Love is Hard.

We have all heard the phrase, “Love is a choice.” Sometimes that choice may feel easy, but lets face it there are many times when that choice feels hard. It feels easy when our children are smiling and obeying, but when the laundry and dishes are piled high, you are flat out exhausted and your children are throwing a fit because you didn’t cut the crust of their sandwich…it can get hard. It may feel easy to love when your spouse is being sweet and thoughtful, but when they are short with you, or say something thoughtless…it can get hard.

It’s not so much choosing to love, but choosing to respond in love that can be hard at times. I struggle with it, we all struggle with it. Recently, I saw this great picture of a scripture verse out of Romans 5:8. The scripture reads, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV) The image paraphrases the verse and says, “I loved you at your darkest.” Wow. In my darkest moment God loved and still loves me. He also calls us to love like that, except it is much harder for us to do. That is why we need His help.
As I write this, Ed Sheeran’s song “Photograph,” is playing in my mind.

Loving can hurt
Loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive…

Loving can heal
Loving can mend your soul.

It isn’t hard to love the “lovely,” but what about the homeless man you see downtown that hasn’t bathed in a while? What about the woman who spits in your face when you tell her she is worth more than the $50 her pimp is getting for her? What about the person close to you who breaks your heart? I think about what Christ endured; the ridicule, the physical and emotional pain, the sting of death. And what for? Love. The cross wasn’t easy. Therefore love isn’t always easy. Yet, it is the most vital. It encourages, uplifts, frees, heals, restores, makes new and is desperately needed.

Remove the word “is” and you get…love hard (and with all you’ve got).

bible-verses-about-love-bibleversesaboutlife.com-image-7

Because One is Too Many.

oneistoomany

One of my favorite parables told by Jesus in Luke 15 is the shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep in search of one.  It reflects His heart and character that He believes that one person is worth it.  It reflects that each life is precious and valuable.   To me it speaks the message that when there are more people entrapped in slavery now than ever in history, and it can be daunting to think about helping as many as you can, to focus on one at a time is a far greater encouragement.  We can all become weary and burned out, but when we carry the attitude that even just one is worth it because one is too many it can change everything.  Some food for thought:

*God would likely have spared Sodom and Gomorrah for one (Genesis 18).

*The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine for the one (Luke 15).

*Jesus would have died for one.

Can you imagine how many more lives would have been lost during the Nazi resistance, if people didn’t find it important to smuggle “just one more” out of the Nazi clutches?  Never think that one treasured life isn’t worth it.

As I prepare for outreaches this summer I know that even if one life is saved then it is all worth it.   If only one girl receives lifesaving information, then it is all worth it.  Because one person enslaved is too many.  You too can do something for just one.

Ways that you can fight human trafficking in your area:

*Support local task forces, join a coalition or group that is fighting trafficking
*Support organizations that are fighting trafficking, rescuing and aiding victims
*Volunteer at awareness events, fundraisers, etc.
*Educate yourself and spread awareness

You can make a tax deductible donation to help fund For Such a Time Ministries summer outreaches here.

Upcoming Events

The Journey of Forgiveness.

forgive.001

Recently, as I sat in worship I was pondering the greatness of God’s love for me, what little we can actually comprehend, and I went back to about 14 years ago.  It was a painful time in my life, but the love of God was ever present and ever pursuing me.  The key to much of my freedom over the years hasn’t just been receiving the forgiveness of Christ, but forgiving those who wounded me deeply…even forgiving myself.

I think about the women I work with, beautiful, precious and brokenhearted.  For some, the greatest steps of healing they will walk through will be to forgive those who exploited, abused and wounded them deeply.  While those will be some of the hardest steps to make they will also be some of the most freeing.  I love the quote floating around about how keeping unforgiveness in your heart is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, because it is true.  Nothing binds so much as unforgiveness.  Maybe that is why the journey of forgiving seems daunting, painful and at times unattainable, because it is possibly one of the most freeing journeys to make.

Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’”  That seems to fit with Jesus’ final words on the cross, “It is finished.”

The cross doesn’t just represent freedom, but forgiveness.

Jesus made that journey over 2000 years ago.  It was the hardest journey anyone would ever have to make.  He took each step strengthened by the power of His Father and the Holy Spirit and His passionate love for us.  His journey of forgiveness paved the way so that we could make that same journey of forgiveness that leads to freedom.  Remember that love keeps no record of wrongs…that means forgiveness is an act of love.  Jesus went through the ultimate act of love…He forgave and still does today.    I don’t believe that forgiveness is so much about loving those who hurt you, but more about loving yourself enough to let go.

Let’s follow that lead and walk in the freedom He intends.  Take the journey that leads to a whole heart.  During this month of “love,” make a decision to love yourself a little better…you are worth it.

A little R&R…

Characteristic of Love Series: It gives…and is meant to be received.

