to overflowing with love that listens, and it doesn’t get any better than that.  I’ll share some chocolate with the girls and help them make cards, but I won’t be pining for what I’m missing because I’m learning that what I have is so much more than what I used to want.

Heart in the Sand

Love’s Legacy

My legacy will become my son’s inheritance when I die, so what I leave behind is very important to me. The rich fool in Christ’s parable has a legacy that will most likely consume his heirs the way it consumed him. The value of a life is measured in many ways, but I measure mine by what I treasure. Such was the case of the rich fool.

Jesus tried to warn the man of his folly, but I doubt he listened. Few of us do. Greed is a cruel master that cuts off communication with the ones closest to its victim. Riches have a way of getting in the way of relationship, and Jesus is trying to show that to the son asking Him for help with his brother.

Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”

Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods.  And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 12:13-21 NLT)

Riches make a fool of the wisest man, but lust and love go in opposite directions. A heart cannot serve both. Lust disguises itself as love, successfully fooling many. In Christ’s story, God recognizes the trap ensnaring the rich fool and tries to warn him before it is too late. Jesus is hoping to do the same for the two brothers and for us.

Love is the true measure of a rich life. It cannot be stored or counted; but it is the only thing I can count on. The riches of the man in Christ’s parable will most likely go to someone like the arguing brothers, and the legacy of lust will be passed to the next generation.

God’s legacy is love. Christ is His heir, and His precious love allows me to share that inheritance. The value of my inheritance grows if I share it with others, but it dwindles when I keep it for myself. The sons are worried that one will receive more than the other, and many of God’s children have the same fear when it comes to approval and love. God’s love is for all, and it grows as it is shared. That’s the biggest difference between a legacy of lust and a legacy of love is that lust divides while love multiplies.

I hope Christ’s precious love is the legacy I leave for my son and his beautiful family. It’s the only thing I can carry with me into eternity and leave behind in the hearts of those I love.

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:


The Nature of LoveThere is a world of difference between love and lust, grace and greed, and peace and power. Lust, greed, and power are shiny objects that take my attention away from God. I know His love is better than anything this world has to offer; but I occasionally fall prey to the bling in my path. God reminded me this morning that bling is temporary and loses its luster as soon as I gain possession of it. His love will not be held or captured, and He will never hold me captive or attempt to possess my heart.

The need to possess is at the heart of lust, greed, and power. We have all been possessed by someone or something at one time or another, and we’ve all had the desire to possess something or someone at some point in our lives. Lust, greed, and power revolve around that desire. Love, grace, and peace exist outside the realm of possession. They flourish in freedom and reside with truth. It’s human nature to want to possess, but Christ taught a new way of living and loving when He came into the world as a man. He possessed nothing and had everything. He didn’t need Satan to remind Him that lust, greed, and power cause great temptation. Christ knows exactly what they do to a heart, soul, spirit, and body. His precious love releases us from captivity and gives us a new heart.

Christ’s grace showed the world a new kind of power, and His love brought a peace unlike anything the world had ever known. Like a child chasing a butterfly, I  end up straying from the path and find myself on a very slippery slope when I take my focus away from God. He is always there when I fall on my face. He and I both know it’s the best position for praying.

It’s easy to get caught up in my agenda or the agendas of others, but it happens a lot less when I keep my eyes on the One who exemplifies love, grace, and peace. Jesus took the lust, greed, and power that put Him on the cross and turned it upside down. The beautiful result is unending love, amazing grace, and unexplainable peace.

The lessons over the past two weeks have been difficult ones that pushed my heart beyond what it could handle alone. God never leaves me, but He will not possess me. I’ve made terrible decisions when it comes to love. I’ve tried to possess and hold on to it. God gently taught me that possession goes against the very nature of love. What I control or possess does not define love in my life, but what I am able to let go of does.

God placed Melanie Gainsley’s quote back into my path today. It sums up the lessons in love God began the year mama died, and it was in my path then. It was so hard to let go of mama. I realized today that love doesn’t have to let go because true love doesn’t hold on in the first place. 

“Sincere love is not born of possessiveness but of necessary space and distance.” Melanie Gainsley


Sometimes, It’s Best to Tip Toe

At the heart of pleasing others is the need to be necessary. At the heart of the need to be necessary is the desire to be loved. No amount of pleasing or needing can take the place of love. Believe me, I’ve spent a lifetime learning that painful lesson. If others need me, then I’ll be loved. If I please others, they will need and eventually love me. Small wonder my heart is in the shape its in. 

