Agape Love Archives - Catherine Nelson

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The Hurricane

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Earlier this month, I experienced my first hurricane. Pat and I were on vacation in Cabo and Hurricane Newton hit our resort as a category 2 with destructive winds and sheets of rain. Y’all, it was amazing! As a woman who has lived her life land-locked, I was thrilled to be caught in the middle of it.

I’ve been told by my children that I can make a spiritual lesson out of just about anything, and although I’m pretty sure they don’t mean that as a compliment, there is an important lesson in the hurricane that I have thought about everyday since it passed on through. Please indulge me a minute while I share this treasure I learned.

When the sun rose and the winds and rain subsided, Pat and I walked out of our vacation home to survey the destruction. There was structural damage and some broken windows, but it was the palm trees that took the greatest hit. Most of the trees stayed erect, a few were completely toppled, and there were a few more that had been pushed to a leaning position by the wind. These trees had ½ their roots exposed, but they hadn’t completely fallen.

Hours later, the property staff had encircled the leaning trees with rope and tied them tightly to the trees that hadn’t been budged by the wind. With the support of the stronger tree, the leaning tree was straightened, supported and rooted back in the soil. I don’t know how long the ropes will be left tying the trees together, but I am confident, the ropes won’t be removed until the leaning tree is completely restored.

Like all of you, I have experienced some storms. In the past, I have been of the mindset to just grit it out. When I’m broken, I don’t want anyone to see my exposed roots and so I try to upright myself by spending time in prayer and scripture. Now… of course, our God is a healer and comforter who never leaves our side and can handle all our burdens, but this same God is a God of relationships who designed us for community. Relationships are of paramount importance to Jesus. He surrounded himself with good friends and best friends while he lived his purposeful life of sharing God’s Good News. He shared his pain and joy with these friends. When he was dying on the cross, he instructed his best friend and mother to be in relationship with each other (John 19:26-27) and when he ascended into heaven, he told everyone to engage with people everywhere and tell them about their love for him. (Acts 1:8)

If you are going through a storm and the winds and rain have left you battered with exposed roots, please offer your ropes of love and friendship to another friend who has survived their storm. We need Jesus, but we really also need people and people want to help. If you stay isolated, you are much more likely to topple over.

I was convicted a few years ago that I had not invested in deep friendships and so I purposefully pursued deepening my relationships with a few women that I had comfortable bonds with. God has blessed these relationships so beautifully and my heart overflows with thankfulness. We have been roped together and consistently help each other deepen our roots. As the storms come and go, I am so thankful to be tied to them. I know many of you are just as thankful for these friendships in your life. Celebrate them! Praise the Lord for them. If you are lacking these, get out your rope and go lasso a couple. It’s hard to be vulnerable, but the reward is so worth it.

 “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)

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Not a Virtuous Woman

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“What do you do for a living?” It’s a conversation starter and one I responded to recently by answering, “I don’t.” I was feeling kind of quippy and less than excellent after learning what SHE did with her days. I also was dragging the bottom as a mom. For almost 22 years I have dedicated most of my time to raising my 4 kids. I only have 2 left at home now. The 2 that have flown the coop live 1500 miles apart and over the summer, I’ve been privy to about 1500 hours of radio silence from them. Because the other 2 are busy teenage girls, our time together of late has not been quality or drama free.

The idyllic picture of bedtime snuggles and eloquent prayers, secret confessions of crushes and dreams, pretty tears, healthy meals, evening walks, uproarious laughter, starched uniforms, straight A’s, and happy hearts while doing chores is not the reality in our home. I always thought it would be. I planned it that way.

Like many young women growing up in Christian communities, we were told to model our lives after the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. After all, if we can be like her, we are much more valuable than rubies.

She’s never spiteful and treats her husband generously. She makes her kids clothes and wakes up before dawn to make everybody exotic breakfasts. She plants gardens that thrive and then cooks dinner from the bounty. She loves work and working out. She faces every challenge with a smile and always has something worthwhile to say. She outclasses every other woman and her children rise up and let everyone in earshot know that she is the best mom in the world!

