This is My Commandment…

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by guest author Rita Patton

Love one another.  John 15:12

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. I Corinthians 13:4-8

Our pastor suggests to us each year that we might ask the Lord for a word for the year that we might follow Him more closely in word and deed. This year I prayed about my word and the Lord gave me LOVE.

Oh ok.  Uh, I think I do this, Lord, I really do love people. In fact I have certainly tried through the years to make loving the people a priority in the church families we have served in.  Love, really?

Then He added something – – LOVE WITHOUT JUDGMENT. What? Me? Well, I am not prejudiced? Partial? Arrogant? Petty? Phobic? Judgmental? ME?

I just read a book a few weeks ago by Bob Goff, Everybody, Always.  He is a lawyer that travels the word advocating for the persecuted and sharing the love of Jesus. As you can tell by the title of the book this is the way he describes HOW Jesus loved.

This caused me to really think about who does the Word tell us Jesus loved?

He loved his mother, his best friends, a circle of friends (men and women), a betrayer friend, a denier friend, the mentally ill and possessed, lepers, paralytics, tax collectors, widows, a centurion and his servant, adulterers, a bleeding woman, blind, ruler in the synagogue and his daughter, crowds, rich, poor, a thief, his enemies … believers in His Sonship and unbelievers. Supporters and scoffers.

Everybody.

Always.

LOVE is my word this year and I know I won’t be able to express love like my Lord did, but I truly am going to work on the WITHOUT JUDGMENT part each day and with each person I encounter.

GOD IS LOVE. (1 John 4:8)

Valentines, Gal-entines, Pal-entines!

You are loved!

Valentine’s Day is a holiday that is hard for so many. It makes us focus on romantic love and also, on any lack of romance in our lives.

But that is just ridiculous!

Life is a wonderful gift from God! Let us savor it and enjoy it and appreciate what we do have rather than mourn what we don’t!

We are on a grand adventure ladies – an adventure with the Father. Some of our adventure is pleasing and fulfilling and exciting. Other parts are painful, discouraging, and just plain hard. But isn’t that the way adventures are? Aren’t they a mix of good and bad? Magellan and Vasco de Game and other explorers of old had a mix of great days and awful ones, huge discoveries and successes mixed with utter failure. So why would we expect the adventure of our lives to be any different?

We are lured into false expectations that can ultimately do us in, emotionally at least. We feel we want a love in our life, a man. We have an expectation of that. We expect we’ll get married and live happily-ever-after like the heroines in stories do. We expect roses and romance and fairy tales. But life is an adventure story, and adventures have trials and tragedy as well as love and hope.

So here is your February 14th challenge: Whatever your circumstance, whether pleasing or disappointing to you, hang onto it and savor it in any way you can as part of your grand adventure with God!

Does that seem impossible for your situation? Try these thought changers.

  • closeup-photography-of-pink-rose-flower-in-clear-glass-vase-835773No matter how badly you feel yourself, show love by giving a single flower to someone else.
  • Feeling left out because you don’t have a date? Call a friend and initiate an outing.
  • Make a handmade Valentine’s card for a child in your life to speak truth, peace, love, and encouragement into their life.
  • Make your co-worker’s day brighter in any small way: bring them coffee, cover some of their work load for them, give them a small box of “conversation hearts,” … Use your imagination.
  • Be the friend to someone else that you long to have. Take them a cupcake!
  • Text everyone in your phone list and tell them you love them and that they are special!
  • Pass out boxes of Little Debbie heart-shaped cakes to the homeless you pass on the streets each day.
  • Cut out dozens of red and pink hearts, write encouragement on each one, and use them to decorate someone’s room, car, or office.
  • Share the Gospel of Jesus (a gospel of love and redemption) with one who is feeling unloved.

The bottom line – Get your mind off yourself and show God’s love in small tangible ways to people around you. Even strangers!

We can sit and mourn not having a Romantic Valentine in our life, or we can be that Gal-entine or Pal-entine that makes someone else feel loved. You are guaranteed to feel better yourself if you take time to show love to another. And your Father God will be pleased.

close-up-photography-of-cupcake-on-gray-ceramic-plate-1028708Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 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 4:7-12

 

 

What Does a “Christian” Marriage Look Like?