“For God so loved the world…He gave His only begotten Son…” John 3:16

My dad has this saying that always touches my heart, “The cross didn’t gain God’s love for us…it came from His love for us.”  God already loved us when He gave His all.

So often we want to deserve God’s love, which really means we want to earn it, but can we?  I say no, true love is not earned.  True love gives without expecting anything in return.  God gave His all at the cross knowing not everyone would love Him back and He did it anyway.  Jesus didn’t die just for those who would say yes…that is true love.  True love gives.

We may not be able to earn it, but we can receive it and then respond from there.  Receiving leads to response…love and giving in return (to God and to others).  This is God’s order otherwise we may just become religious robots doing our “duty” as Christians and I am pretty sure Jesus didn’t die so we would be dutiful.

We were designed to receive and then respond, otherwise we can get all out of whack.  We begin a steady decline of trying to earn God’s love; a decline that leads us away from intimacy.  We need to let God love us and from that let our works line up…give from a place of having received a love as great as this (John 15:13).

Best summed up: receive and respond…a little R&R.

Characteristic of love #4: it gives and is meant to be received.

Love is looooong.

long.001

Characteristics of Love Series

The scripture passage in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 about the qualities and characteristics of love is probably one of the most quoted parts of the Bible, but may be the hardest to live out.  You know the one…”love is patient, love is kind, etc.”

The first part of (v.4) says, “Love is patient,” and while most versions say “patient,” some say, “Suffers long” or “long-suffering” such as the NKJV.  I don’t know about you, but at times being patient does seem like I am suffering long…so I can see why they are used interchangeably.

Dictionary.com defines long-suffering as:
adjective
1. enduring injury, trouble, or provocation (angers, irritation, instigation) long and patiently.

noun
2. long and patient endurance of injury, trouble, or provocation (angers, irritation, instigation)

Being patient sometimes means we suffer a little bit, never really anything too life-threatening or damaging to our self-worth.  I experienced a little long-suffering last night, but soon realized how it was for the benefit of another…and really wasn’t suffering compared to what someone else was going through.

A friend and I went out to eat to meet up and chat.  The restaurant we had chosen was closed and so we went down the road a ways and found another.  We sat down, ordered waters (as if you need to know that) and waited…and waited…and waited to order.  I was beginning to get a smidge perturbed that our waitress had not returned and was no where to be found.  The restaurant was not empty, but not super busy either.

It wasn’t until I realized that this woman was the only waitress (and bartender) for the whole restaurant and then I spotted her there behind the bar…crying.  “Ok, God, my food isn’t so important.”

All too often we do not see why we need to be better in the long-suffering department.  We don’t stop to think that our patience will positively affect another person.  To me long-suffering isn’t just about being patient, but caring about other people around us.  Not being door mats, but a little less self-centered.

It would have been easier to remain annoyed at that waitress and not be understanding.  It would have been easier to get up, leave and go to another restaurant instead of asking her if she was ok.  It would have been super easy to not leave a very good tip.  Yet, people need to know that someone cares, is patient and isn’t so self-centered in their moment of stress…that they are more important than burgers and sweet potato fries.

Remember, that love isn’t just “long in the tooth,” but it is also loooooong-suffering at times too.  It is also probably good to remember that God doesn’t command us to do something that He doesn’t do daily (love thy neighbor).  He is pretty patient and loving with us.

 Characteristic of love #3: it is looooong.

The Alls

Characteristics of Love Series

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8

Once, the Lord said to me that I needed to know that He loved me in the mess before He removed me from it.  That stuck with me, as most things He speaks to my heart do.  It occurred to me that He said this because we tend to have the habit in our thinking that He loves us deeply only in our “perfection.”

I have been thinking about the statement “love covers all,” and how profound that is to our human frailty and weakness.  God loves us so much that He provided for the “all” in our lives.  We need the love of God in our lives not just to cover “the alls” in our lives, but to help us love each other deeply to the cover “the alls” in other’s lives.

Recently, on an outreach to exploited women in my community I kept hearing words that spoke of their shame and I thought about how the love of Christ covers and obliterates shame.  It is love that covers, whereas shame makes us believe we need to cover ourselves…just look at Adam and Eve.  When we allow the love of Christ to touch and transform us we can then share that same love with others and be blessed to witness heaven in action.   Characteristic of love #2: it covers all

We needed a love in our lives to cover “the alls,”….enter Jesus who upstaged it ALL with His very life.  This is one girl who believes in the power of Jesus’ love and will gladly let Him cover my “alls”…will you?

a heart awaits.

Isaiah61wallpaper-1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bing up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…Isaiah 61 (NIV)

The world around us is filled with the brokenhearted and the causes seem endless.  Divorce, homelessness, disabled veterans, post-abortive women, victims of sexual exploitation, modern day slaves, the sick, the unemployed and the list goes on.

