Love

No one can snatch me from God’s hand, but I am free to hop out at any time. He will let me wander for as long as it takes for me to create my own kingdoms, make my own mountains, and plan my own projects. He waits because Love is patient.

God doesn’t close his hand around me because love cannot be forced with a fist. He knows only an open palm works when it comes to love. He is the ultimate example self-differentiation and waits for His children to find their way back to Him. Love requires openness and freedom; otherwise, it will wither and die. God knows that better than anyone, so He never forces or coerces. He refuses to fuse. I must do the same if I am to love Him and others as He desires.

When my kingdoms crash, my mountains topple, and my projects fail, I find comfort in God’s loving hand. He doesn’t gloat or fuss or say, “I told you so. I knew you’d be back!” He simply loves. His love never changes or moves and is best described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffereddoes not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” NASB

 

Patience

Patience is a virtue that took over sixty years for me to grasp. It took a lot of patience on God’s part to teach me the importance of patience. Stillness and patience are kindred spirits, so it’s not surprising they came into my heart at the same time. I’m not claiming to always be still or patient, but I do have a greater understanding of both thanks to God’s lessons of late.

I’m learning to wait in a different way, and I believe that is at the heart of Advent. My busyness kept me from the patience and stillness needed to wait as God desires, but that was my own doing. Busyness is the perfect hiding place, and that was just what I was looking for. God, however, had something much better in mind.

Busyness kept all that was whirling around me from crashing down on me. Like staying in front of a wave on the shore, those breakers could not catch me if I kept moving. God knew I would have to face the waves eventually, and He knew they would break me. He also knew I must come to a stop on my own, so He didn’t force me. He just held my hand and picked me up after they hit.

Fear of the waves and a lack of faith kept me from experiencing the stillness and patience God knew would bring me nearer to Him, but He also knew it would only work when I chose to stop. As I told my grand daughter, God doesn’t cause the bad things that happen to us; He simply holds and loves us while they are happening. Like mommy and daddy, He is there to make sure we know we are never alone. She liked, and understood, that kind of love as only a loved child can.

In the same conversation, she asked if she could ask God for things. I told her God heard our prayers and would answer them, but we don’t say give me this or give me that to God. Her response was, “No, that’s Santa!” I grinned and said, “Yeah, and there’s a big difference!”

I love learning from my grand daughters, but I’m afraid they didn’t offer much help with patience and stillness. Children are wiser than we, but they are still novices when it comes to patience and stillness -particularly at this time of year 😉

They do, however, sit  beautifully still when there is something worth waiting for or watching. This photo of the girls is a beautiful example of just that.

 

No Way Out!!

Several months ago, my landlord suggested putting up a privacy fence to create a place for the girls to play and for me to relax. I agreed to buy the fence, and he agreed to put in a concrete patio inside the fence. Through a series of mishaps that began back in April, the fence finally went up last week. I loved it! There was only one small problem; they didn’t have a latch but promised they would order one as soon as possible.

I told them not to worry because I didn’t mind having the door open; in fact, it allowed me to have privacy and a beautiful view. The girls and I enjoyed imagining how the space would look when finished and couldn’t wait to see it finished. They were here yesterday when the men came to install the latch and wanted to go out and watch them. It was miserably hot and humid, so I convinced them to play inside so we wouldn’t get in the workers’s way.

I should’ve followed the girls’ lead because an hour later, as the trucks were leaving, I realized I should have paid more attention while they were working. I assumed the guys would come in and tell me they were finished or have me to sign a release as they had done when they installed the fence, but they simply left. When I got outside, I understood why they had left without letting me know.

They had drilled holes up and down the gate and post as they repositioned the gate to accommodate the single latch they brought with them. It swung out onto the sidewalk and made access very awkward. We had to walk around it to get inside the fence, and that wasn’t what I wanted at all. I loved the way it opened before, but I was determined to be positive. I’m trying to be more flexible and go with the flow, so this was a great opportunity to practice patience. The girls and I went inside the fence and closed the gate behind us. I realized I had made a big mistake when I tried to get out.

I didn’t panic because I rarely see the obvious and figured no one would install a fence with no way out. The girls were sitting in the lounge chair facing away from the gate chatting away happily, so I decided to take my time and think through the situation. It took two minutes for irritation to give patience an easy path out of that fence. The girls and I were stuck inside inside a fence with no way to open the gate from the inside! I wasn’t scared because the porch was nearby, and I knew I could get over the connecting wall if I had to. I was angry at the men for putting a single latch on the outside of a gate, and I was madder at myself for not noticing!

When I realized there was no way out, I let my frustration show. The girls noticed something was going on and asked what was wrong. I told them everything was okay, but I was going to have to climb onto the porch and open the gate from the outside so they could get out. The girls watched as I made my way onto the porch, and they had a lot of questions when I opened the gate for them. They were tickled by my awkwardness, but impressed by my agility. We all laughed and decided to go back inside 🙂

The lessons of late have been difficult ones. God knew I was feeling trapped by more than my new fence and saw a teachable moment. He used the gate to help me learn the importance of making sure there is a way out before I go barreling into something. I will remember that lesson each time I open the gate and go into my beautiful outdoor space. I do believe it will be a beautiful space filled with lots of happy times, just not right now.

