To Love Me Well… Love My Children

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How can I have a relationship with a God I can’t see?

Last week we celebrated my son’s 6th birthday. The party was more than a month after his actual birthday, but he insisted on having a bounce house and sprinklers, so a belated celebration it was. We settled on Memorial Day weekend with an inflatable water slide that turned our backyard into a swamp suitable for Yoda to train young Jedi warriors, but hey, it was fun, right??

We hosted a gaggle of children in addition to my own crew, all precious to my Sweet Prince. However, the ones who stole my heart weren’t there for the water slide. Of course, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t get some play time in…

These two may have been the wettest of the bunch, but there were others who showed up to love my boy with wicked Nerf guns and Pokémon cards before they went about their adulting business. Yes, these special guests are grown men and women, not related to us, no kids of their own, with nothing obligating them to a 6-year-old’s birthday party when they could totally be out doing grown-up things like driving motorcycles or whitewater rafting or shopping for appliances… And yet they came.

They come over and over again, week after week, year after year. They come to birthday parties, preschool graduations, and over for dinner when my socialite 8-year-old begs for “company.” They make Play Doh creations, give us special treatment when we visit them at work (Chick-fil-A, of course), teach the kids’ classes at church, and model a life that is following Jesus. They simply love my children, and in turn, they are loving me.

Love me well

One of the great mysteries of faith is the idea of loving a being which we cannot experience with our 5 senses. Certainly we can connect with the divine in less tangible ways – the work and power of the spiritual realm is often misunderstood and vastly underrated by the exhibitionism of the internet age – but aside from recognizable theophanies, interacting with an invisible God can feel like explaining Pinterest to your great-grandmother… Where do you even begin??

Jesus was once posed a similar question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40

The Pharisees get a bad rap for being the bad guys in the Gospels, but truth be told, the whole Pharisaical movement was born out of that one question: how can I have a relationships with a God I can’t see? 

Seeking to understand the Mosaic traditions of Judaism in their contemporary context, the Pharisees wanted to shift the focus of Hebrew worship from temple sacrifice to personal study and prayer. Their endless lists of rules missed the heart of the Law, to be certain, but ultimately, they were asking the same questions we are. Their answer landed on legalism; Jesus pointed to loving people. 

Love my children

To anyone who is a parent, it should come as no surprise that the best way for us to love God is to love his children – each other. He spent over half of the Ten Commandments (plus the majority of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that you never read because it feels rote) telling us how to respect one another, and the critiques of literally every minor prophet in the Old Testament boil down to Israel failing to care for the needs of her most vulnerable people groups.

Jesus’ entire ministry is devoted to loving God’s children. His miracles may be symbolic of large-scale principles, but let’s not forget they were still worked through individuals. He saw the needs right in front of him, and then he met them. We ought to take that as lesson #1 of “How to Be Like Jesus.” In Matthew 25, he gives us this familiar parable:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Matthew 25:34-40

If I had the job of writing section subheadings in the Bible, this one would be, “Jesus Tells Us How We Can Love a God We Can’t See.” It’s so simple: love his people.

We are created to live in community, and family is both the primary foundation of community and the primary vehicle through which God demonstrates his relationship to us and vice versa. We are most moved when others minister to our children, therefore, so is God.

If you are new to following Jesus, or if you’re considering it but not sure where to start, look to the greatest commandments – the second answers the “how” of the first! Love God, and love your neighbor. Look at the needs right in front of you, and meet them. Mentor a kid. Help someone who is struggling. Visit someone who is alone. Feed someone who is hungry. Get involved in community. That’s where the magic happens, because that’s where God’s heart is.

God is saying to us now, To love me well… Love my children.

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The Opposite of Fear

The Opposite of Fear

I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

John 14:27, NLT

Peace.

It’s something our world is so desperate for. Last week, within 24 hours, a terrorist group took the lives of 190 human beings and injured hundreds more in a coordinated series of attacks between Paris, France; Beirut, Lebanon; and Baghdad, Iraq. Never before in my lifetime have I known such a clear and present enemy.

The enemy is not Islam or Muslims. Please hear me. Our Muslim brothers and sisters are not the enemy. Our enemy is terror, and our enemies are those who would pursue it. Fear is the enemy of peace, and that is the New World Order that ISIS hopes to usher in.

But it won’t.

How do I know? Well, I’ve read the back of the Book. In times of tragedy, I always turn to the back and breathe in those words – “There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Rev. 21:4, NLT) …But we all know it has to get worse before it gets better.

Thankfully, Jesus’ gospel isn’t just about eternity; it’s about the here and now. Certainly heaven is a beautiful end for God’s plan to redeem mankind, but if we get too focused on the future, we will miss the divine right in front of us. What is the Kingdom of God? It is Christ’s eternal reign, where love, joy, and peace rule in the hearts and lives of the whole of creation. So Jesus was right when he said that this Kingdom is both coming and here: we anticipate a heavenly home, but love, joy, and peace can still rule in our hearts and lives even now.

The truth is we do not wage war against flesh and blood, but rather we battle against demons and principalities that would seek a rule of fear and hopelessness. So when we look at the outside world and see fear and pain and brokenness, we must turn our gaze inward to the hope that we have in Jesus. What is the opposite of fear? Love.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18, NIV

How do we bring about peace in a world so lost as ours is today? Start with the love that drives out fear. Believe in the hope that God will restore all that has been lost. Tell your story of how the Lord found you in your mess and made you whole. Share the peace that is only found in Christ. Pray for the lost and the hurting. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, NIV)

If you feel like losing heart, know that when you walk in love, you will see the goodness of the Lord – not just in the afterlife, but here and now, in the land of the living. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7, NIV)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13, NIV

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident…

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Psalm 27:1-3, 13-14, NKJV

Why I Quit Wearing Make-Up (and you can too)

Selfie with my youngest at Dollywood. What's the point of make-up at Dollywood??

Selfie with my youngest at Dollywood. What’s the point of make-up at Dollywood??

Today I’m posting at Knoxville Moms Blog about why quitting my daily make-up routine was part of my journey to self-love. Click the link below to read the full post!

Okay, before anyone who actually knows me calls me a liar, let me confess that I do, in fact, wear make-up sometimes. I get gussied up to go out with my husband; I try to look nicer-than-usual for church on Sundays; I prepare myself for picture-taking events like birthday parties and holidays. However, most days my face is free and clear of cosmetic enhancement, and while you might think I look tired if you run into me at Walmart, the truth is I probably am tired, and I honestly don’t care. It’s Walmart, after all. If I wanted to impress you I would go to Target. Just kidding. Kinda.

Now, you should know that I am a stay-at-home mom and do not need to look put together or professional or even showered most days, so rocking my “I woke up like this face” all day every day is no biggie for me. I also do not generally enjoy make-up like the creative-type enthusiasts do, so if personal cosmetology is your artistic self-expression, more power to you!

I’m here to share with you 4 reasons why I gave up regularly wearing make-up, and if you’re ready to ditch the habit, you can do it too…

Check out the rest of the post at Knoxville Moms Blog! (It gets good, I promise. :D)