Tag: Love (page 1 of 2)

never little

Linus Van Pelt nailed it. When he wrapped his beloved blanket around a frail tree in 1965, he loved. Maybe it just needs a little love. His simple gesture demonstrated love for us to follow.

 Just a little love.

Early this summer, I maneuvered my cart up and down the flower aisles. Displays overflowed with vibrant red geraniums, bright yellow marigolds, and happy-face daisies.

In the clearance section, I stopped in front of a shopping cart filled with discarded hanging baskets.  A flowery mess of drooping petunias and withered impatiens, smashed and thirsty.

They just need a little love. 

The flowers needed someone to love them and provide much-needed water. They will be fine, I told myself, maybe even thrive. I selected two hanging baskets from the discarded pile. At home, my husband surveyed the wilted flowers and questioned my reasoning. They just need a little love.

With the arrival of the holidays, busy days are filled with lists to check, schedules to keep, and lines to endure. But everywhere I go, I see them. They stand behind cash registers, they jockey for parking spaces, and they brush past me in crowded stores. In their faces, I see exhaustion, frustration, and loneliness.

Like forgotten tiny trees and withered flowers, I see people who just need a little love.

Slow me down, Lord. Help me see those in need of a little love.

Help me see and move me to give love. 

Like Linus, I want to see a need and offer a little love. A smile. An opened door. A parking space. An overdue phone call. An encouraging note. A visit. A hug. A drink of water. Maybe even a beloved blue blanket.

A little love yields big results. My clearance flowers bloomed and provided beauty throughout the summer. Each Christmas season, Linus’ scraggly tree is transformed into a beautiful tree laden with decorations. A little love goes a long way.

Because when love is given, it is never little.

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you…yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand. ~ Mother Teresa

 

 

nine

They are packed and awaiting their long international trip. Some will travel many miles by rafts, canoes, helicopters, bikes, wagons, and feet. Others on camels, oxen, horses, and elephants. Stretched rubber bands contain bulging treasures. Nine red and green boxes ready for smiles and giggles.

Nine boxes for nine little girls.

Nine lives changed through Operation Christmas Child.

Nine stuffed animals (bears and bunnies) for empty arms and snuggles. Nine glittery play necklaces to adorn nine petite necks. Nine notepads for scribbled hopes, dreams, and fears. Nine toy flutes to compose joyful noise.

  Why all girls? 

 Words from the Director at a Compassion Center in Kenya remind me. In this 21st century, he battles the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation. Girls begin life, disadvantaged, simply for being whom God created them to be. They are forgotten, unwanted, and too often abused.

Nine boxes for nine little girls.

Nine paint sets to paint brighter futures where they discover value and worth. Nine inflatable globes to encourage big dreams. Nine foam crosses to point them to their loving Heavenly Father.

Nine toothbrushes to brighten smiles. Nine packs of crayons, markers, colored pencils to create beauty.  Nine wash cloths to scrub away dirt and reveal their loveliness.

Nine boxes for nine little girls.

Inside, heart-felt words for 9 precious little girls…

You are loved.

 

 

Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.  Psalm 127:3 (TLB)

(Top Photo:  Courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse)

 

 

Jesus in a box

Maria and Carlos and their two children live on a hillside outside Santiago, Dominican Republic. Their home is pieced together with thin boards. Wide gaps allow sunbeams as well as thunderstorms to enter. This family of four share a bed under a simple tin roof.

Samuel lives with his sick grandmother in a Maasai village near Arusha, Tanzania. My eyes worked to adjust to the darkness inside their hut. The guide asked if I would pray for this woman as we knelt beside her bed. How soon would Samuel be alone in this world?

Home visits are the heartbeat of Compassion trips. Stepping into homes, shrinks my world and humbles my soul. I observe the challenging living conditions of children and I am forever changed.

At the end of each home visit, a box is presented to the family containing staples such as rice, beans, and cooking oil. Items to fill their shelves and their stomachs.

