Friday, February 28, 2014

and the greatest of these is LOVE ...

{nine devotions on love}

february 1: {walk in love}
welcome to february!
last month's series focused mainly on "the new." but this first day of february i want to offer up something old. something that john tells us is not a new command, but something which has been around for quite some time -- it's old news, but it's good news!
(also, i am slightly tickled that it is specifically addressed to a woman --"dear lady")!
"and now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. AND THIS IS LOVE: that we walk in obedience to His commands. as you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you WALK IN LOVE."
john's pretty clear on two things:
1. it's not a "new" command.
2. it is about obedience.
we are to love one another.
plain and simple, right?
but if we're being honest with ourselves, we'd probably agree, loving others isn't always easy. it just isn't.
if we truly want to love others though, it's not about how we feel, it's about how we obey.
no where in this verse does john mention our feelings or our mood or our circumstances.
no, he writes that we are to be obedient to God's commands ... specifically the one that says, "walk in love."

that's the direction of this month's weekend posts. i'll be posting a little bit of what love is and what love isn't ...

today. love is obedience to God's word.

friends, happy february 1st ... let's walk in love!

february 2 {put on love}
“put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. and above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” ~ 1 peter 4:8

we spend a lot of time shifting clothing around in our home. clothes in and out of the laundry machines. clothes in and out of closets, dressers, armoires, the back seat of my car! (yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, even there)!
there are clothes on and off bodies, on and off the floor, on and off beds and desks and couches. piles here and there. clean clothes, dirty clothes, clothes we aren’t sure whether are clean or dirty or what!
we have clothes in need of a stain stick, an iron, a needle and thread or even in need of a new home.
we have clothes to put away, clothes to give away and clothes so beaten up by my boys they could be thrown away.
you know, a family of seven --laundry issues.
yes mam, we’ve got em!
and so maybe that’s my connection to the way this verse reads. “put on.” i get the whole, “put on” thing. it reminds me of clothes!
yesterday’s post talked about “walking in love” and today’s verse suggests we should “put on love.” both phrases emphasize action. just like the dirty clothes on my daughter’s floor aren’t going to magically become clean ... no. it requires an action, some effort, attention.
and loving others requires the same -- action!
we aren’t to sit by and let love just magically happen. we are to walk in it, pursue it, put it on. because we are God’s holy and beloved, we are to dress ourselves each day in our compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience ... and above all, we are to put on love.
it's an action! -- we get up in the morning and we get dressed. and if we take care in our clothing, if we pay attention to putting on love, we will bind ourselves to others in perfect harmony.

february 8 {love covers}
“above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” ~ 1 peter 4:8

when i read this verse, i think of paint. i have always been a big believer in what a fresh coat of paint can do. i am the woman who has woken up on a summer morning and spontaneously run to home depot for a gallon of paint -- no plan. no idea. just a burning desire to paint the dining room grey-blue or buttercream or something! there was a time when my spontaneity might have bordered on obsession. my husband would come home from work , walk in the door and wonder out loud, “so, what has the woman painted today?”
and though i’ve gotten a hold on this paint thing lately, i'd be lying if i didn't admit i, on occasion, still feel that same urge.
dirty smudges and fingerprints and who-knows-what on the walls and i just want to go running for a brush and bucket of color. i want to wipe away all the grime and the grit with a few swift strokes.

love does this, too.

it does. it can come in and cover a multitude of messes. when it looks like nothing else is going to clean up our situation or fix this problem or solve that issue -- love can come pouring in and pour out a blanket of forgiveness and hope.
i’ve seen it happen. i’ve seen how the words, “i love you” can diffuse anger and destroy walls. i’ve seen it with children and parents and friends and spouses. i’ve seen love cover the ugliest of messes and a multitude of my very own mistakes.
if you're like me, you probably have an ugly place or a relationship which needs a few brush strokes of God’s covering kind of love.

go pick up some paint.