Pleasing leads to lust, and lust leads to hate if allowed to run its course. It is a natural progression seen over and over in life. I eventually come to hate that which I had to have. I’m thankful God lets me learn the hard lessons of pleasing and being pleased on my own. If He didn’t, I imagine the hate would be directed at Him. Like a spoiled and ungrateful child, I would blame Him when I didn’t get what I wanted.

I found myself throwing stuffed animals this afternoon after a particularly trying day. The girls were tired and fussy, and so was I. I was hurt, and I did what all spoiled children do when they are hurt. I lashed out, and I felt pretty silly afterward. I’m glad no one witnessed my fit and that Mickey Mouse and the Pink Panther can’t talk. Lillyann asked me later, while we were watching Dr. McStuffin, if I thought it would be fun if toys really did come to life.

I told her that they might be upset by the way we treated them. She gave me a questioning look, and I explained that we lose, break, or sometimes don’t bother to play with toys, and they would probably tell us to play with them more or be careful with them. She didn’t see me throw the stuffed animals, so I think she must have thought I was referring to her treatment of her toys. I could tell she was thinking about it, and so was I.

Toys and people need love. That was the point of the Dr. McStuffin episode we were watching when Tyler came down to join us. The girls made a bee line for him and smothered him with kisses and hugs. He enjoyed the attention and agreed that nothing made him feel better. I felt the same way as I was getting the girls to sleep. There’s nothing better than hugs from sleepy children. They love with abandon, and there’s nothing more healing.

Transitions are so hard, but I know they are necessary if I am to love as God desires. It’s not easy to make the steps necessary for the transformation God has in mind, but a friend shared a post from AARP Arizona that said, “Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but take the step.” That image was just what I needed to stop throwing stuffed animals and quietly tip toe in the right direction.

The lessons this week have been about being grateful, and it was humbling to realize how ungrateful I am when it comes to all God has given. I hope to be more mindful of His gifts, especially His Son’s precious love. I’m also thankful that Pink Panther can’t come to life because he’s almost as big as I am and might just toss me on that top bunk if he could!!

Pink Panther

You Can Always Get What You Want!

Mick Jagger assured us in the seventies that we couldn’t always get what we wanted, but we could get what we needed if we tried. The truth is that you can always get what you want, but it comes at a price. Rhonda Bryne tells us in The Secret that we have the power to manifest our heart’s desire. I believe she’s right. The problem is the cost. It doesn’t take an extensive research project to prove that it’s possible to get what you want. Every spoiled child and adult in the world has proven that to us over and over again for free. Getting what we want only leads to misery, and we don’t need a study to prove that either.

God can give us everything we want, but He knows that would make us miserable. He could also force us to do exactly what He wants, but He knows that would make Him miserable. The lessons of late have been about obedience, and they are never easy ones. I want what I want and struggle with God when what I want and what He knows is best for me are not the same thing. All good parents and teachers understand the feeling well.

I laugh each time I think of my nephew Ben telling Tyler that he didn’t have to do what I asked him to do. He was two and running away from my sister Edie as fast as he could. I was at the kitchen table telling Tyler it was time to get ready for bed. Ben stopped running long enough to yell, “You don’t ha to Tider!” Tyler looked surprised, and I did my best to hide the big grin on my face. Ben was right, and I knew it.

The fact that I don’t have to do what God asks me to do is what allows me to grow when I choose to obey. God and I both know that obeying out of love is the only way for me to be who He knows I can be. Without love, I become a drone. Christians who become drones are miserable and make those in their paths miserable too. Misery does, indeed, love company. Love also loves company, but the connection is so much better and lasts forever.

Getting what I want means turning from God and living in the darkness. Darkness is darkness and no amount of money, fame, or fortune can change it into light. Only God can do that. He shed His Light upon the world in a way that changed everything. Understanding His Love and embracing His Truth brings hope, and hope is better than anything I can manifest on my own. Sure, I can write myself make believe checks and make collages of the life I want, but Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.” (NASB) That lottery money will soon be spent, those possessions will fall prey to rust and dust, and fame will soon fly away. Love lasts forever!

If I go with God’s plan, I will have eternal life with Him, and I can walk in His kingdom now. That doesn’t mean I’ll be prosperous, but it does mean I will have love, joy, and peace. When God’s counsel takes root in my heart, it bears the fruit of His Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 promises, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (NASB) Money, fortune, and fame don’t come close to love. Love cannot be manipulated or manifested. It comes when I understand that there is something much better than what I want.

