Posts Tagged ‘live loved’

Pray for encouragement and strength because it is these two elements that give what is needed to “stand firm and hold fast” [vs 2:15]. So simple: deep power comes from encouragement. I know this, but I don’t use it nearly enough . . . for myself.

II Thessalonians 2:16-17
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

I’m pretty good at encouraging others, particularly in a work environment. I believe in extolling the virtues of my staff and acknowledging a job well done. That’s important. And I mean it. I do appreciate the work, whether great or small, that each person contributes to the process.

I am not as good with myself. I hear the other voice instead, that internal condemnation voice. Even when everything goes well, if there is one flaw or one mistake, the experience can be ruined for me. I push hard. And the voice is good at pointing out my errors, flaws, and missteps.

Worse still, I don’t accept encouragement from others very well either, even though I need it. I crave it. But I don’t believe in its authenticity. I may cast off encouragement because I don’t trust the one who is offering it or I don’t trust the intentions or that person’s knowledge of the circumstances.

It’s a sad situation. People like me, people with a lot of natural confidence don’t appear to need encouragement, but that’s all a sham.

So, here are some things that need to happen, to change in me. First, I must use more energy to disregard the evil voice and allow the Holy Spirit to encourage me and thereby receive strength from within. This is the most important source. Secondly, I must open the doors of my heart to the words of others and look for the good in them. Lastly, although I do speak encouragement and strength and even pray for those in my care, I am not as good at encouraging those above me. It’s the same trap. I have assumed they don’t need it from me just as others have assumed it about me.

Praise and acknowledgment are easy. Prayers of encouragement for others even easier, but will gain even more power if followed by words and practices of good will.

If you are reading this post today, I thank you and want you to know that all will be well. There is hope today because God is sovereign. There is a moment still to come that will speak love to you. There is a person whose touch will remind you of your value. There is a breath. And from all of these things, gain courage to stand firm and hold fast to the truth of your worth.

Live loved.

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What causes bitterness? Here are some words that bubbled up this morning: disappointment, betrayal, endless battles, anger, unforgiveness, false hope, lies, abandonment, and grace withheld. Unfortunately, I know these words too well, as victim and as perpetrator.

Colossians 3:21
Fathers [and mothers] do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

I am known for big: big ideas, big mouth, big mistakes, big emotions. When I express myself, it’s with a passion. When I grieve and cry, it floods the room. When I slip and fall, I carry lots of stuff (and people) with me. It’s part of who I started out to be and who I have become.

As a child, that bigness came out of wanting to be seen. My aging father was kind to me, and yet, as a caregiver to a toddler, he rendered me invisible and I lived long hours alone in a playpen. He drank heavily during the day and it took a lot to get his attention.

As a young adult, I found some respite in the theater. Everything in that world was bigger and deeper than everyday life; I could safely feel and express lots of different feelings in an array of contrived and controlled moments. I could be seen without harm.

On the mother side, I was expected to perform as well, but perfectly: excellent grades (like my brother), success in all ventures, and work that was respected and secure. When my brother went on with life (college, work, etc.), I continued to feel bound to my mother who was doing her best to provide for us on her own. I wanted escape and felt guilty for it. Resentment grew steadily.

It takes a lot of personal strength to fight the onslaught of bitterness. This is an unexpected benefit from a relationship with the Holy Spirit, where individual courage is married to the supernatural, where holy forgiveness can wash away the bloody colors of bitter ordeals. But it’s a process.

One would think that living through some of this as a child I would be better prepared to give grace to my own children. But old habits die hard and I see now where I put many of the same pressures on them that were put on me. Not in all cases, of course. I gave love and attention and safety. I gave hope and forgiveness. But I also poured on expectations. I have seen the seeds germinate as my children come into their own. They don’t want to disappoint and yet, they feel it all the same. Sustained disappointment leads to bitterness. This I know. Is there still time?

And so I pray, today, to consciously release them and myself from these chains: to live loved.

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Here was the plan: Jesus would come to Earth and do his best to explain/demonstrate the whole Spirit thing and then sacrifice himself to wrap up and seal the covenant. Promised result: the eyes of our hearts would be opened wide and we could live likewise. Actual result: we’re still discussing it.

Ephesians 5:25b, 27
. . . Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy. . . and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Here’s another word picture for all of this: the high rise window washer who puts himself in great danger to clean the windows so that light can be seen both in and out. But then we shut the drapes.

I have everything I need to enter the story life that God intends. I have the body, the circumstances, the family, the nation, the neighborhood, the friends, the talents, the washed windows . . . (all the layers of my drapes are on the inside of the windows).

The light is there. I made covenant with Christ thirty years ago. I am in the Body. I am loved by God.

During this time of fasting, I am slowly opening my drapes, one by one.

While the light of God might be more like the sun, shining brightly with heat and energy everywhere, the Holy Spirit is radiant and glows, permeating the dark spaces with steady but gentle light.

There is radiance and there is holiness within me. Like the last day of school before summer vacation, I want to open the doors and allow it all to pour out.

(FD 10)

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I have a friend whose life phrase is “live loved” which she has adopted from the God Journey folks. It deeply resonates because of its simplicity and promise that we are loved and called to do the same for others.

Ephesians 5:2-3
Be imitators of God, a therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

It’s a two way process actually, but substantially begins with being loved (or recognizing that we are loved). Usually, we experience this love first as small children in the home. The better our parents were at loving and creating security in love, the better start we have. If that love is absent, then the search is on. We all search because we all know, inherently, that we are creatures of love. It is part of our DNA.

So much of what we do as young adults and teenagers is asking, “do you still love me?” If the answer appears to be “no,” then the search for “feeling loved” expands further. And if there is no model for being loved, the chance of picking up a counterfeit increases exponentially.

Although my father loved me, his age and alcoholism prevented him from being consistent. As a child, I forgave him everything (as children do), until he died when I was nine, and my heart interpreted that as the greatest betrayal of love ever. My mother, handicapped by her own losses and mental instabilities, did the best she could, but her love always seemed to carry a proviso, a burden, a condition.

So, I performed well to merit love, from her, from my friends, from the men in my life. I became an expert chameleon, the consummate actress in life as well as on the stage. Theater and acting seemed like the perfect solution: applause equaled love. All the while asking, am I worth loving now?

Even when I met God in Christ, I was still programmed to perform and earn love. I worked through the motions and the rules. I went to church. I married a Christian man. I wore Jesus jewelry and talked the Jesus talk. I lifted up my hands at the right times and depending on the setting, I danced and swayed.

Similar to the Verizon commercial, my heart would say, “Do you love me now?”

But with each year of performing, the mistakes piled up as well. There was that inner critique, the reviewer whose assessment was always harsh and blistering.

When was the release moment? I can’t really say. I think it started when I learned about “performance-orientation” from Elijah House. And then, from there, a counselor helped me accept the truth of Romans 8:1 (Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus . . . ). And eventually, I came to really believe God loved me, failures, disappointments, and all.

And only then, I will truthfully say, did my journey to love God back begin in earnest. Only then, did I understand and experience freedom in my faith.

And what does loving God look like? I’m pretty sure it’s loving others and letting them love me. Today. I’ll start with today.

(Fast Day 2)

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