Our life group went to see Overcomer this week. (It’s a really uplifting movie by the way! You should see it.) Although the movie is not about Christian marriage per se, two of the central characters are Christians who are husband and wife. As the storyline has the characters face challenges and oppostion, the audience gets a glimpse of the producers’ concept of Christian marriage, a glance at how this fictional couple interacts and how they handle their family and the stuff of life. Scenes that touched the heart and drew out the tissues. We all left the theater declaring it a great evening out.

But that was not the end of my evening. The 7:15 movie start time got me home way past bedtime for my 58-year-old body. As I was settling in for the night, a random question popped up on my phone. A sweet younger mom who had been at the movie asked, “Is that what a Christian marriage really looks like or is that just Hollywood fluff?” Woah! A valid question, but difficult to answer in a quick text. I told her I’d have to think on it a bit and get back to her. I still haven’t answered. It’s been a couple of days. I guess I’m trying to process it here.

As I viewed the movie, I had identified with the married couple. I laughed at the little mistakes they made that hit too close to home and teared up over the tender moments I could relate to. I identified with that Christian couple on screen. But was it realistic? Or was it more an ideal of what we hope to be as spouses but rarely live up to? Did it project a healthy view of marriage for this younger generation, many of whom haven’t grown up in a home with both parents and therefore don’t have first hand observations of what a Christain marriage is supposed to look like? Or was it sugar-coated and overly idealistic? I won’t make a judgment on that.

But focusing on real life because of my friend’s text, I realized something. More important for me than the movie’s depiction of the marriages of believers was my recognition that I was now the “older woman” of Titus 2:3-5, and I was failing in my God-given role to teach the younger women what I’ve spent my whole married life struggling to learn on my own. Wouldn’t my pain and wisdom learned through the montains and valleys of married life be made somehow more worthwhile if other people benefitted from it without having to go through those same tough mistakes themselves?

What does a real Christian marriage look like?

I realize that this topic cannot be conquered in one short blog, but perhaps this will be a first in an ongoing look at strengthening marriages and families. It surely goes hand-in-hand with the idea of homebuilding and constructing our lives on the principles of God’s Word that we have been discussing at GFBC this year. For today, let’s touch on a couple of the more important “looks” of a Christian marriage.

 1. Selflessness.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:3-8

I struggle with this verse in my interactions with society in general as I guess we all do. Could I be selfless and let that other person have my parking spot at the mall? Could I rejoice with a co-worker who got the promotion I wanted? Could I let go of my one-upmanship tendancies when hanging out with my girlfriends and bragging about what our 18-month-olds are doing, or not doing? Could I let the other person break in line or cut into traffic without it igniting my anger or road rage? Yep, those times are difficult to learn to lay down our self-will.

But those things paled in comparison to learning to lay down my selfish will to my husband! These verses destroy me because they relfect to me the sinful, self-serving wife I really am! I’m more concerned with what he didn’t do than with my own failures. I speak angrily and harshly to him, worse than I would ever speak to my friends. I want my way in the household, and often berate him for NOT doing it my way. Instead of being a humble partner in life, I come at him as bossy and controlling. I must say that in the middle of an argument with my husband I rarely even consider having the mind of Christ. And to humble myself to the point of death for my “Sweetie”! No thank you! Not when I’m in my selfish frame of mind. Now when I’m in my loving mood I might say I’d do anything for him, but that’s a lie. Because when I’m living in my selfish, fleshly state I won’t give an inch!

I truly believe I could spend my whole life working on trying to live out just these 6 verses in my relationship with my husband and never conquer it. I’m to do nothing towards my husband out of selfish ambition or conceit! Nothing! Do I humble myself and value him above myself? Do I put his interests before my own? What a generous way of relating! Do I have the mindset of Jesus when I interact with my husband? Do I serve my husband as Christ served the world, humbly and gently, laying down my life for his?

It takes this selflessness to be able to love unconditionally, and it takes unconditional love to be able to be truly selfless.