Lust is about getting what I want, and it is the second most powerful force in this world. The universe will give you just what you want, and there will always be those who pick up the slack for selfish, spoiled folks who insist on their way because they make others miserable when they don’t get it. Love means not getting what I want and not giving others what they want. Lust wins many battles, but the good news is that love has already won the war!

This photo is from "Spoiled Kids Get Worse Grades in College" by Laura Hamilton.
This photo is from “Spoiled Kids Get Worse Grades in College” by Laura Hamilton.

I’m not surprised 🙂

Joyful Unison

Isaiah 52:7-10 is a song of joy that is appropriate for Christmas Eve. Isaiah looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. We shout in joyful unison as we look forward to His coming again.

How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger bringing good news,
Breaking the news that all’s well,
    proclaiming good times, announcing salvation,
    telling Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Voices! Listen! Your scouts are shouting, thunderclap shouts,
    shouting in joyful unison.
They see with their own eyes
    God coming back to Zion.
Break into song! Boom it out, ruins of Jerusalem:
    “God has comforted his people!
    He’s redeemed Jerusalem!”
God has rolled up his sleeves.
    All the nations can see his holy, muscled arm.
Everyone, from one end of the earth to the other,
    sees him at work, doing his salvation work. (The Message)

Joyful unison comes when we proclaim the good news of Christmas. Christ is at work in our hearts, and He’s coming back. That makes me sing and shout joyfully with those in my path and helps me give and find sweet comfort in times of need.

Joy isn’t happiness, and that is a problem this time of year. Lust is powerful; we grab, get, and go at a rate that leaves us spent, disappointed, and tired after lust settles. Like dust on the floor after a big party, lust leaves a mess that is swept away or under something. It causes a downward spiral. Joy follows loving obedience and fills me with peace. Joy is free, and I don’t have to stand in line or go in debt to get it. It lifts my heart and brings me nearer to God and others. Greed surrounds this beautiful season designed to offer something better than what I want or expect.

Joy, love, hope, and peace are what Advent is all about. As I look forward to Christ’s return, I am able to wait patiently because I understand that love is all that matters. The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s lust. Wanting what I want may get me a little temporary happiness, but it keeps me from finding true joy and peace and leaves me wanting more. Trusting that God’s love is more than enough and obeying His call leads to love which leads to joy, peace, and hope. The world may not understand the difference between joy and happiness, but Christmas celebrates the birth of someone Who lived out the difference beautifully.

God’s gift of Immanuel brought, brings, and will always bring love, joy, peace, and hope to the world. It’s what creates the joyful unison Isaiah foretold. May it be fulfilled in our hearts this year.

Love Joy Peace Hope

What to Wear

Romans 13:11-14 paints a vivid picture of what to wear on the journey. Dressing and packing appropriately is an important part of the journey, especially if you plan to go in a new direction. What to wear, what to take, and what to leave behind forces me to make difficult decisions. The lectionary this week begins in Romans 13:11 and tells very clearly what not to pack. I believe it’s important to step back a few verses to get a clearer vision of what I need to put on and pack before heading up the path God has in mind.

Romans 13:8-14 The Message

“Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.

But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!”

Since I moved in with my son and his family, waking up has become a blessing. The little girls always wake with squeals of delight. That was particularly true this morning because we had a dusting of snow. Hearing them wake up and play upstairs reminds me that I am not alone on this journey. I believe that’s the point of this passage of scripture. Love is what I need to wear. Love is what I need to pack. Love is what I need to pass along to all those in my path.

I’ve spent far too much of my live exhausted in taking care of the day-to-day and have been absorbed by worry and fret. Lust is the opposite of love and involves so much more than sex. It is what causes me to doze off and become oblivious to God. It keeps me from loving as He desires. Lust lures me into lingering and loitering, and it convinces me to wait a little longer and indulge in what I want. We are in a season of lust, and I know that breaks God’s heart.  Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas become a blur of frivolity, indulgence, bickering, and grabbing everything in sight. Many people fall into deep depression during the fall while others choose to be blissfully oblivious.

Waking up and getting dressed is a process that involves making decisions about where I’m going, why I’m going, and who’s going with me. The answer to all three questions is God. He is the Who, what, where, why and how on the journey. The only question left for me is when because He will not push me out the door or drag me along. I have to decide when I’m ready to get up, get dressed, and be up and about on His way. When I decide I’m ready to go, He’ll help me with the dressing and the packing. So, put on Christ; pack some love, and let’s get going!

photo credit talknerdy2me
photo credit talknerdy2me