Love Thy Neighbor

neighbors

The other morning while I was just waking up – you know, that sweet place between being fully awake and fully asleep, I was thinking about love. I was thinking about loving my neighbor and how sometimes it’s easier said than done. Yes, I do know the scripture actually says, Love your neighbor as you love yourself. But, we’ll save that “Yourself” part for another time.

I was pondering this and praying that God would give me a love for those who I seem to have a hard time loving on my own. Help me love even those who irritate me and make me twitch at the mere mention of their name. Help me love the (seemingly) unlovable ones.

After praying and pondering this, I had a sudden thought of actually falling in love with these people – my neighbors and others. Seriously, falling in love? But, the more I thought about it, the more it made perfect sense.

What better way to serve someone and demonstrate the kingdom at the same time. That is, without an agenda whatsoever.  People see agendas coming a mile away and there isn’t any real love in them when it comes to relationships like this. The end “game” is love, not another notch on your evangelistic belt. (I don’t have a belt, btw.)

For me, the Gospel is and should be preached by demonstrations of love and practical things that people need and can understand in their lives, more than by words preached at them. I find that when words are being used to preach the Gospel, it is for the Believing body. Not always, but this is what I see most often. It’s always pointless to point out what we think is wrong with someone, especially if we haven’t even taken the time to love well first. There is no fruit in that.

We throw the word “love” around all the time. Often when we use the word, it’s for things, to people. For instance:
I love coffee

I love bacon

I love these jeans

I love Sunday mornings

I love Christmas

We also use this word love when we think and talk about our friends and relationships – which is what I’m talking about here.

Can we take a moment and think about this thing called love? What is it really about?

When I met my husband on a blind date, oh so many years ago, I fell head over heels in love with him. My thoughts were always on him. What was he doing? Was he thinking about me? When would we get to be together again?

Things have changed only slightly these days. Instead of me being in a state of head over heels, – I am able to take my eyes and thoughts off of him so I can accomplish some things. (That is sometimes necessary for functionality!) But that is what love is all about. Falling in love with Paul is something that I choose to do every morning when I wake up. It’s like the “Groundhog Day” of love. I get to do it all over again but the difference is, I am full of love when I begin the day, not emptied out only to start from scratch.

I used the illustration of me and Paul about falling in love because it’s a perfect picture of what we are capable of as people: We can fall in love with those around us and we can do it every day.

This thing called love is really about choosing a place of humility. If we do that there will be no room for judgment or accusation for those who believe differently than us or act differently than we would in a given situation. We can love them because we give them honor from exactly where they are not someplace we think they should be.

 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never ends. . .(1 Cor. 13:4-8)

Falling in love with our neighbors is where the rubber hits the road. Love is a fruit of the spirit and if you know anything about fruit, it doesn’t suddenly appear. Fruit is grown from seeds planted and tended over time. Like fruit we won’t excel in love always, but we can develop love, deep love over time.

We need to treat people like our most beloved and cherished friend. We need to take the time to listen because they have a story that will rock our world and it needs to be told. If we treat them like beloved friends, that is what they will become. Can we love well enough to listen and actually show that we love?

I believe it’s time to fall in love with those around us. I believe it’s time for us to go out as an army of love and conquer the neighbors around us. Then let’s go take the world!

I’m falling in love, all over again.

G

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Entering the Kingdom of God ~ from the perspective of the unsaved spouse

leaves

I’ve been walking with the Lord 10 years now.  Who knew He could be so good to me!?

Paul got saved first and I’ve got to tell you, I was not happy about it. No, if fact I was pretty ticked off. I wanted to know who came and stole my husband away. What happened to my “cool” husband? He started acting really weird and quoting the Bible to Chelsea and me and frankly, it only made us both mad. Just who did he think he was anyway? He couldn’t judge us like that! HE was trying to share his new reality but it felt like condemnation to both of us. We didn’t appreciate the change in him at all.

Did this happen to you; did you get saved before your spouse or them before you? It does not make for a happy marriage I’ll tell you that much. When Paul got saved, we were living on the grounds of an Episcopal church in a one-room cottage, as caretakers and grounds keepers. Much of our responsibility entailed installing many gardens and all things landscape.