Unconditional Love.

beautiful-blur-bridal-256737Our notion of love in American society is often based on movies, books, or Disney fairytales. Outside of the Christian community there is a lack of understanding of what love truly is. Romantic love hyped by Hollwood is seen as true love. Sex is viewed as love. Rarely in modern secular society do you see the idea of laying down your will and your life as a crucial component of real love. Conversely, you often hear, “I just don’t love him anymore; he’s not meeting my needs.”

When it comes to modern examples of agape love (God’s true, genuine love) we have few to none. People want to be served not to serve, we want things our way, we love others as long as they do what is desired, and we get angry when others dissppoint or let us down. To have a healthy marriage based on unconditional love we have to go against the flow of society and grasp the teachings of Jesus that seem so contrary to life these days. Ideals that tell us the least will be the greatest, the last will be first, a leader must be the servant of all, to save our life we must lose it, and a man must lay down that life for those he says he loves. A thriving marriage must become an incubator of this kind of authentic, agape love.

We must first, as two autonomous individuals, each choose to love well. We must work on it, practice it, and pray for more of it. As we grow individually in this respect, we will also begin to live that unconditional love out to others: our children, our extended family, friends, acquaintances, and those who have wounded us, our enemies. When we each allow God to work in our hearts to make us love more unconditionally, we will see our marriage becoming a sweet reflection of the sacrificial love of Christ, and it will be a testimony to the world around us and will draw others to Our Savior. The world is looking and longing for that unconditional love of Christ. We as His image-bearers must be vigilant about the picture we are painting of God the Father and His great love for humanity.

Check out what Ephesian 5 has to say about love and marriage:

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality,… Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)  and find out what pleases the Lord…. 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, … 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ…. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. … 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5 NIV

  • Imitate Christ.
  • Walk in love.
  • Give your self up as a sacrifice to God.
  • Be light, not darkness.
  • Please the Lord.
  • Be careful how you live.
  • Be wise.
  • Make the most of every opportunity.
  • Submit to one another.
  • Love each other.
  • Respect each other.

These things cannot humanly be done. But a heart fully given to Christ is filled with His Holy Spirit and thereby made able to conquer the unwilling flesh.

I challenge each of us this week to love our spouse unconditionally and walk selflessly, putting the interests of our spouse ahead of our own self-interest. It won’t be easy. It won’t be fun. The cross wasn’t easy. It wasn’t fun. As we follow in Jesus’ humble servanthood and self-sacrifice, we will be a light in a dark world and an encouragement and role model for those younger women needing to see how Christian marriage works. We will become a living picture of Christ. In today’s cultural lingo, let’s be the icon, the avatar, the meme, or the GIF that diplays a glimpse of Christ for all to see.

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James Spann’s Labcoat & The Fried Green Tomatoes

I like a good southern food. Years ago I learned to cook green tomatoes, okra, potatoes, chicken, squash… all the same, and the best way… fried. Dredged in flour or cornmeal fried in oil in a cast iron skillet. That’s the only way I know to do it. Perhaps I am the only one, but as I have said before, I am food weird. I do not particularly enjoy the foods I cook. There is one exception to this rule, and that would be when I make southern home cooking. I come from a long line of “Pickers” while they cook. Just seeing that in print looks weird – I should clarify. When one prepares food one may “pick” meaning to taste one’s food during the “fixing” phase or one does not “pick” meaning one does not partake of one’s food during its preparatory stages.

I tend not to be a picker, again when making southern foods, this is the exception. I am compelled to eat that first bite of fried okra, fried green tomato, steam-fried potatoes and onions, or fried squash. I am convinced that southern fried foods must line the Marriage Banquet table of the Lamb and His Bride, but I have one complaint about such near to manna from heaven.

My one complaint about fried food is how it makes the house and my clothing smell. It annoys me terribly for the aroma of fried foods to infiltrate my clothing and walls forcing me to smell it long after the I’ve cooked and consumed such delicacies. The odor serves to taunt me.