Following a home visit in Tanzania, I walked to the bus with Pastor Joseph. I chattered about the box and how it blessed the family. He responded it wasn’t about the contents of the box, but the love behind the box. The box reminds the family they are loved. The box is a love gift: Jesus in a box.

Jesus visited people’s homes. He sat, ate, and loved people in their familiar surroundings. The Christ-centeredness of Compassion is demonstrated with every box presented. Jesus in a box exemplifies Compassion’s mission: Food to fill their stomach given with love in Jesus’ Name provides hope for their soul.

When they unwrap Jesus in cardboard, families experience love and blessings. They see Jesus. I witnessed this Spirit-fueled phenomena with Maria and Carlos. In the presence of their two children, they prayed to receive Jesus into their hearts.

Jesus came out of the box and entered their hearts.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

 

dirty hands

I spent most of my childhood years dirty. My childhood farm offered many opportunities for play and work.

In the summertime, my sisters and I spent hours creating play houses in the cows’ pasture. We used shovels and rakes to assist with construction. The limestone rock outcroppings functioned as the foundation and we added misshapen tree branches or rocks as furniture. A flat rock served as a table or chair. A tree branch doubled as a coat rack. Our imaginations knew no limit.

Summertime also involved plenty of work. The sweet corn and potato fields required weeding and hoeing. The rows seemed to go on forever. Baling hay,  feeding cows, and picking vegetables kept us busy and dirty too.

Saturday evenings promised bath time. Time to get clean for Sunday church. The dirt from playing and working washed away leaving a brown ring around our cast iron bath tub. Washing allowed the clean to shine through.

Jesus, Creator of the Universe,  rolled up His sleeves and got His hands dirty too.

 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. John 9:6 NIV

Dirt plus spit equals mud. Messy and dirty mud. Jesus knew opening eyes and changing lives sometimes required dirt and spit.

Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. John 9:7 NIV

Washing removed the dirt allowing the True Light to shine through.

 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. John 9:38 NIV

Jesus’ dirty hands along with His bloodstained hands on the cross granted the man sight and eternal life. Eyes opened and sins forgiven.

My Saturday night bath began a 24-hour window of temporary cleanliness. A new adventure loomed for me on Monday morning. But this man found eternal cleanliness by uttering three words, “Lord, I believe.” 

All because Jesus loved and got His hands dirty.

 

 

 

 

 

flashback

One year ago.

Flashback:  June 2, 2016       Karatu, Tanzania                 

How much love can a heart hold? When blessed with the opportunity to love deeper and wider, my heart expanded just like my elastic waistband pants.  As the youngest and poorest surrounded me in Karatu, Tanzania,  I freely loved and kept loving. As the Grinch’s heart grew 3 times bigger on Mt. Crumpit, mine enlarged with each wonderful encounter.

 While my husband and his Compassion International teammates climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, I loved the children everywhere I went. Each day was a holy appointment with Jesus’ favorite people: children. Back from a trip to a squatty potty, I veered off the path to visit with  children gathered around a rusty swing set. I bent low,  lifted up a child, and loved. These children were not part of the Compassion program. They needed a bath and love. They were dressed in ragged clothing and were perfectly wonderful.  My heart shifted into overdrive.

Flashback: June 2, 2016       Karatu, Tanzania     

Surrounded by precious children; giggling and ready to be loved. I soaked in their love. I touched their faces and kissed their foreheads. We laughed together as I rubbed and rubbed convincing them my skin really is this color. Loving and laughing: what every childhood should be filled with.

Then they sang to me. Twinkle, Twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. These small twinkling stars standing in the dusty earth of Tanzania sang about far off shining lights. Worlds apart but the same twinkling lights. I clapped enthusiastically during my private concert; thrilled and honored to be here.

Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky. Do they know they are more precious than diamonds? Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. 

 

Flashback: June 4, 2016       Arusha, Tanzania                      

My husband enjoyed spectacular views from above the clouds, trekking to 19, 341 feet at the summit.  A step closer to Heaven, perhaps. But my eyes beheld beauty of a different sort, yet no less amazing. Beautiful faces dotted with bright and kind eyes. An offer to hold their small hands, to touch and to know love. I reached out and connected. A perfect fit. Love never lets go.