We were also members of the church and attended every time the doors were open. Due to this; I felt we were more holy than the Pope! I mean, how much more spiritual or holy can you get right?  I would later learn that church attendance had nothing to do with how spiritual or holy you were, much later.

I was also very much into the social aspect of the church because it gave me an opportunity to cook and entertain, which is my passion. This led to me befriending the new caterer who began using the church’s commercial kitchen. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I had found my tribe.

You see, I always joked around about writing a book entitled, A Day in the Life of a “Wannabe” Caterer; only eat the ugly ones. I lived for cooking and entertaining. As my friendship grew with this caterer, I began to help out and was able to share with her the many things I knew that would be useful in her business. I began helping with the flower arrangements, menu ideas, recipes and even working for free. Of course, I also worked full time during the week in our family business too. Every weekend, I would be up at the church lending a hand and have the time of my life.

I did get paid for my work after a few months, though. We become great friends, doing everything together for many years. We took care of each other’s children, we did charity events together, and we partied and cooked together, vacationed together; we celebrated life the best way we knew how.

And then Paul got saved. . .

That changed everything. He was seriously making me not want to be around him very much. He stopped hanging out with our friends and began going to meetings every chance he got.  We were still members of the Episcopal Church but when not attending a meeting there, he would run off to meetings where he could be around other people like him who were experiencing God. When he’d return from these meetings, he wanted to share and talk about what he’d experienced, but I would have none of it; I didn’t want to feel condemned by his words.

He really was only sharing the awesomeness of God, but I only felt condemnation. I began to find opportunities to be gone when he was home which often meant I was at my friend’s house, 35 miles away.

Our marriage began to suffer and I began to not even care. I felt hopeless. We had always been able to converse for hours and hours and now all of a sudden, we had nothing to say to each other. All he ever wanted to talk about was God and I didn’t want to hear it. What I didn’t know was at the same time that I feeling hopeless and experiencing these things, Paul was also. But, he wasn’t content to let things just drift apart, no! He began talking to God about how He would have to send him a new wife because he (Paul) was so holy and pure now that he simply couldn’t have a wife who smoked and drank and cussed like a sailor. No, he needed a holy wife. (Dang!)

I was already feeling somewhat rejected and not good enough anymore so I’m glad I didn’t know he wanted a new wife! Yes, even though I was mad at him and didn’t understand what was happening to us, I would have been devastated to know what he was feeling at the time. I only learned about this years later.

God told Paul He wasn’t going to get him a new wife but instead, Paul would have to fall back in love with me. Paul needed to start making a place for me in his “new” life. This struggle continued for a couple more years.  In the mean time, we left the Episcopal Church because they began ordaining gay Bishops and although we both had personal friends who were gay; neither felt it represented God at all. When we left the church, we also had to leave the cottage we’d been living in for years and that was sad. The good news was, we were getting our own place and that was a dream come true, finally.

Paul had begun praying in the local healing rooms a year or so before and was now in leadership. He still kept running off to other meetings and conferences while I kept on catering, but now I was working with my brother. We were almost living separate lives, but God was still working on this thing!

This is just an excerpt of the journey but needless to say, Paul did make a place for me. He prayed for me all the time, without me actually knowing about it except things began to feel different. He no longer fought with me or tried to correct anything I was doing. He literally just loved me where I was. And also, by falling back in love with me again, he made a way for me to enter into the kingdom. My offenses began to fall away. God started whispering to me there in that place and I even began to love my husband again.

Prayer works as we know but it also takes honor and respect. When I began to receive that (and I absolutely did not deserve it!), my heart changed. I felt a tangible place being made for me to come alongside my husband. I had no clue what it was, or what it meant. What I did know was that it felt good and it felt safe.

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I pray my story might encourage you to pray for your spouse and simply love them right where they are. We can change nothing on our own, but my Jesus certainly can. Persistent prayer along with respect and honor is a game changer and I know we all need change to happen.

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Note: This post is about a journey, not theological understanding. Many things I believed at one time are not what I believe now. I call it a progressive revelation. That is to say, if something I have shared in this post offends you, stop it; this is not where we land. This is where we have journeyed through. We’ve all come through many things . . . GG

Honoring Mothers

Mother's day post

Mother’s Day is on May 10th this year and that makes it less than a month away. I have to find a victim, quick! No, really. Let me explain…….