You may know one of these virtuous women… Heck; you might even be one, but hear this all you VW’s, as worthy as the proverbial author says you are, your worth does not lie in your proverbs 31 virtuosity. I so often find myself feeling secure or valuable because of the things I have done or in relationships. When those relationships evolve and leave me lonely, I feel unimportant. When I get frazzled over laundry and carpool traffic and find it sucks all my time and then compare that to the wonder woman who runs a business, makes her clothes and cooks exotic meals, I feel stupid and inconsequential.

Feeling worthless and inconsequential, and feeling valuable because you are a rockin VW are both wrong thinking. Here is the truth: We can only know how valuable we are when we realize the depth of our sin. We can only understand how awesome our God is when we see how boring, ugly and poor we are.

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 2:10 (NIV)

 

We are children of the day and it is time to get up and work and rejoice today. You and I are loved, more than we can ever imagine and it is not because our kids think we are awesome or because we have strong arms, clean houses and impressive resumes. The only thing you and I can ever give Jesus is our sin. When we offer Him that, there is nothing that can ever separate us from His love…. Not even the craftiest scheme of man or power of hell. You are valuable because the King of Kings and creator of the universe says so. God’s very own son died for you because you are valuable to Him and it is certainly not because you are a virtuous woman. Rejoice my sisters; The King says He delights in you!

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;

I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast

and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget,

I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15 (NIV)

 

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

 

 

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Unabated Laughter

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My husband shared the greatest video clip with me yesterday. In the video, the father, who is a pilot, is taking his four-year-old daughter on a joy ride in his airplane. He does all kinds of tricks and spins… turning the plane upside down over and over again. Unaware and unfazed by this unnatural state, the daughter squeals with laughter. She has no concern for her safety or the danger that could befall. She has placed all her trust in someone who has never let her down. Her dad is adept, capable and loves her intensely. He would never put her in harm’s way. He has strapped her into this adventure so she can experience joy. He is completely in control and worthy of her complete trust.

Summer is winding down and I am reminded today that as much as I say that I trust my Heavenly father and trust his plan, my days have not been filled with laughter. This summer, He has strapped me in for the adventure of sending a second child off to college, along with a few more upside down and discombobulating twists and turns. In truth, there have been more tears than belly laughs. I have wanted to hold on so tightly to the easy things. I love being in control. I love managing and a world set at 70 degrees with healthy food, mindless entertainment and comfortable kids surrounded by pretty things. I don’t love leaving the oasis of impassivity, but I don’t think any of us are called to camp out there.

I believe we are called to prize the light of our savior’s smile… to implore the joy of our salvation…. to seek first the kingdom things, and find heaven in the trustworthy triune God. Loving Him, following His example, and being tuned into the voice of His spirit is an adventure. It is upside down from what the world tells us to pursue. It can be discombobulating if we focus on the ever-changing landscape, but it is a guarantee that our Heavenly Father will NOT let us down. He has fashioned this adventure and fashioned us for it. He loves us so very much with a perfect and trustworthy love. There is no reason to fear this season. He will fill us with joy and celebrate with us as the unabated belly laughs flow unstoppable from his cherished children.

“Trust and Obey…for there’s no other way… to be happy in Jesus… than to trust and obey” (old camp song)

“You will keep in perfect peace

all who trust in you,

all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,

and this is what he requires of you:

to do what is right, to love mercy,

and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NLT)

 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12 (ESV)

 

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Comfort Confessions

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A normal day for me is full of checklists and agendas centered on making life comfortable. I put together care packages, do laundry, iron, grocery shop, cook, make home improvements, get in a little exercise, and run errands all over town in my pretty little Mercedes convertible… Oh and of course, I start each day having my quiet time in my well-air-conditioned comfortable home. If anyone ever decides to read my prayer journal some day, she would find an often-repeated prayer: “Jesus, help me love you better.”