 

Flashbacks, always reminding me.  Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

give & get

Recently, a friend received a Facebook zinger. You know, the type of comment that leaves a heart scar. I imagine my bewildered friend mumbled a few choice words as she hit ‘unfriend’.  I read the unkind comment before my friend sent it and its author into cyber extinction. Scanning through Facebook, I found an interesting post by the offender, the same person who forgot to pause and think before posting. The offender posted how much she appreciated kind words from her co-workers following a difficult time in her life. Hmmm. Let me get this straight. The offender enjoys getting loving and kind words from others, but she doesn’t always give them to others?

Why does this sound so familiar? Because I am also guilty of engaging in the dangerous and hurtful disconnect between giving and getting. I know what I want to get from others (love, kindness, respect, honesty), but sometimes I am not very mindful about giving the same.

Give what I want to get. If I give my body more vegetables and less sugar, I get to inhale and exhale while wearing my jeans. If I give black oil sunflower seeds, I get to enjoy the splendid beauty of my feathered backyard friends.

Give what I want to get; a warm-hearted and humane life motto.  Always try to give to others what I want to get back. It is the abridged version of the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12,  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.

I will give grace and mercy to someone who made a mistake on Facebook because I, too, need much grace and mercy to cover my thoughtless words and careless actions. I will give grace and mercy to those around me and in cyber world. For it is by His Blood that I can approach His Throne and receive His grace and mercy in my time of need including navigating Facebook.

 So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need. Hebrews 4: 16 (TLB)

knowing

What do you wish you would have heard your parents say? That question on a Christian radio station got my attention. As adults looking back, what do we wish we would have heard our parents say? 

Some of the deep and heart-tugging responses shared by the call-in listeners were: I wish my parents would have said they loved me. I wish my parents would have told me they were proud of me. I wish my parents would have apologized for making me be the parent at times. 

I considered this question on my drive and later broached the topic with my husband. I wasn’t ready for his response. We dated 6 years before getting married 33 years ago and this man continually surprises me. In certain areas, he felt he could not live up to his parents’ high expectations. I never knew he carried those feelings. 

Admittedly,  I wish my parents would have said they loved me. Over the years, I have justified not hearing those 3 magical words as a generational shortcoming or a result of their strict upbringing. Whatever the reason, feelings weren’t shared or discussed. But I told my husband, I knew they loved me. Without any doubt, I knew it. Their unspoken love was exhibited in many, many ways.

I knew they loved me by how hard they worked and by the sacrifices they made to provide for our family of 6. I knew they loved me when we gathered around the supper table and we had plenty to eat. I knew they loved me when we piled in the car on Sunday mornings to head to church. And when we piled back into the car for a Sunday afternoon drive and ended up at Baskin Robbins for an ice cream cone. I knew they loved me.img_0230

I knew they loved me when they knelt beside my bed holding a bowl and catching the remnants of too many pieces of apple pie. I knew it when they painstakingly helped me through homework battles. I knew they loved me when they steadied the back of the bicycle after removing the training wheels and when they bandaged  my skinned knees when the ride went awry. I knew it when I was tucked in my bed safe at night. Yes, my parents loved me without saying the words.

Walking on the road to Jesus, we come upon the stumbling block of not being able to hear or see Him. We decide to sit and question. Why can’t I hear or see God?  How do I know He really loves me? So we stay longer.  Satan, the prowling lion, encircles and whispers lies and doubts as we rest upon that block. Will we get up and take the next baby step of faith? Our Heavenly Father awaits with open arms and big love but it takes faith to move forward. It takes believing without seeing or hearing. It takes embracing His unconditional love without hearing audible words.

I know God loves me.  Without any doubts, I know. When I prayed a sinner’s prayer on a college dorm room floor, I found His love. When I held my newborn children for the first time, I experienced His love. When I look out my windows and see the tree line ablaze with reds, yellows, and oranges, I witness His love.  When I cry out for forgiveness, I feel His love. When I open up His Word and read His love story written to me, I drink-in His love. With a broad brush stroke, God paints His love for all to see from Creation to the Cross to Eternity.

