Love keeps no record of wrongs.
~1 Corinthians 13:5
The wind lashed at my umbrella as I leaned into the force of the gale, determined to complete my morning walk in spite of Mother Nature’s wrath. When I turned the farthermost corner of my journey, I walked past a church. A young choir inside sang, their voices spilling out onto the sidewalk. I stopped and listened, forgetting the weather. Their voices filled my heart with such sweet innocence, that I was transported back in time–before the hurt, before the shame, before my hardened heart.
My heart ached for all the paths I’ve wandered that took me away from God, away from my goodness. I shivered standing there in the rain.
“I have loved you anyway,” God whispered as the tears I was fighting won and chased my regrets down my face.
“What?” I asked, raising my face to the rain.
“I knew you’d break my heart, but I loved you anyway,” God said gently.
“Oh God, how could you?” I could barely get the words out.
“I created you. You’re mine. How can I not love my creation?” He answered.
“I’m so sorry for all of my mistakes. I’m so sorry I lost my way so many years ago.”
“I know you are. I’ve forgotten all about those years. I wish you could forget them too. Tell the others that even though I know they too will break my heart, I love them anyway,” God asked.
“Yes, of course, I will,” I answered.
Here is that message: God wants you to know that He isn’t a keeper of wrongs. He loves you, even when He knows you’ll break His heart. You are still His precious innocent child. No matter how far down the wrong path you have journeyed, you can always turn around and come home, back to His arms, back to His heart.
I dried my tears and pushed on, each step propelling me towards home. I savored the company that I was now aware was walking with me—had always walked with me. “Thank you, God,” I whispered, full of gratitude for a love I can only appreciate, never fully fathom.
“I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit”
We all want to appear and to be successful. We want people to know we are accomplished and capable. We want to be important. The first temptation of Christ was to show His importance, to turn stones into bread. He kept to His calling to share the Word of God instead of impressing. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) He could have dazzled everyone with His abilities, but He chose not to.
We, on the other hand, like to dazzle others. We hide behind our accomplishments and trappings of success. We don’t want others to see or know our true, unadorned self, for it is damaged, broken, and untidy. But it is in the unadorned self where Christ resides in you the most. He isn’t driving your Mercedes, He’s driving your broken places, filling them with His light and love. It is when we expose our unadorned self to others that we truly love. For when we are vulnerable, naked in our sin, mistakes, wounds… call it what you like, that we invite others to connect with their truth, their broken places so that they can offer them to up to Jesus. If we weren’t broken clay vessels walking around, there would be no need for the Potter! Our naked selves, our deepest truth, is what longs for wholeness, for connection with God. Let us celebrate that! Reclaim your unadorned self and offer it to the world. It’s one of the bravest and most important things you will ever do.
“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)
It’s easy to give thanks for the “good” things in life.
But what about the “bad” things? Do we give thanks for them too? Yes! Apostle Paul told us not once, but twice, that we are to give thanks always, for everything (Ephesians 5:20) and “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 5:20). It’s clear that our default position is gratitude, no matter what is going on in our lives.
How can we keep our hearts open to gratitude when things seem unbearable?
We start by knowing that God is sovereign. He’s got control of our experience (Isaiah 46:9-10). We know that He will never leave us (Hebrews 12-5). He is there with us in our times of adversity (Isaiah 43:2). We know too that all things work to good to those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28). Our challenging times are temporary and are insignificant in comparison to our eternal rewards (2 Corinthians 4:17).
If we believe that God’s got us in His hands and His heart in all circumstances of our lives,
it becomes easier to understand what the great bard, William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” There’s just life. When we bow to God and give thanks for everything in our life, we find more peace. We know that one day, Jesus will wipe away our tears, and death and the things that cause us to mourn will be no more (Revelations 21:4).
As we ready ourselves for Thanksgiving, let’s remember to give thanks for everything.
Let’s say “Thank you, God” for the hard times, the painful times, the sad times in our lives. Let’s put it all in His hands and know that we are His and we are so loved. Thank you, God, for all you do for us!
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
~1 John 4:8
“What shall I write today, God?”