Yesterday, I discovered the outrageous offensiveness to my oft-repeated prayer. Yesterday, in-between errands, I spent a couple hours with the friends I have made in Orange Mound. We got together to pray and offer scriptural wisdom in the hope of healing the brokenness and frightening consequences that have been inflicted this week on a world that judges by color. In this unadorned room, in the heart of one of the poorest, crime-prevalent neighborhoods in America, 5 pristine, Jesus-loving white women and 25 unaffected, righteous black women went before the Lord in prayer. As I sat on my pretty little perch wearing my classy diamond earrings, starched shorts and Tory Burch Shoes, I was sure the prayer time would be of the “Lord Jesus, Heal us” theme. After one of the other W2’s (white women) opened the prayer time, the African American woman sitting closest to me started shouting with inspired and room shaking eloquence a litany of praise. Within seconds there was stomping and crying and shouting and speaking in tongues and clapping to the degree and volume that the room vibrated. It was frightening and wonderful and convicting and awesome. For 30 minutes the room was filled with nothing but declarations of God’s goodness and His trustworthiness. These women were all full of hope and joy and a richness in their adoration for Jesus. I wish you had been there. I wish I had the adjectives and adverbs and gift of narrative so you could feel it.

Because I can’t adequately describe the wonder I experienced yesterday, I will do what I can and share with you the room-shaking truth I discovered. My comfortable little quiet times are so full of ME. I get so entrenched on the “forgive me fors” and requests and I don’t get wrapped up in the glory of God and privilege of praising Him. My time with the Lord is generally one of those things that I check of the list. I pray that He will help me love Him as I hope that He will divinely sweep in all on His own while I passively sit back and wait for His bright magical touch. By comparison, the women in the room yesterday don’t live in comfort and their prayer time should be thick with requests, but in a dark and frightening season in this country, they could not stop praising and thanking the Lord. Why? Because they know Him and they are loving Him better than I am.

You see, a relationship with Jesus needs to be centered on Jesus and not on us. I have been content to be comfortable and starched. Comfort can be such a deceiving distractor. When we see Jesus, and witness His glory, we want more. Not only does my prayer life need to change, so does my day. It is time to do and time to love and time to get a little uncomfortable. Truthfully, there is nothing comfortable about being vulnerable or spending time out of my established, safe routine. Do I really want to love Jesus better? Do you? Am I content with comfortable? Are you? If I want more… more joy… more hope…. more confidence in Jesus, I need to get over myself and love my neighbor. I pray we will all want more.

 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Luke 13:34-35abbr. (NLT)

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:26-39 (NLT)

“ The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10 (NLT)

“To love another person is to see the face of God.” Jean Valjean

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What the Fox say

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There is a fox in our neighborhood. For the last few weeks our neighbors have been trying to figure out what the horrible sounds are that shriek through the air in the middle of the night. At first it sounds like a child crying, but as you listen more carefully, it sounds more like an animal in distress. It’s really horrific. After plenty of discussion and the help of Google, the sound has been clearly identified as the fox’s mating call. I heard it again last night around 2a.m. Now that I know what it is, the sound isn’t scary at all. It’s fascinating.

Scary fox sounds are likely at the bottom of your worry list, but there is a blatant and beautiful lesson to be learned from “What the Fox say”. It is the fear of the unknown and lack of ability to identify the source insinuating imminent anguish that makes our knees weak.

Have you ever felt like you are never going to get through this?… or thought, “I’m worthless? I’m a joke? I failed as a mother? God doesn’t really care about me….God could never forgive me for that sin…. I have. Do you know how to get out of that funk and get back to rejoicing? I’ll tell you: You have to identify the source of the sound.

You and I have an enemy and he is excellent at his job. He is the evil one and the father of lies. He is a slanderer, tempter, accuser and he is great at making you feel worthless. He’s so believable and he thrives in the dark. When you find yourself afraid and confused about your life or future or children, you must identify where those thoughts are coming from. Your Heavenly Father delights in you and He is not ever the source of confusion, dread or anxiety. Identifying the sound of Satan’s lies isn’t just fascinating, it’s empowering. Satan is the enemy of your soul.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

Be empowered. The Lord of Heaven’s armies is fighting for you. You are the apple of his eye. He has equipped you with a shield to deflect the fiery darts of your enemy. Identify your enemy and be done with fear. Stand firm in the shadow of the Almighty God.