Sin is like a malfunctioning gate, but God’s forgiveness offers a way to escape. Yesterday, I walked right through that gate without giving getting out a second thought. I have always had the tendency to do just that in life. God knows my heart better than I do, and He knows I frequently get myself into situations with no way out, but He also knows I know to ask Him for help. He will always let me go where I choose, and He knows that I will get locked in a bad situation if not careful. I can pretend I’m not trapped, get mad and blame others for my misfortune,  or admit I’m wrong and let His forgiveness open the way to His will. Climbing that little barrier humbled and humiliated me, but I am so very thankful it was there. Otherwise, I would have had to break down a door or scream until someone heard me. The path to the porch offered a way out. God’s amazing grace offers the same.

Like the girls watching as I went over the little wall, God is impressed when I am willing to be humbled in order to get where He wants me to be. He also finds the humor, and helps me find the humor, in the learning process. I know from teaching that a little humor goes a long way when it comes to retaining knowledge 😉

Wearying God

As I’ve read Isaiah 7:10-17 this week, I’ve wondered how it applies to me.

“Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.” NASB

Like Ahaz, I weary God much the same way I weary myself and others when I worry. God tells Ahaz to ask for anything, but he refuses to test God. I can relate. I want God to back me up and give me what I want, but I don’t want to test Him. That tests Him and others in a worse way than asking for the moon would. God can give me the moon and just might if I asked Him for it, but like Ahaz, I could never do that.

Isaiah’s description of Christ hits upon holiness, a state of maturity that trusts without having to have proof. I want a sign and so does Ahaz, but that isn’t the way God works. He must grow weary just as parents do during this time of year when children test their patience. God is perfect, and I know suggesting He can be wearied is unrealistic. He isn’t like us, thank God! He is a patient Father who bears all things because that’s what love does.

Isaiah tells Ahaz that God will give him a sign and goes on to foretell the coming of Christ. God has given me the same sign as I await Christ’s Second Coming. Until then, I pray I will look to Immanuel for the reassurance I need when I worry. If I wait for His return with a heart focused upon the good, I won’t have to worry about getting weary, making other people weary, or wearying God.

Children grow weary waiting out this interminable week before Christmas. Parents grow weary wondering how they will ever finish all they have to do in such a short time. Wouldn’t it be great if we stopped worrying and let our hearts be filled with the sweet knowledge that God has a plan, and it’s working out wonderfully without our worrying.

More Than Waiting

James 5:7-10 extols the virtue of patience and bids me to look to farmers and prophets who exemplify it. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting, so James exhorts those who grow impatient to strengthen their hearts. Patience is more than simply waiting. It requires strength and endurance to run the race and not be discouraged. Listen to the what James has to say.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.  Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (NASB)

The more we have to wait, the more we complain. It’s easy to strike up a conversation in an airport terminal when flights are delayed or when waiting in a slow moving line. Complaints bring us together in one discord. As the wait becomes longer, complaints become divisive. Fingers start pointing, and judging begins in earnest. James tells us the Judge is standing right at the door; that should cause us to stop bickering and start working together in a way that focuses upon the moment when the door will open, and we will be in God’s presence.

We may die before Christ returns, and that was something that caused the early Christians much grief. It still causes grief as we all want to be here for the Second Coming. One way or the other, we will be in the presence of the Judge. The good news is that we can prepare for that meeting by living in a way that glorifies God. That includes repenting when we slip off the path. God doesn’t expect perfection. Christ is our righteousness. His perfect love and gracious forgiveness pave the way for patience when we strengthen our hearts and work together.

The Sound of My Own Voice:)

When I talk with a dear friend about what’s on my heart, I am often surprised by the sound of my own voice in an atmosphere of honest communion. As I returned to the week my mama died, I let out some frustration and found that I was hanging on to something I needed to release. I also realized my selfish need for the world of others to stop when mine does. It cannot, and I’m thankful God helped me see that this week. In fact, He made it clear that the world doesn’t ever stop. It brings me to my knees when it spins out of control, and it puts me flat on my face when I try to stop it. When I look up and remember Whose world it is and Whose child I am, I find the balance I need to walk and love in His kingdom here and now.

Yesterday was a fourteen hour day with the girls, and my patience wore thin as Lillyann refused to put away her Kindle, go to the bathroom, and lie down. Poor Mylah was awakened by the music at the end of her movie, so I had two girls awake at nine o’clock. I didn’t lose my temper, thank God, but I did wonder if it wouldn’t be better to just live somewhere else, pop in once in a while with some goodies and a little cooing, and be a different sort of Gigi. I really didn’t like the sound of my own voice in the atmosphere of impatience and knew that I wouldn’t trade living with and loving this sweet little family for anything in this world. Living and loving, like praying, requires a deep connection that is much more than once in a while. It is the forever love in 1 Corinthians 1-13.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or aclanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. NASB

I told Lillyann that I couldn’t help her if she didn’t listen and obey. I could hear God in my own voice and had to smile. I am very like little Lillyann when it comes to obeying, and I know that getting her and myself where we need to be is not a simple task. I don’t want to take the easy path when it comes to loving God, Mylah, Lillyann, or anyone else, and I thank God for not taking the easy path when it comes to loving me. Love is not giving in or giving up. It is giving as I’ve never given before. The girls may not understand now, just as I often don’t understand God, but they will when it matters:) I plan to keep listening to God and doing what I know He wants me to do. That’s love, and that’s not always easy, but experiencing love at its truest level is worth whatever God asks me to do. 

I can do my best and love the best way I know how my entire life and be miserable in my failure at love, or I can love the way God loves and find Him in the love I have for myself and for those in my path. There is no self help book or video that explains love any better than the beautiful scripture above. God continues to bring me back to His Word and His way when it comes to loving because He is love and the best teacher ever. With His help, I’m learning:)