Recently I found myself frying up some green tomatoes. My Mama had joined us for supper and as we ate them she said, “These taste just like my Mama’s.” She turned to my youngest child and said, “Your Mama makes the best fried green tomatoes.” I might’ve blushed a little at such an esteemed statement of praise. As supper drew to an end and we cleaned up, suddenly I remembered James Spann’s lab coat. It had been in my kitchen and surely had taken on the aroma of supper’s fried smell side effects.

man-1378638812bhr.jpgScott Martin was the something-or-other of the Weatherreadyfest of 2018. As the something-or-other he was responsible for helping to get things ready and prepared for an event in St Louis. One of Our local favorite meteorologists, James Spann, was scheduled to do something that requires a lab coat. Scott Martin mentioned this in a to-do list kind of passing, and I set my eyes to looking for and acquiring said lab coat. Scott Martin knows me well enough to know if I am given a task I will do my best to accomplish it. Lab-coat for local celebrity needed, must be minimal is cost, and “not dingy-looking.” Consider it taken care of.

As it would happen I found the perfect specimen at a local discount store. The kind of discount store that is random at any given time, boasts a variety of “discounted” items and is not necessarily known for its neat and organized appearance. The kind of store that doesn’t give you the hangers when they wad up your purchase and toss it into a flimsy plastic bag with some other store’s name on it. Perhaps if I had of received a hanger none of the following would have happened.

The day we made the purchase, I hung the bag with the wadded attire on a chair in the kitchen with every intention of hanging it up and ironing it as needed. Then I had planned on carefully packing and sending it to St Louis for the event. By the time I realized I had left it there in that bag, it was too late. Fried green tomato smell permeated the white cotton coat. I imagined for a moment Mr. Spann walking around the stage, giving his presentation alongside Ginger Zee, both getting a whiff of old fried green tomatoes every time he raised his arm and directed the audience’s attention to tornados and polygons. I imagined him stopping mid-sentence, looking for a plate and Ginger smelling his coat which served as a reminder of her time in Alabama. I imagined him slinging the taunting garment aside and mumbling something about a dry cleaner and some Febreeze. As my active and hardly accurate imagination took over I was reminded about the King’s Word and what it says about smells. Aromas.

That we are to be the pleasing aroma of Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:15 “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

We are to be so covered by Christ that he infiltrates every part of our lives in such a way that folks know we are a part of Him. His love should be like that Fried food infused coat that we put on and it permeates everything that we do. In essence, the aroma of Christ is Love, and that love should stick with you and wherever you go, just like the aroma of southern fried goodness.

Colossians 3:12-14  (NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

2 Corinthians 2_15 among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.".png

 

God Gave Me Back My Daddy: A Story of Healing and Hope

Editor’s note: As Father’s Day approaches we share this story of restoration to offer hope. Jesus changes things, even when it seems impossible to the human mind.

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And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten. Joel 2:25a 

In my childhood, all I remember about my Daddy is him leaving for work. He was a bread delivery man. He left between 3 and 4 a.m. and got home around 8 p.m. On his off day he worked in his Father’s produce company. On Sunday he usually got a call from someone to bring bread because they had run out. He worked very hard to provide for our family; I am so grateful for that. It taught me to work hard. But, I missed out on getting to know my Father.

Daddy was an athlete in high school, so I wanted to be an athlete to get his approval. I wasn’t athletic, at least not until high school. I started playing softball in the fifth grade, Daddy never saw me play until I was married and had my own children. We never got to share that experience.

Daddy wasn’t an affectionate person while I was growing up. He didn’t say “I love you,” even though he did. He didn’t hug us. I began, sometime in childhood to believe he didn’t love me. This thought grew and festered until it became an unshakable belief. I did not believe my Daddy loved me until one day in college.