when we remember how God’s love has covered and cleaned up us... we just might be prompted to love one another earnestly and pull out a little fresh paint.

february 9 {for those who LOVE Him}
i know sometimes in the middle of our now, it’s hard to think about what God has for us next.
it's hard to imagine what's behind the next door.
and often, it's really hard to believe that this burden will get better or that this brokenness can ever become beautiful.
i know the words “this too shall pass” sometime feel almost impossible.
we get so caught up in right-where-we-are -- in the need of our “right now."
and where embracing the present is important, it is just as important to keep our eyes on the hope to which God calls us.
for those who LOVE Him ...
He has more. He has much. He even has the miraculous.
i’m not sure i always live like i believe that.
i’m not sure i always live like i have a God who loves me like that.
where sometimes we find ourselves not prepared for the future, God is prepared. He has a plan -- it’s perfect. and because of His plan and His power we can have hope -- the promise of a perfect hope in Him.
yes, by all means, live in the moment; be fully alive in the present, embrace today, but don’t forget the hope to come for those who LOVE Him.

“what no eye has seen,
nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared
for those who love him."
~ 1 corinthians 2:9

february 14 {at all times}
valentine’s day comes around once a year and we go hog-wild with the love stuff, right? --- candy, hearts and flowers galore! and it’s big fun. i mean, seriously, what’s not to love about celebrating love? in fact, right this very minute there is a goodie bag for each kid at the breakfast table and a giant pink puppy for the littlest one!
that’s all good stuff, but love isn’t about a holiday or a hearts&flowers day. if we only remember to really celebrate it one day out of the year, than, seems to me, there can’t be too much to celebrate.
no, love is about what happens every day. each day. --- at all times.
whether we’re talking about our family or our friends, we need to remember real love is what happens in between the special occasions. it happens on the tuesday when we’re tired and on the wednesday when we’re worn out. it happens on the friday when we’re frustrated and on the saturday when we’re snippy.
a friend loves at all times. a friend loves even when it isn’t easy or convenient or necessarily comfortable.
that’s how Jesus loved us. that’s how He loves us -- unconditionally and unreservedly.

His love isn't a holiday love, it's a holy love.

when the toddler is whining at your feet.
when the teenager is sassing across the counter.
when the sister disappointed or the brother dropped the ball.
when the mother forgot and the father failed.
when the friend over-reacted or wounded or rejected ...

remember, His love -- a love for all times.


february 15 {walk in the way of love}
yesterday’s (valentines) post talked about how God’s love isn’t a holiday love, but a holy love. and it’s a love which happens each day -- every day.
so, that’s nice and all, but how do we make love a part of our day to day?

--- we walk in it.

love is an action. it’s an attitude. it’s an acceptance to live and move and meander in the way Christ demonstrated.
walking in love is truly following Him, letting Him lead, and looking to Him for the right way. because, let’s face it, love isn’t always easy and sometimes we just want to turn right around and run the other direction.
{at least in MY world that happens}!
love isn’t always comfortable and it isn’t always a clear path --- but when we decide to follow Jesus and His direction --- He promises to determine our steps. one foot in front of the other. step by step.
on the good days it can feel like we're leaping in our love ... like we’re running with wild abandon -- and oh, how i love those days!
but truly, most of us have more days which just seem to creep along, consisting of baby steps and even backward steps.
yeah, i know. that happens here too.
but regardless of our erratic walk, God’s love doesn’t change direction. it doesn’t slow in pace. it never falters or quits or forgets its way --- no, His love is a running love, a waltzing love, a redeeming love.
so whether we waltz or we wobble, let’s walk with Him today. this day. every day.