 “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4 (NLT)

 

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil”

Ephesians 6:12,13,16 (NLT)

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Remember Lot’s Wife

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Last weekend was one of my favorite weekends ever. It was chock full of celebration. Both of my parents have 70th birthdays this year and they were ready to throw a seriously legit party. Friends and family traveled from all over to join us and along with many close friends, we danced the night away. It was reminiscent of a wedding reception… so much so that hours before the party my mom told me that she was having trouble deciding if she felt more like a septuagenarian or a bride. I have never seen my parents more joyful or full of life. My beautiful dancing stilettos were blessed right off of my feet.

As great as the party was, the biggest blessing came in the bigger picture. My parents have been through the ringer. They have both survived cancer in the last few years. They have had to endure the parenting heartache that comes from loving imperfect kids like me. They have been broken over things that are pretty public and other wounds that that they hold close to the vest. There have been appropriate seasons for grief and for mourning, and seasons where their prayers were heavy with pleading and petition. Not all prayers have been answered in the ways they would hope, but for right now, this is a season of thanksgiving and unabated celebration. Their joy steers me and I hope it can instruct you too.

We should not wait to rejoice until all our ducks are in a row. We live in a sad, sick and imperfect world and until we are with Jesus in heaven, we won’t have a clue as to what a real celebration is. Do you remember Lot’s wife? She and her family were living in a wicked city that God was set to destroy. Her husband, Lot and his uncle Abraham did some serious pleading and petitioning with God to spare their city and their home (Genesis 18 and 19).God did not spare their city, but He was merciful to Lot and his family; even to the point of having Angels grab them each by the hand and expediently escort them out of their burning hometown. Instead of being grateful and looking forward, Lot’s wife was entrenched in the past. She looked back and it destroyed her.

Do you remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? They were thrown into a screaming hot furnace because they held fast to their faith and were obedient to the Lord. They were praying men and must have pleaded and petitioned with God to change the script and keep them far away from the flames. God did spare their lives and even joined them during their suffering, but He did NOT spare them from the literal trial by fire. Their reaction to the deliverance is far different from the reaction of Lot’s wife:

“So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!” Daniel 3:27 (NLT)

They didn’t even smell like smoke! They had been through the ringer, but they looked forward and refused to wallow in the stink and sadness of prayers unanswered and wretchedness of pain and heartache.

To be clear, there is a time to mourn. I just finished studying the book of Esther this morning and this book concludes with instructions for appropriate times to mourn and to celebrate:

“ These letters established the Festival of Purim—an annual celebration of these days at the appointed time, decreed by both Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther. (The people decided to observe this festival, just as they had decided for themselves and their descendants to establish the times of fasting and mourning.)” Esther 9:31 (NLT)

God is in control. When He appoints times of suffering, we are called to fast, and mourn, but when He delivers, we are called to celebrate. We must not be blind to the delivery. If we are always looking back at the duck still out of the row, we won’t recognize our hand held escort ushering us out of the fire.

Happy Happy 70th Mom and Dad. Thank you for the beautiful example you have set for rejoicing always and how to embrace the time to dance in an imperfect world.

“For everything there is a season,

A time for every activity under heaven.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance.” Ecc 3:1 and 4 (NLT)

 “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:4-8 (NLT)

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Black Sharpie

By | Agape Love, Dear Sons & Daughters | One Comment

I was so anxious and distracted during my quiet time this morning. Yesterday I picked up some forms that the doctor had filled out on one of my kids. It was a really standard yearly physical form and for some reason, and for the first time ever, the medical professional filling it out filled in an extra note in the column of “ any other medical concerns”. The diagnosis, although accurate, is one I never include or talk about. This kid isn’t perfect, but there are ZERO medical concerns and this label should not have been included. I really fretted and stewed over it. I considered buying some liquid paper and erasing and reprinting it. I considered calling the doctor for a “do-over”. I felt a responsibility to my kid to help control the environment that the kid would be entering into. No one needed to believe or make judgments about my child because of this salacious medical label.

