Exploding [Unconditional] Love

My kids and I have begun a fun little game where they try to explode me. With love, that is. When they’re being so sweet and loving, I tell them that they’re filling me with so much love I’m going to explode. Then I act out the explosion. They do it on purpose now, with the motivation of “exploding” me. It’s fun when love is like that, isn’t it? When someone says or does something showing their love, it’s easy to feel, speak, and show that love back. That’s the easy part. However, we live in a sinful world.

We need to remember that sin has infected all of us. You and everyone you love are flawed, sinful creatures, incapable of acting or loving perfectly in relationships and in life.

It’s when people have said things that hurt or didn’t say things you wish they would have that the “sacrificial” and “unconditional” come into play. When people make choices that make things harder on you and others, showing love then is the whole point.

Showing that kind of love is what we are called to do, in order to point people to Jesus, who showed perfect sacrificial love when we were nowhere close to deserving it.

Luke 6:27, “But to you who are listening, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.

Sometimes I think we get confused about loving our enemies, and showing unconditional love when others are not.

Showing unconditional love sometimes means turning the other cheek, and allowing things to roll off our back. However, it does not mean always staying quiet, enduring, looking the other way, and avoiding confrontation.

Unconditional love is playing the long game.

Your ability to show sacrificial, unconditional love will increase as you prioritize your relationship with your Savior. As you pray for and study discernment, you’ll grow in wisdom and understanding about what to say and how to say it when difficult situations arise.

You’ll also learn to be quicker to forgive. You know why? Because in the Word you will see over and over how incredibly much God forgives His people, see that translate in your own life, seeing the incredible debts God has forgiven you. Suddenly, seeing someone else miss the mark comes from a place of understanding instead of victimization. You’ve been there, after all.

When someone does something, though, that is drawing them or others away from God in the big picture, it’s not showing unconditional love to shrug and think “No one’s perfect” and let it go. It’s a whole lot harder, but a whole lot more loving to raise that person up to the throne in prayer again and again, delving into scripture and seeking wisdom to know how best to handle that specific situation.

Sacrificial, unconditional, beautiful and true love is a commitment. We’ve been forgiven so, so much. Only drawing nearer to our debtor can we begin to comprehend how to show unconditional love.

Matthew 7: 3-5, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

We have been shown such incredible, unconditional, unchanging love. We have also been called to show that love to those people who have been placed in our lives. This is not an obligation, but a reflection, a show of gratitude for the incredible love that’s been shown to us.

Romans 8:38-39, “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.”

John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

If you’re ever able to clear everything else from your mind and focus on the completely unbelievable love Christ has shown you, it may just lead you to explode with acts of love toward those around you.

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Bold and Intimate Prayer

Are you having a good summer?

In cold-weather Wisconsin, the answer is usually resounding “yes!”, no matter how things are actually going.  We northerners seem to get revived during the short and intense time of heat. We love us some summer.

That’s why one my favorite summer songs regularly echoes in my ears right now. It reveals my personal desire for comfort and joy with a soulful tune and intriguing lyrics:

Summer time and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high,
One of these mornings, you’re gonna rise up singin’
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky,
But ‘till that morning, there ain’t nothin’ can harm you,
So hush little baby, don’t you cry…

Kids long for summer, moms relish the few short months, families reunite and people in general use summer to revive and refresh.

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But these lyrics haunt me just a little because life happens during summer, too.

When I was ten, my eleven-year-old cousin drowned at a family reunion, my parent got a cancer diagnosis, my friend died in a car accident, and loved ones suffered pain and sorrow. Tragedy waits for no one.

So, I pose a question… have you noticed lately, more and more people have need of and are requesting prayers this summer?

It seems the world is certainly not getting better, regardless of summer expectations.

Even though the mood is supposed to be lighter, how do you personally respond when you are asked to pray for someone?

Do you counter with…

  • “What happened?”
  • “Yes, I heard about that.”
  • “Oh no! That’s terrible.”
  • “Of course, I will pray for so-n-so.”
  • “Thank you for the opportunity to lift them up.”

In a previous post, we pondered prayer and the power of the prepositions “through” and “in” as Jesus answers prayer.

What is truly amazing is the part believers play in prayer requests. We are given an opportunity to approach God personally.

The question is, how?

A recent conversation about prayer brought to light a troubling circumstance with the response to most prayer requests:

People say they will pray for you.

But rarely do they pray with you.

The challenge is to drop everything and just throw the problem at the foot of the cross. Together.

Right there.

With them.

In that moment.

Out loud.

In Thessalonians Paul urges us to “Pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

We aren’t told how Christians throughout the ages have prayed other than Paul’s excellent prayers in the letters he wrote to the congregations. That’s probably because God just wants us to pray whenever and wherever we are.

However, let me ask you this:

Have you had a fellow sister or brother in Christ immediately pray for you when you had problems or troubles or situations?

From personal experience, I cannot begin to tell you how much it helps. It makes a huge difference for those who are suffering, sad, crying, or mourning.

Together you go to your heavenly Father and just throw yourself on his lap of mercy. Spending this time with someone hurting allows them to hear your concerns and love for them.