february 16 {Christ’s love compels}
"if we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. for Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. and he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2 corinthians 5:14-15

my honey brought home these gorgeous roses for me on friday - valentine’s day. so sweet, right? but truly, i have to tell you that’s just the way he operates. often. he is a man who brings flowers for no occasion. {hooray for that!}
he brings flowers, “just because.” 
i guess you could say, his love for me “compels” him.
not that i’m all that compelling, mind you. 
no, not compelling or especially deserving or even all that worthy. but he does it anyway. he has, i kid you not, even brought me flowers just because i was in a bad mood. 
now, people, THAT’S love!

sounds a little bit crazy, huh? like paul is writing about in this verse above. “if we are ‘out of our mind,’ as some say, it is for God ... for Christ’s love compels us.” we do things and say things and believe things which seem absolutely crazy to the world. they don’t make sense. they look a little cuckoo. but we do them anyway, because CHRIST'S LOVE COMPELS US. 
when we get even a little glimpse of His great love, we begin to let go and look a little “out of our mind.” 
there was a time when then bothered me. there was a time when i wanted to fit in and look like everyone else ... i spent a whole lot of time and energy and money trying to fit the world’s mold. but that’s not who we are to be as Christ-followers. 
we are to look a little different, be a little different, act a little different. 
the world should know we are Christians by our love -- our compelling, crazy kind of love. 
the kind of love God has for us. 

we’re different, because He made a difference. 
we worship, because He is worthy. 
we love, because He first loved us.

{so i was in the middle of writing this piece yesterday when my oldest daughter returned home from her breakfast with friends ... what happened at the pancake house is exactly what this post is about -- here's the link!}

february 22 {my strength}
so, i have this thing for barns ...
last weekend, while i was out roaming minnesota farm country, this one caught my eye.
the weathered wood and roof.
colors and textures vibrant against blue sky, white snow, and wide open space.
it made me stop ---
stop and shoot a few pictures.
stop and think a few thoughts.
it made me wonder about this barn and the strength its shelter has provided, the stories it’s held for how many years. perched on top is the year: “1906.” clearly, we’re in well over a century of protection.
when the minnesota winters rage, it’s where the cattle head.

there’s comfort in knowing we have a place to find shelter.
God provides that haven for us --- whether hot sun or bitter wind or blowing snow ... He envelopes us in His arms of love and offers us the place and protection of Him -- shelter. safety. sanctuary.

i've experienced that place of provision, that shield of God's strength and it makes me wonder how my response can be anything other than that of david's, “i love you, o Lord!”

“he who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
i will say to the Lord, “my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom i trust.” ~ psalm 91:1-2

february 23 {love is patient}
it’s the big passage on love isn’t it? 
read at weddings, recited for all types of occasions. it hangs on walls and graces greeting cards. once, i even cross stitched it for a friend's wedding gift. it’s the first one which comes to mind when asked to find a bible verse on love.

and so i was planning on writing a post on the whole passage -- the whole thing.

"love is patient, love is kind. it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. it is not rude, 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..." ~ 1 corinthians 13

but i couldn’t get past the first three words.
the very first phrase of this great “love” chapter stopped me dead in my tracks --- love is patient.

love is.
and i am not.

not this week at least. how can i even type out that phrase and share it with y’all after the week where i’ve been snippy and snappy and plain old irritated over dumb stuff.
how can i pretend to encourage you with the entire love passage when i can’t seem to get past the first short sentence.

nope. i can’t.

so, i’m stopping right there today. and that’s as far as i’m going down this love path. i need to work on patience in my home, in my life, in MYSELF ... before i can address all those other wonderful aspects of love. and, i assure you, it will take everything this weak woman has at the moment.

love is patient.

if i want to show love to my husband and my kids and my friends and yes, even strangers, than i’m going to have to step up my patience game. i’m going to have to remind myself daily (hourly) that God is nothing but patient with me.
when i feel frustrated, irritated, on edge or short ... i need to remember the soft grace of God.

oh friends, this sunday, let's take the time to soak ourselves in His patience and His peace. only He who is Perfect Love, can provide the unhurried, unhassled, unselfish love we desire.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I chose L-O-V-E!!