This is how much God loves me: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. John 3:16 (MSG)

Yes, God loves me, big time! His unspoken love is revealed in many, many ways. He shows it, displays it; the mountaintops and ocean waves thunder His love message loud and clear. His love is ultimate and complete without saying a word.

Parents, children, and others will occasionally disappoint and hurt us with their spoken and unspoken words. But I know I am loved deeply and extravagantly by my Creator and Savior.

I know my parents loved me because they took me to Sunday School where I learned this song:

Jesus loves me this I know

For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong
Yes, Jesus loves me
Oh, yes Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me for the Bible tells me so

 

 

fixer upper

Chip and Joanna Gaines are remodeling pros on the TV show, “Fixer Upper”. They save homes that look hopeless by renovating the imperfections. In the end, they reveal the home as  it always intended to be: beautiful.

I was a self-anointed “fixer upper”.  I identified people, usually those closest to me, who were in desperate need of help; my help, my fixing-up.  As project manager,  I had identified what needed to be renovated. Let’s gut this and get rid of all of that!image

I scribbled lots of remodeling notes for all my “projects” during the messages at church. My always-critical mind was at work. Yes, ________ would benefit from this.  Yes, this would really help __________.   Yes, this will finally get through to _________. Praise, Jesus!

But when I excitedly arrived at the job site with the must-do renovations, I was met with resistance and anger and tears. Again and again. Over and over. Something’s not working. Why isn’t this working? Why won’t they listen to me? I am sharing because I care. I am nagging because I care. I am talking very loudly and demonstratively because I care. Dang it! Can’t they tell how much I care?

It all seemed so clear to me.  If they would  just listen to my remodeling suggestions and fix the obvious problems, then life would be better. Isn’t that what we all want? The better life of rainbows and puppies down on easy street. What was broken; would now be fixed. What was outdated; would now be new. Everything would be better, at least from my perspective. This seemed like a very Jesus-like thing to do; helping others to a better life. Didn’t Jesus want me to help others?

Albert Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. According to his definition, I qualify for the insanity diagnosis. I have been doing the “fixer upper” thing over and over again with no new results. Just the same strained, awkward, and broken relationships and a large bump on my head from beating it against a wall.

Not only were my “projects” in misery, so was I. Peace was nowhere to be found but weariness was everywhere. I needed “self-renovation”. I needed a DIY on myself. The nearest, dearest people around me had become projects to be managed; instead of people to be loved.

Thankfully, God provided His perfect blueprint.  He reminded me of our roles. My job was not as a fixer upper; my job was to love and keep on loving. Simply love others as He loves me.  I can’t change or fix people; only He can. That’s His job; He’s the foreman.

Jesus just loved people. He was always loving. He loved while walking and talking to people. He loved while hanging on the cross.

So I am putting away my tool belt.  There are apologies that need to be said and love that needs to be given. I am fixing my eyes on Jesus and the only renovating project I see is the one reflected in His Loving Eyes: me.

We can’t tell people to come as they are, but insist they change before they arrive. People grow where they are loved. Bob Goff

 

Let’s Walk Worthy!

Photo credit: maxwellinterior.com

 

 

The Box

IMG_0562

She balanced the box steadily with great confidence. Obviously, she had done this before.  It had just rained, but her footing was sure and determined. It was not the man’s job to carry the box;  this was her role and she was the pro. The women transport their water containers and baskets with graceful harmony daily; they are my heroes.

We were walking through a rural area to visit a home in Tanzania with Compassion International.  Compassion practices hospitality. They donate a box of goodies to each home visited. The box contains bags of rice and beans; cooking oil and other staples.

It was a privilege to be welcomed into the modest home. There were no hesitations at the differences in our skin colors or our confusing languages. Nope. Just excited to get to know one another and become friends through the help of translators. There was time for questioning and answering. There was time for laughing, crying and praying – together. God is always the closest at these most precious times.