I tried to meditate on God’s word, but I couldn’t quit thinking about that embarrassing label on the medical form. It completely overshadowed everything else that is excellent about my child and I needed it to be fixed. I gave up on my quiet time and called the place that had required the medical form.

After introducing myself, I explained that I needed to talk to someone about the medical forms. I told her that I didn’t know how to disclose my question without being completely vulnerable, and with tears, I laid out the whole ugly truth. The precious woman on the phone listened and then filled my ears with the sweetest answer. She told me to scratch it out.

With a quickened step, I raced to the kitchen and dug the black sharpie out of the junk drawer and thoroughly and completely scratched it out. No one will ever be able to see that label or designate that diagnosis to my kid. It is as if it never existed.

With a calmed spirit, I returned to my quiet time and the beauty and magnitude of what happened flattened me. You and I have pages of columns filled in with the worst diagnoses. Each horrible diagnosis is accurate. The most embarrassing, evil, dangerous truths of who we are mar our perfect forms. When we try to present a perfect and healthy self before a Holy God, we are in serious trouble. You and I are sick and sinful and we cannot clean it up with liquid paper, but the glorious truth is this: Jesus takes it all on for us. The Son of God came to earth to suffer and take on all your embarrassing labels and horrible sins. Beautiful Jesus became sin for you and me. He took all your sins to the cross and left them in the pit of hell. Your ugly has been completely scratched out with a divine black sharpie. Even better…. Your form is perfect. Jesus imputed his glorious righteousness to you and to me. Your heavenly Father sees his perfect son when He looks at you. Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.

Happy Easter, Friends! He is Risen, Indeed!

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14 (NIV)

 

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Treasure Hunt

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Yesterday morning my youngest daughter and I went hunting for shells. We got up early in order to find the best ones that the tide had brought in. Within the first minute we had already deemed a few as treasures, but as we continued our hunt along the shoreline, we became picky. After the first 10 yards, a shell needed to be intact, colorful or big. As our treasure hunt extended, the shell’s collectability was in jeopardy. By the end of the hunt, the only way a shell ended up in our bag was if it was superbly unique.

We were really excited when we spotted the very first shell, but with each step we needed more. As we raised the standard, we didn’t lose our enthusiasm, but it took more for us to get excited.

Our shell hunting is reflective of the dogged pursuit for contentment that so many of us cling to. Baby food is satisfying until we are introduced to graham crackers and graham crakes lose to cookies. By the time we are introduced to ice cream and cake, the thought of consuming baby food is just plain gross.

No one would choose to live in the dorm again, after they have lived in a beautiful house. Camping out loses to resort vacations. Designer clothes edge out hand me downs. MVP’s eclipse participants. 6 figure salaries trump hourly wages and so forth and so on.

We all seek contentment and we need more and more to achieve it. The great news for all of us is that contentment is possible…. In fact, it is guaranteed. There is a hole in each of us that want s to be filled up, and there is someone totally awesome who is ready to do the filling.

Jesus is the giver of good things. He is the satisfier of your soul. Nothing else compares to Him and He never gets tired of sharing himself. We can have more and more and never reach the limit of his love. Seek and pursue Him and you can be content in every circumstance. Oh dear friends, find comfort in Jesus. Consume His promises and the meat of His word. Satisfy your soul on these truths:

“The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” Proverbs 19:23 (NIV)

“Those who seek the Lord lack on good thing.” Psalm 34:10 (NIV)

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness’…. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distress, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)

 

“In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus.

You can have all this world,

But give me Jesus.

And when I am alone, give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus.

You can have all this world,

But give me Jesus.

And when I come to die, give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus.

You can have all this world,

But give me Jesus.”

Fernando Ortega 1999

 

 

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He says what he thinks

By | Agape Love, Dear Sons & Daughters | One Comment

In the throws of Super Tuesday yesterday, I engaged in a conversation about Donald Trump. The person I was speaking to had voted for him earlier that day and I wanted to understand why. Apparently there are millions of people who are voting for him and I just don’t get it. I don’t understand his appeal. My friend replied that she really likes that he says what he thinks. She said that she finds it refreshing.