My mother and father were separated at the time. We were having issues with our septic tank, it was leaking in the yard. I called Daddy and told him to come look at it. I remember being very angry at him, even though he had done nothing wrong. This anger sprang from a bitter root I had against him. I began telling him all he needed to do; my words were harsh and critical. I made it clear, I didn’t much like him! Then it happened, tears began to roll down his face. I was shocked. I had never seen him cry, ever! I really believed he wasn’t capable of showing emotion. Then he said something that forever changed our lives. “Angelia, I love you. I need you to love me.” He loved me!? Until that moment I could not believe that. God broke through my hard heart and softened it toward him. I knew things would never be the same.

img_7186Sometime later Daddy came back home for a while. I began nursing school. I was still learning to trust him, and was on very uncertain ground. Just before I graduated, one morning I was leaving for the hospital. Taped to the doorknob on the front door, was a note. It was from Daddy, it said, I am so proud of how hard you have worked in school. You set your mind on a goal, and you have accomplished it. This will bring success in your life. I love you, Daddy. I still have that little note, tucked away in a drawer in my jewelry box, it is a treasure to me!

Not long after, I married and moved away. Our relationship never had time to grow. I remember coming home to visit, as I would leave, Daddy would be standing at the top of the hill crying. I cried too, would I ever know him?

Then tragedy struck. Daddy had to have open heart surgery. After surgery, he suffered a stroke. He was weak on one side and could not talk; his short-term memory was gone. He and my mother had divorced by this time. He was alone. He had no one to care for him. He came to live with us. His speech began to come back, and he began to get better. But he was different. We spent every day together, we would take walks to build his strength, and we would talk and talk. At night, as I helped him get ready for bed, he would hug me, and say I love you. He would thank me for taking care of him. I would go to bed and tell my husband this is so strange, but so good! Our relationship began to bud and blossom. A few months later he went home.

Daddy had met a sweet lady, and one day I got a call from him saying, “Guess what I’m doing?” I had no idea.

“I’m singing in a choir!”

“What, you can sing?!”

They had joined a choir of senior citizens; he loved it. Then someone invited them to visit their church. They began attending, regularly, every time the doors opened. God began a work in him, something I had been praying for years. Occasionally he would mention to me he wasn’t sure of his salvation; when I questioned him, he would change the subject.

Five years ago tragedy struck again, his precious wife, Julia, died. The light of Daddy’s life was gone. He was lost, depressed and lonely. He was unable to care for himself at this time. He wanted to stay in his home, so we hired a nurse for a year. Then the money ran out. So I began going to his house to clean, fix his meds, and spend time with him. We began a routine of me coming and having dinner together. He has been hospitalized several times and God has protected him in miraculous ways. I began to really know my Daddy. He is funny, loves to tell jokes, (I’ve heard them all!) loves to talk, loves history, and his family. He has so many stories to tell about his family, and I love hearing them.

Two years ago, after mentioning again his doubts about his salvation, we sat down and went through the Bible. That night with angels circling around us, Daddy settled this once and for all! What a blessing to be there with him and share that moment. He has never mentioned it again.

We have come to a place of complete healing and restoration in our relationship. Through a series of events, ordained by God, I was given back my lost years with my father. Some might have seen this as an inconvenience, but I saw it as a divine appointment.

The Daddy I never knew, the Daddy I thought didn’t love me, loves me deeply.

Yes, God restored what the locust had eaten. He gave me a gift, wrapped in tragedy, to bring me something I could never have imagined. I don’t regret one single minute, and never will!

And I and my Daddy, will spend eternity in heaven!

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The God Who Runs

by guest author Joni Shankles (Reposted from Joni’s blog with permission. Read more from Joni here.)
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Rebellion.

Selfish demands.
Surly words.
Shameful choices.

We’ve all played the rebel, rejecting the rules to get what we want, to experience something new.

Regret.

I was so stupid.

We’ve all suffered the consequences of rebellious choices, finding ourselves in a mess we can’t escape on our own.

Rejection.

I’m no longer worthy.

And sometimes, we fall into despair, feeling ashamed and blaming ourselves again and again.

What can we do when we’ve failed, when we feel cut off from the good life we knew before, separated from God and those we love?

Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Son to show rebels like us what to do.

When you’ve chosen your own way, when you’ve suffered the consequences, when you don’t even feel worthy to be called a child of God….

Get up.
Turn around.
Go back to your Father.

I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went to his father.
Luke 15:18-19 CSB

Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Son to show us how love responds.