At the end of our visiting time, we presented the box. Their sincere gratitude and appreciation was humbling. Asante sana (thank you very much in Swahili)

After hugs and good byes, our group traveled back to the buses. I walked with a Pastor who had accompanied us. I chattered about the box and how it was such a blessing to the family. Pastor Joseph wisely responded that it really wasn’t about what was in the box; it was the love behind the box. The box was a reminder to the family (usually a mother and several young children) that they were loved. The box spoke loudly of love and acceptance. It was given without any expectations; the box was a love gift.

Love. Everything in life always circles back to love.  Love circles from the manger to the cross to the empty tomb.  Love circles from the valleys of my darkest sins to the mountaintops full of His forgiveness and grace.

My box experience took place in March 2014. At the end of May, I will return to Tanzania. I am looking forward to two very special home visits; those of my Compassion children. When the boxes are presented, I will joyfully look beyond the rice and beans to see the brilliance of God’s love behind the box. Asante sana

Let’s Walk Worthy!

 

Verbs

A verb is one of the main parts of a sentence in English. You can’t have a sentence  without a verb. That’s how important these “action” parts of speech are. The verb signals an action, an occurrence, or a sate of being. Whether mental, physical,  or mechanical, verbs always express activity.

God, Creator of everything including grammar, knew the importance of verbs. In Deuteronomy 7, God uses verbs to clearly express the actions He is instructing the Israelites to take. When He brings them into the Promised Land and drives out the enemy nations,  these are the actions (verbs) they are to perform. No exceptions. No questions.

Break down their altars

Smash their sacred stones

Cut down their Asherah poles

Burn their idols in the fire

Purge the evil

Destroy completely

In Deuteronomy 10, God shares what He wants the Israelites and us to remember using more verbs: Fear Him, Walk in obedience, Serve and Love Him with all of our being, and Observe His Commands.

The Israelites are reminded of His 10 Commandments in Deuteronomy 5. What should they (and we) do with His Commands?  More verbs: Fix these words in your hearts and minds, Tie them unto your hands, Bind them to your foreheads, Teach them to your children, Talk about them all the time, and Write them everywhere.

God is very clear with His verbs. He wants us to have an active faith. IMG_7163

Too often people are turned off by the Bible, God’s love letter to us, because they believe it is filled with too many verbs. Too many uncomfortable do’s and mega-tons of restricting don’ts. Rules ruffle our-free-to-live-how-we-want-to feathers. We spend our lives under someone’s thumb of authority: parents, spouses, bosses, and government. We don’t want any more rules and commands coming from another source in our lives especially not an invisible God. Ugh! So we rebel whenever and however we can.  We bend, if not break, most or all of His verbs. We can and we do. I can and I have. The Israelites did. In Deuteronomy 31, the Israelites’ rebellion is predicted. God shares openly with His good friend, Moses, whom He will bury Himself (what a perfect love story ending).

“You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake Me and break the covenant I made with them.” Deuteronomy 31: 16  NIV

They didn’t get it. The Israelites missed out on the life God wanted for them. I don’t want to miss out on the life He wants for me. But that will take obedience and yielding to not my will, but His Will in my life. It will mean following His verbs.

But then I stop to consider WHY? Why so many verbs from God? I quickly realize it isn’t because My God is a tyrant or dictator. No, quite the opposite.  All He has ever done and will ever do is from His favorite verb of all: LOVE.  He loves us so much. Parents who love their children provide boundaries/guidelines for the child’s safety and well-being. Same concept.

During a sleepless night, I started my own list of verbs. What activity God expresses towards me through verbs. My list of God’s verbs follows the ABC’s.

My God   adores, blesses, created, defends, embraces, forgives, gets, hugs, improves, justifies, knows, loves, molds, notices, overwhelms, purchased, quiets, reassures, saved, teaches, understands, values,  welcomes, X-Y-Z   Me.

Verbs express activity. What verbs has God used in your life, to demonstrate His amazing Abba Father love towards you? If any start with X-Y-Z, please let me know 🙂

Let’s Walk Worthy!

 

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