An article by NBC News states that in 2011 the number of homeless in the United States is over 630,000 and according to the Polaris Project there is an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today and according to the APA the divorce rate in the US is about 40-50% of married couples, if this doesn’t indicate that there some broken hearts who need a dose of unconditional love I don’t know what does.*

Maybe that is you, maybe you need an unconditional embrace from your Heavenly Father whose love for you goes deeper than any ocean and is more passionate than we can imagine.  God is there and waiting.

Yet, the love isn’t for storing up.  Love is meant to give.  As the body of Christ, the world needs us.  It needs to know the greater message, not one of condemnation or shame, but the message that a love which is greater than we are is pursuing them.  A love that heals, saves and delivers.  A love that provides for every need, comforts those who mourn, is patient, never fails (because we do) and is waiting.  We need to allow God to fill us overflowing with this love and in turn go out into the world and pour it out.  God doesn’t need us, but wants to partner with us to reach the brokenhearted.

There are so many areas we can get involved in and reach out.  So, what are you waiting for?  The world awaits….better yet, a heart awaits.

Organizations who reach out to the brokenhearted:

*World Relief http://www.worldrelief.org

*Wounded Warrior Project http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org
*World Vision www.worldvision.org

*Agape International Missions www.agapewebsite.org

*Feeding America www.feedingamerica.org

*Salvation Army www.salvationarmyusa.org

Be sure to check out your local church to see what they are doing to reach out to the community!  You can also partner with For Such a Time Ministries and the work Kelly is doing in the community for the sexually exploited.

*Because I always cite a source:

1) http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/01/18/10177017-homeless-numbers-down-but-risks-rise?lite

2) polarisproject.org

3) http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce

A little issue called hate.

Hate is nothing new and really isn’t a little issue.  It is bred in unforgiveness, prejudice, jealousy, and leads to one thing in particular…lack of value for human life or maybe lack of value for human life leads to hate.  I believe this grieves the heart of God to the deepest of levels.  God is love and He created us in His image, so we were made to love and care for one another.  We can see the opposite of this at work in our world today, heck it has been at work since the beginning of time, after all Satan didn’t deceive Eve because he had her best interest in mind.

We have seen so much of hate in the news lately and I see this issue operating successfully each day in my line of work.  In the fight against exploitation and trafficking I see human beings have a complete lack of value for their fellow humans.  At the core of it is a complete lack of value for themselves, to allow their own bodies into these situations where they abuse the body of another either visually or physically.

The answer must be in the love of Christ.  He, who laid down His own life and body for the lives of many to come because of love.  Yet, can we love unconditionally when we don’t even realize our own value?  Maybe.  Maybe not.   Change in the world does, however, begin at home and in ourselves.  I pray that we realize our inherent value and worth…what the Creator of the world thinks of us and in turn we begin to realize what our fellow human beings are worth.  I pray we begin to realize that God loves us unconditionally, without expectation and in turn we begin to love others unconditionally.  What a slap in the face to the enemy of our souls if we live as we were meant to live, loving others.  There is too much hate in the world, too much hate that people experience every day.

So please, never underestimate a little act of unconditional love…you may be giving someone a great thing that they have never experienced before.  A little act of unconditional love is a greater blow to evil and hate than you may make think.  A little love always outshines hate.

Love_Shines_Bright_by_xBAZAximage credits:deviantart

Unrestrained and often unrequited

Unrestrained Love.

To love someone unconditionally is something that changes your life.  I am not referring to a child or a family member.  To love unconditionally is to love without expecting anything in return and can be a challenge as a human being.  When we love we expect to be loved back.

While on an outreach yesterday, I had the privilege to experience unconditional love.  I was able to witness God’s furious, passionate love by reaching out to others.  Others who may have never experienced someone saying, ‘I love you’ or say that they are beautiful without expecting anything in return.  That is just like God though, He loves us no matter what, knowing full well that many will not love Him in return.  Jesus died on the cross for us knowing full well that many would not believe in His existence, let alone believe that He died because of a furious love.  It was an amazing opportunity to be a part of God’s unconditional, passionate love for people who do not even know Him.  To give them love and gifts without expecting anything in return was a perfect way to experience what it is like to love without limits, without restrictions, without hope of anything in return…true unconditional love.

Remember, Christ loves unconditionally…you and those who do not know Him.

We as human beings cannot love perfectly, but we can know and experience a perfect love, an unfailing and never ending love.  We can also, despite our imperfections, do a simple act of unconditional love (without expectations) for someone and watch the world change one heart at a time.  I know my heart is full, and I wasn’t even the recipient in this case.

**For those whom I may have offended by using God’s love and furious in the same sentence: according to dictionary.com furious also means unrestrained energy….

God is unrestrained love.