Love sees.
Love runs.
Love forgives.
Love restores.
Love keeps searching.

But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20-24 CSB

God is not a father who writes us off.

God is the Father who sees.
He is watching for the moment our hearts turn toward home again.

God is the Father who runs.
He closes the gap to embrace us as dearly loved children, not hired workers.

God is the Father who forgives.
He is filled with compassion and shows us mercy when we repent.

God is the Father who restores.
He celebrates our return, welcomes us home, and demonstrates His love, providing more than we could ask or imagine.

God is the Father who shows us that our worth is not earned, but inherited. Our worth comes from our relationship, initiated and sustained by the Father.

We need to remember that when we’re not playing the rebel, we are easily tempted to play the judge. The rebel demands his own way. His judgmental brother demands he pay for it.

The Father loves them both.

So his father came out and pleaded with him…“‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15:28, 31-32 CSB

God is the Father who keeps searching.
He invites the self-righteous to trust His judgment and join the celebration.

God is a good Father.

He sees.
He runs.
He forgives.
He restores.
He keeps searching.

We are God’s children.
We belong to Him.
When we fail or when we have it all together, we can trust His love.
And His love never fails.

See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! 1 John 3:1 CSB

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A Mary is A Mary

One of my Nearest and Dearest visited the U.K. this past summer. She brought home souvenirs that I truly treasure, they were English tea leaves housed in a tiny Big Ben tin. Once used, I cut the box that it had come in apart and made bookmarks. Currently, these memorial snap shots of London’s major landmarks can be found in the book of Jeremiah Chapter 29. The tiny Big Ben tin is in my pantry, a reminder of our friendship and her trip.

Much to my surprise and delight for my fortieth Birthday she gave me one of the most treasured gifts I have ever received. A gift so unique I’d’ve not even known to ask for it. Wrapped in a simple blue box with the words “Historic Royal Palaces” lettered in gold was something I’d always wanted I just didn’t know it until I received it. I squealed when I opened the box. As I unfolded the bubble wrap I uncovered a for real English porcelain pexels-photo-810050.jpegtea cup and saucer. I do not possess the vocabulary to describe how enchanting that cup and saucer are. Beautiful and dainty, they evoke a feeling of elegance when I look at them; I even hold my pinky out when I pick up that cup and sip my imaginary tea. I have yet to use it, for I am waiting for as unique and special an occasion as it is. I have placed it in a place of prominence and I admire it daily.

I enjoy television from across the pond, British entertainment is some of my favorite. In fact, it would seem much of the British world brings me delight. I particularly like how the Brits do documentaries. Recently I was watching one such documentary and found myself pondering the Marys the King knew when He walked this earth.

There is one presenter I especially enjoy, he’s a jolly fellow with a grand sense of dry British humor and is entertaining as well as educational. He says things like “flabby bits” and will draw the eye to the unusual and often overlooked details of art. After watching a special on Impressionists, he changed how I pronounce Van Gogh.

the-tardis-263153_640(I once watched a Dr. Who episode centered around the Impressionist Vincent Van Gough and I will not even lie, it made me so distressed I shed actual tears. My children still find it funny that I cried while watching Dr. Who. They refer to that particular episode as “The one that makes Mama cry.” They are right, it does. Every. Single. Time.)

I digress, the aforementioned Jolly Presenter was explaining his point of view regarding the Renaissance art, he introduced the audience to the various Marys of the Bible depicted in classical art. He spoke of the Mother Mary, Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and Mary Magdalene. He explained that many times the Marys overlap in Renaissance art. To drive his point home he would say “A Mary is a Mary” his British accent stretching out the name Mary in the statement. It sound more like “A Maaawrie is a Maaawrie.” I mused at that thought and what I actually knew from the King’s Word about those Marys. Mary his mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Salome and James. I thought about Matthew 28, when Jesus had been raised from the dead. I imagined how dark and overwhelmed those Marys must have felt as their Precious Jesus was beaten and crucified, how he hung on that cursed tree amongst common criminals. How deeply sad they must have felt as they lay His lifeless body in that tomb. The pain would have been overwhelming. How so early on that Sunday morning those Marys went to finish the job of preparing his body for burial. I thought about that “Mary is a Mary” mentality and how very inaccurate that it actually is.