I ask that question every morning before I throw back the covers and crawl out of bed. I write the next day’s Soul Reminder after my morning prayers and before I do anything else. But not this morning. For the first time in almost a year of writing Soul Reminders, I stared at a blank page. Nothing. Zip. Nada. So, I started my day and prayed that God would give me the words He wanted me to share later on.
He did. Finally.
Curled up on the couch, creating the online course Listen Like Jesus (I know, it’s about a month behind schedule. I’m sorry) I felt a tug at my heart. “Write these words to everyone, please,” God whispered. And so, here they are:
“I love you.
It’s not just that I love you, I AM LOVE. There is no part of me that is not love. I know you ask the difficult question ‘ If you love me, why do you let me suffer?’ All I can say is trust me. Whatever circumstances you find yourself in that cause you pain, there I AM. There is my love. I’m everywhere. I’m in the middle of your pain, your darkness. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. You are my creation and I’m so proud of you.
I breathed life into you because I wanted you to taste the sunshine.
I wanted you to feel the wind play through your hair. I wanted you to feel the warmth of another’s arms wrapped around you. I wanted your heart to beat with the love I have for you. I know your journey has challenges, but keep going. Keep waking up full of wonder, full of curiosity. Keep turning toward the mystery. Don’t turn your face from me, for I want to see your beautiful eyes. I want to hold your sweet face in my hands.
I have plans and promises for you.
I have more joy for you, just around the bend. I have more love for you than you can ever begin to imagine. One day, you’ll understand. Not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But one day. So keep talking to me. Keep creating your life with my grace and love. Let my Spirit inside of you guide you. I promise everything will be okay. You’re going to shine so brightly, you’ll light the whole world on fire. You’ll see. Go taste the sunshine. Go feel the wind in your hair. Go love.
I’m in your heart, beating wildly.
“Love GOD is patient and kind; love GOD does not envy or boast; it GOD is not arrogant or rude. It GOD does not insist on its GOD’s own way; it GOD is not irritable or resentful; it GOD does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love GOD bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love GOD never ends.” ~1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (Margaret’s translation)
She sat on the bench and fed the pigeons as if they were her only family.
Perhaps they were. I saw her every time I walked through the park on my way to work. I would smile and nod a hello. She always smiled back. One rainy winter morning, I saw her huddled under an umbrella, throwing sunflower seeds to the swarming birds at her feet. They didn’t seem to mind the wet. I pulled my scarf tighter around my neck and leaned into the cold breeze. She saw me and waved me over.
“I’ll share my umbrella,” she said.
“Sit down here,” she patted the bench next to her. I walked over and sat down. I was curious about her. I noticed her fingers were gnarled from arthritis. The skin on the back of her hands were weathered from years of hard work. She told me that her name was Margaret. I told her my name was Jennifer. She smiled as if my name were the most beautiful thing in the whole world. The birds that had scattered when I sat down, returned to scratch around at our feet.
“You feed the birds every day,” I said it as a statement, not a question.
She laughed. “Yes. Hardly ever miss.” She went on the tell me about herself. It was a captivating story. Then, right when I thought she’d tell me more, she stopped. Instead, she asked me, “Do you love yourself?” The question was so out of the blue that I laughed.
“Yes. I love myself more today than I ever have in all of my life,” I answered honestly.
She nodded. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
Love’s too precious not to let it into your heart. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love God. God is love, you know. And it would be such a shame not to know God. He gave us such a beautiful world to live in. Why, just look at all of the grandeur around us. Look at the naked trees, baring themselves in the cold. Look at that group of crows over there having a little get-together,” she smiled. See that mother pushing the stroller?” she pointed over to the sidewalk. “That’s God giving us another baby, another chance to love.”
“Margaret, it’s been a pleasure meeting you,” I said as I rose.
“I’ve got to get to work, but I’m going to take your words of wisdom and your friendship with me.” I leaned down and hugged her. “You are an angel,” I whispered in her ear. She looked deep into my eyes and smiled. I never saw Margaret in the park after that day. I sometimes wonder if God put her in my path to remind me that everything in our world, including myself, was created because of His immense love.
He called you into existence, too, with His love.
May that love wash over you as you read these words. May it fill your heart and spill out into your thoughts, words and deeds today. May it settle into your bones and abide in you forever and ever. Love never ends, you know. Neither does God.