Have any of you heard someone say this? I agree that Donald Trump absolutely says whatever he thinks, but recognizing this about him does in no way make him a more appealing candidate to me, and hearing people compliment him for saying whatever he thinks only exacerbates my confusion over him.

When did having a loose tongue become a good thing? We are warned from the time we learn to speak to be careful what we say.

“Be careful little mouth what you say… For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful, little mouth what you say.”

Scripture wisely guides us to put a guard over our mouths. In the Holy Spirit’s never-ending job of sanctifying me, I am consistently grieved over my sinful thought life. If anyone knew the catty, snarky, judgmental, lustful, prideful, covetous, hateful, selfish thoughts that fill up my brain on a daily basis, they would hate me.

As confused as I am over the Donald Trump allure, here is what I know:

“Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut,

And you will stay out of trouble.” Proverbs 21:23 (NLT)

“Those who control their tongue will have a long life;

Opening your mouth can ruin everything.” Proverbs 13:3 (NLT)

I also know that as great as the need is for our country to get on the right track, there is an even greater need for a great change to occur in me. I need to recognize the horror of my thought life. I need to be disgusted and grieved. I need not only to just guard my tongue, but be transformed so that one day, I will be able to say whatever is on my mind. I long for the day when the only thing on my mind is how wonderful Jesus is. I need to be consumed with love for Christ so that I am even more compelled to sing of his amazing grace. When I pay attention to how awful my thoughts are, I remember how great God’s help is and how amazing my heavenly support system is.

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

I also know that God knows every thought that invades my brain. Nothing is hidden from him and I did nothing to deserve his mercy, but because His love is so great and because my faith is in His son, His mercies toward me are new every morning. Praise Be to Him. He does great things.

 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” Hebrews 4:13 (NLT)

“Carefully guard your thoughts

Because they are the source

Of true life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends![

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)

 

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Way too Many Tears

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I have witnessed way too many tears fall this week. I sat next to a woman on a plane who cried all the way from California to Chicago. A precious friend shared the pain of her broken heart with me. A couple of my daughters have shed tears of frustration and failure. I have shed my own tears that streaked my cheeks with trails of fear and hopelessness. This world is a painful place, and sometimes I have no desire to rejoice in the “trials of various kinds”.

I certainly am not going to tell any of you who are suffering that you need to rejoice. I have not responded with grace when well-meaning saints have encouraged me to rejoice in suffering. If you and I are going to rejoice like scripture tells us to do, we will need some major aid from the Holy Spirit and not some encouraging words from a middle-aged blogger.

Help is ours for the taking though. Where tears are healing and distraction numbs the pain, there is power in the Spirit and the miracle of a healed heart is possible. It is my habit to chronologically read through the bible. I have been studying the Old Testament for months and months; it will be summer before I reflect on the birth of Jesus, and I will rejoice like the shepherds abiding in the fields when I open the gospels. While I pursue Jesus in the Old Testament, I have discovered some amazing and very helpful things.

God’s chosen people had lots of heartaches. They wept tears of hopelessness, fear, anger, and regret. They understood pain more acutely than most of us do. The God they cried to cared passionately for them and He fought for them. Over and over again, He addressed himself as “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” I have been marking that phrase in my bible and it is a brightly marked up jumble. God identifies himself this way 269 times in the Old Testament. He is the same God today.

Do you understand what this means? It means that there is an army in heaven. There is a battle raging. The most powerful, and awesome, creator God is leading the charge and He is fighting for you. You are a prize. You are worth it to Him. He has had to redundantly remind me over and over again that He is captain and Lord and He will win. He will wipe away every tear and He will be victorious.

Precious friends, take courage. Find comfort in the word. Let the triune God fill your soul with hope. The Lord of Heaven’s armies is in love with you. He is winning the battle.

 “Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Romans 8:37 (NLT)

 “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57 (NLT)

“Who is the King of glory?

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies—

he is the King of glory.” Psalm 24:10 (NLT)

“The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;

the God of Israel is our fortress.” Psalm 46:11 (NLT)

“But the God of Israel[a] is no idol!

He is the Creator of everything that exists,

including Israel, his own special possession.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!” Jeremiah 10:16 (NLT)