When Mary Magdalene cried and mourned, believing that Jesus’ body had been stolen (John 19:13-15), she wept with grief there before her Lord. She did not recognize Him. But then He did what He so often does for the ones He loves. He spoke her name. Verse 16 says he said only her name “Mary” for her to know who He was. He knew her all along.

The reality is, in the eyes of the King, a Mary is not just a Mary. The truth is we are all uniquely created. Jesus knew each Mary then individually just as He does now. He is in the business of making relationships. The purpose of His death was to restore relationship with God.

As I’ve pondered on the British Presenter, how his statement prompted me to ponder, I am in awe of the King and how He loves each of us individually and uniquely. How the world may scream something different, yet that will never negate the truth that Jesus loves me and He loves you too.

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You are a precious treasure! The King loves you indidvidually and uniquely!

Love Has a Name

Scott Martin is notorious for scoring things no one else in our family has. Once he won some bleacher seats from the television station that had previously resided at Talladega Superspeedway. He brought them home, perched them on our patio and would sit in them regularly. They were very ugly and I winced every time I had to look at them. He eventually sold them and they reside now at a friend’s tire store, I still wince when I see them, they are still ugly, but at least they aren’t on my patio.

tickets-672414_640He has won countless tickets to events, we have never paid for tickets to the Monster Truck Jam, but he and my children have been multiple times. He usually wins a “family four pack” and since there are five of us, I always forfeit my ticket option. I have come to appreciate that I am the real winner, a quiet evening at home. He is forever receiving “swag” in the mail from folks: autographs and goods from names I am not even vaguely familiar with, trinkets that bear some logo or advertising on it, original art, and all manner of music paraphernalia.

We never bought a ticket to a comedy event the entire time we dated. Then there was that prize money from Wheel of Fortune that we used to adopt our youngest child. He has a knack for things like that. If I truly believed in luck I’d say he got a hefty helping of it. I on the other hand do not recollect when I have ever won a thing. I am accustomed to his winnings, so when he mentioned he had received some tickets to the upcoming Ice Show I was not at all surprised.

We decided to make a night of it, we took our teenage children and one of their friends to watch the costume clad Disney characters skate about on a sheet of frozen ice. As the show began the characters announced that we were going to discover the “World’s Greatest Treasure” I turned to my left and said to Scott Martin, “It’s love.”

“Huh?”

“The greatest treasure is love.”

“How do you know? We haven’t seen this before.”

“I just know. It is love.”

Throughout the performance the filled arena would be shown items pulled from a treasure chest that would segue into the next act. All treasures, but none the greatest treasure. At one point I literally laughed out loud because, Scott Martin had been repeatedly assaulted by the various extremities of the approximate six-year-old Woody-hat-wearing boy seated to his left. Scott would adjust, lean over to me and matter-of-factly say, “This kid has hit me like fifteen times.” At the exact moment I looked, said Woody-Hat-Wearer was upside down in his foldable arena seat. We remember those days, when our six year-old was upside down in his chair kicking the seat occupant next to him. For years we would “bookend” our kids so as to avoid a cowboy boot to a stranger’s eye.

At one point in the performance Scott leaned over and said, “That looks like aquarium line dancing.” If I had’ve been drinking one of those fifty dollar Cokes you can only get at such events, I’d’ve for sure spit it onto the seat occupant in front of me. I am not entirely sure the limited gravity of water would even give way to line dancing, but I didn’t argue, I just laughed.