It also binds you together as family, and dispels emotions.

In response to your request, God grants you comfort, peace and a renewed certainty that things will be all right. Really.

Ask the Lord for opportunities to pray with others when you say you will pray for them.

Then keep your eyes open for those times and have the courage to give it a try.

You and your loved one will be amazed at the outcome… God gives a little breath of summer right then and there.

And the result of your bold and intimate prayers?

As God’s children, the livin’ IS easy, you DO rise up singing, you CAN spread your wings, no one CAN harm you, and Jesus dries all your tears, hushing both of your agonized souls.

So hush, little baby, don’t…. you cry.

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Small act, BIG results.

A year ago, I was in my dorm room. It was the quiet part of my evening - the time I typically spent sipping tea and making a to-do list for the next day, with something light-hearted on Netflix quietly humming in the background. I was picking out an outfit for the morning’s classes when the loud *buzz buzz* of my phone resting on the laminate top of my desk distracted me. My screen lit up, showing a text from one of my close friends.

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I finished laying out my outfit. I grabbed my favorite boots off of the shelf and put them by my freshly packed backpack. Pouring myself another cup of tea, I unplugged my phone from the charging cable, and nestled into the couch. Hair in a bun, cozied up in a felt blanket with my steaming mug in hand, I finally checked my notifications. Opening my friend’s text message took my breath away.

 

“How can I pray for you today?”

 

I nearly burst into tears.

 

My evening was nothing extraordinary, and my week hadn’t been either, but that simple text message engraved that moment into my memory forever. My LED screen lit up because I had a notification, but the light of the message itself burned so much brighter.

 

I can’t tell you how I responded to that text message. I likely asked him to pray for a mind focused on my studies or for strength to make it through another week of college life. I really don’t remember.


Whatever troubles and hardships were going on in my life at that moment - though probably inconsequential - have long been forgotten. My friend’s Christ-like act has not.

 

Isn’t that reassuring?



I have already forgotten the heartaches and stressors of last year, but I haven’t forgotten God’s love beaming through my friend.  A straightforward question deepened relationships - the relationship with my Father and with my friend. The support, encouragement, and love evident in both of these righteous relationships was made more apparent on that normal, quiet evening last year. A small, selfless action produced big results.

 

Reminds me of how a plain man endured a seemingly simple criminal’s death in an execution far more groundshaking than it appeared.

 

Small act, big results.

 

Today, I want to encourage you to shine. You don’t have to follow my friend’s example, but it might be a humble place to begin. Don’t fuss over being lengthy or eloquent. Don’t stress over the means of communication, if your message isn’t delivered face-to-face. I promise, it can be as simple as sending a seven-word text message at the end of the day. The Savior’s love will radiate through your efforts.

 

Humble yourself, reach out in a small way, and watch our Father pour out his big love.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
— James 5:16

 

Rev. 3:11

Let your crown shine today.

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to belong

home is where the heart is Five years ago we pulled into this tiny town in our rattly red Ford Taurus, not knowing a single person. Not a one.

I spent that first year here living long days in our blue carpeted rental, desperately trying to feel at home. To find my people. To reach out. To build relationships and connect.

My heart longed to have face to face conversations that went beyond the polite how are you? I'd push the shopping cart through the aisles and hope to lock eyes with a familiar face. Library story time was spent scanning the room for a kind smile. You can bet I'd give my right arm for an invitation for coffee. And I don't even drink the stuff.

All I wanted was to belong.

Because not belonging? It's hard. Lonely. Scary.

And it's humbling. Especially for a girl who had spent her entire life surrounded by dear friends. Never the new girl, never the outsider. I was the outsider.

Until I wasn't. I'm ever grateful to the women here who invited me along. The ones who called and e-mailed, the ones who said I'll meet you there! and Come with! It will be fun. The ladies who love me and my family. The ones who offered up their friendship with open arms and the dearest hearts.

This outsider now feels like she belongs. And now I'm the one diving in to reach out to others.

On a bit of a whim a few years ago, I started a weekly moms group at our church. I wondered if anyone would show up or if it would be me all alone twiddling my thumbs. It turned out to be a mixed bag of sorts - some weeks moms would come in droves and other weeks it would be me and one other. Either way, on Thursday mornings, the doors were always open with possibility.

One morning brought a gal with long blonde hair and kind eyes. She was new to the group and new to town. We chatted and laughed and swapped stories for two hours while kiddos played at our feet. When she left she thanked me again and again for hosting the group. I've been searching for something like this. You made my day she said. And I knew exactly what she meant.

With my little guy in elementary school now, I've uncovered new ways to include and befriend, but for years I kept showing up for the moms group and reaching out. Even if it meant setting everything up and then no one else showing. Because someone might've come. And it might've just been their ticket to belonging.

Today, friends, I would love for you to take that first step. Share your smile freely. Shine your light. Seek someone out and wave her over to sit with you. Compliment her scarf. Ask her questions and listen to her story. Meet her for coffee or a coke. Tell her you're so happy to know her and mean it. Link arms with her and smile knowing you are both loved something fierce by the One who was generous enough to create friendship.

There is always someone looking to belong.

And there is room enough for everyone.

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