My mother passed away 6 years ago and because she has gone on, it doesn’t exempt me from honoring mothers all around me. There are single mothers who need encouraging, spiritual mothers who need honoring, sisters who have forgotten how awesome they truly are or maybe you’re a mother to orphans who simply needs someone to listen to what has happened in your day. The need is greater than we know.

I’ve heard it said that Mother’s Day is only a ‘Hallmark’ holiday and it doesn’t really matter that much but this couldn’t be further from the truth! It matters a lot. No, it doesn’t matter how the world celebrates or even doesn’t celebrate; WE are of a different kingdom and we know how important mother’s are, right?!

Mothers are the very first teachers we have and they impart so much with their time, their love and their wisdom. Mothers are our first confidants and the first ones we run too when we are little. Remember those mashed up flowers we grabbed with our tiny little hands just so we could present them to our mommy’s? Remember how she kissed our owie’s away and everything was all better?

And when we are older and our relationships with our mothers were more than a little strained because WE knew absolutely everything and she was only trying to keep us from all that WE knew we could do. Right…..even those days she was there; washing our sheets, making us meals and even praying for our safety and for wisdom to ‘please dear God’ land on us! I know I wasn’t the easiest daughter to raise; maybe not the worst but in hind sight, I could have honored her more.

But this is not about regrets! NOPE. This is about loving and honoring the women who have raised us and mentored us. It’s also about those we came to depend on in our time of need. Let’s not let an opportunity pass to honor these great women. And you do realize,  whether a woman believes in Jesus like we do or not has nothing to do with it at the end of the day. Jesus knows her and He loves her well. We should also.

So, my challenge to you is this…….

Find someone to honor and celebrate extravagantly this year. Take them to dinner, send them something in the mail, go clean their house or buy them flowers. And most importantly, tell them how much they’ve meant to you, how they’ve spoken into your life. How awesome they are!

And then, come back and share the testimony of how blessed they were by your kindness!

This is a picture of my mom when I was 8.

Mom pic

A Day in the Life

Woman in a Carboard Box

I have a question: Am I radical? meaning, do I live too far out of the box and would you be more comfortable if I were inside that box?

I was talking with someone yesterday about the weather and our authority over it. You see, we had planned a Christmas luncheon for the Healing Center I work in and by the reports of the weather men; we weren’t going to be able to have it. Those that were coming lived in different parts of the state and had many miles to travel to get here and with all the freezing rain and ice that they were predicting that would be impossible to do. (Not to mention, this is the south and we don’t drive on ice, we just don’t do it).

A few days before the event, we began making declarations to the weather systems, the powers and prince of the air and putting them on notice that we would in fact have our meeting and the weather would not manifest as the weathermen kept predicting. We would not dodge the bullet but instead, we were removing the bullet!  We then sent an email out to everyone asking for agreement with our declarations.

On Saturday, that’s exactly what happened; every person who was to come to this event came and there were NO problems with the roads. They were perfectly dry, and of course, we were not surprised.

So back to my conversation yesterday: This person was commenting about the email we sent out about coming into agreement over the weather. They personally wanted it to snow and become icy but they felt a conviction from God to ‘get over it’ and agree with us, which they did. Also, they wondered about us praying like that in the first place. I corrected her and said we weren’t “praying” at all or asking God for anything, but instead we were declaring and commanding as God had given us authority to do. We can’t keep asking God to do for us what He’s expecting us to do.

While she agreed with this on some level (her words), she thought it was a radical belief. As in who does this??  Don’t we just pray and ask God for protection and to keep us safe and that’s it?

I answered, ME, I do this and I’ve seen too much happen to stop declaring now! And no, we don’t just pray for God to do everything for us. We take dominion and declare the enemy’s hand is removed.

I had this conversation about 5 years ago but the question still remains; am I radical, do I live too far out of the box, or are there better questions?

Are you living in a box?

Are you experiencing the kingdom?

Are you walking out the things you talk about?

Me – I’m living on the edge, as far as I can go, today. Tomorrow, the edge will extend out even further.

To answer the original question, no, I’m not radical; this is normal everyday life for believers and especially me. This is what normal is in the Kingdom, but not normal by the worlds standards. I won’t live in that box! If that scares you, stick around because you ain’t seen nothing yet!

On Good Friday, we were yet again declaring storms to cease. Another day in the life. . . .. .