We watched the parade of stars, found ourselves talking amongst ourselves about the costumes and at times focused on the people around us more than the ice skaters below. Our nose-bIeed-section seats afforded us little in the way of seeing details below. As I was people watching, I noticed a couple of Daddies who had nodded off, a few other teenagers, who like my own knew every word to every song sung, despite informing me prior to the beginning of the show that they might be “too old for this.” I noticed Mamas with phones, kids with cotton candies and cell phone selfies galore.

ice-snow.jpgA few rows ahead I spotted a curly headed little girl. She was fun just to watch. It was clear to me that her favorite princess was on the ice as she began to jump up and down. She pulled her Mama’s shirt and pointed wildly at the princess-dress clad woman skating below. As her favorite princess would randomly wave to her adoring fans the curly headed girl began to shout with adoration. She waved wildly screaming, “Look here! See me!” When the Princess skater whizzed by without a personal acknowledgement the curly headed girl picked up her petitions. She held the dollar store glow sticks her mama had given her. She waved it so fast the pink and orange neon sticks looked like a blur.

I feel certain that the Princess never saw her Number One Most Adoring Fan, way up high in those seats, waving that literal Neon sign. In that moment, The King spoke. He reminded me that He is never far away from us. We don’t have to yell, “Look here! See Me!” to get His attention. We don’t have to wildly wave cheap glow sticks for him to focus on us. He is near and we need only say His Name.

As the show came to a close the “Greatest Treasure” was revealed, and it was indeed love. As we made our way out of our seats Scott Martin said over the hum of the people, “Love has a Name, and it’s Jesus.” He may not have been exactly right about the line dancing in an aquarium observation, but he got that one right for sure.

Love does have a Name and it is Jesus.

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“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

 

His Love is More

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“It’s a fig tree.”

As nonchalantly as “the sky is blue” or “I love Minecraft.”

“It’s a fig tree.”

She was a few steps ahead of me, I watched as she rubbed her hands over the leaf and looked behind her to see if I was paying attention. I recognized the gnarly branches and distinct leaf shape immediately. I quizzed her, “How do you know?”

My oldest daughter, Charlotte looked at me and matter-of-factly said, “I can smell it.”

fig-sliced-plate-wooden-tableThe fig tree makes me always think of two things… cookies and the King. I love a Fig Newton, but I don’t love a fig. In my mind, the fig is the King’s fruit, well, sort of. The first Mom and Dad of this world covered themselves with fig leaves after they felt shame for the first time. A feeling that has been palpable through the ages. Shame compels those who are covered by it to make clouded choices and feel the lowest of lows.

It wasn’t until about 9 years ago that I conjectured that the fruit in the garden was a fig. After all why in the world would such an unruly and itchy choice be what one would choose to cover his or her lady or gentleman parts with? I reasoned simply, it was the closest option. Later the King cursed that same fruitless tree, it withered and died, almost as if He were demonstrating His feelings toward the tree that represented sin and death. The very thing that He was soon going to overcome. Perhaps not. Perhaps it is just an unfortunate specimen of botany and I have a bit too big an imagination to leave it as such.

Regardless, as my daughter stated the undeniable fact of the fig trees presence, I pondered what sin and death meant for my oldest, the first of my children, not born of my body, but of something much stronger, my soul. I pondered how sin and death were the very thing that brought her to me. newborn in incubatorBorn way too early and in poor health, she had to fight for her very life. A death sentence at birth was proclaimed over her before she could even contemplate the significance.

Jesus healed her, and she too overcame death. She understands as much as it is possible for a teenage girl to understand. I’ve often said she has an old soul… She is slow and deliberate. She loves a soup, classic rock, and frowns upon the frivolous. Perhaps it is because in the short years she has lived, she has a better grasp on the fragility of life, the beautiful things of this world, and has experienced the healing power and the love of a Savior that many adults do not.

There was a time when I questioned Jesus regarding His plan for her. I wondered why He had scanned the world over and picked me to be her Mama. He gave me her verse when she was desperately sick, and her future seemed unclear. His Word simply stated, He had plans for her, plans to protect her, plans for good, plans for her future, plans filled with Hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

He has confirmed time and time again that He trusts me, He has equipped me fully, and that He loves her more than I ever could. That fact right there blows my mind. Thankfully, the truth of that is not contingent on me understanding it. His love is immeasurably more. His love is more than my sin and mess ups. His love is more than my insecurities, inadequacies, and anxieties. His love is more than I was, I am, or I am going to be.

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