Celebrating LOVE!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Maybe you like the chocolate that is often associated with this day, or the candy hearts with little messages on them, or perhaps the romance possibility is appealing for you today.  On the flip side, for many people, Valentine’s Day can be a discouraging reminder of an unfulfilled or broken relationship.

Regardless of your feelings about this day, let’s choose together to celebrate genuine love!!  And maybe today can be more about genuine love than about the romance, cards, candy, chocolate or flowers.  Maybe we can choose to make today about expressing genuine love not only to people that we know & love, but also to the people we don’t know or maybe don’t love so much.  I’m learning an interesting lesson with genuine love:  the more I genuinely love, the more I feel genuinely loved 🙂

Feel free to send this to your friends and family today, as you celebrate genuine love!!

Un-Conditioning

Conditioning has lots of different usages such as: air conditioning, conditioning for health purposes and conditioning to acclimate to various climates or humidities, to name a few.  But I think we should also consider that we have been conditioned through the human experience to think of love in very transactional ways.  In our childhood, it’s likely that you received positive affirmation for good behavior & achievements and negative feedback for things you did that weren’t so whippy.  Maybe such inputs have shaped your perceptions of what love is & is not.  While cause and affect are definitely part of the human experience, I think we should sit and think about God’s “unconditional” love for us.

There’s a good possibility that we both struggle to receive and sit in unconditional love, given the conditioning we have lived in through human transactions.  Let’s take some time this weekend to reflect on God’s unconditional love for us, appreciating that this genuine love can never be increased or decreased by our behaviors 🙂

Inseparable

In Romans 8:28-29, there’s a list of things that God says won’t separate us from His love for us, stuff like death / life, angels / demons, etc. It’s a very impressive list & comforting to know that none of these things would interrupt nor interfere with God’s love for us!!
The question then rises, if God’s love for us doesn’t have any gaps, then is it possible that we might let some things separate us from God’s love? Is it possible that we allow things to separate us from god’s Love, stuff like fear, pride, unbelief, busy-ness, worries, relationships, sickness, past memories, unforgiveness. Over this weekend, I’d challenge you to take some moments to inventory your life, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to see what you might be allowing in your life that could cause some obstacles for you to experience & deeply know the Father’s love for you 🙂

Love Finds a Way

Genuine love seeps through the edges. It finds a way to be expressed, when it’s difficult & even unwelcome. I say this, having read Jesus’ Prodigal Son parable this morning. Despite the behavior of the riotous & righteous sons, the father’s actions were the same with each one – going out to reconcile & connect. Both sons had different reactions, but genuine love finds a way to express itself in ways that would be meaningful & transformational to the recipient.
So, will you let God love you today? Will you be available to experience God’s Love however God would choose to express this genuine love?
We are all prodigals in various ways, but genuine love seeps through the cracks & soaks into the hard spots because that’s what love does!

Wrapping Presence

It’s defintely true that I can struggle with the right spelling of words from time to time.  But in this situation, the title for my blog isn’t a misspelling.  Instead, it’s an intentional play on words to catch your attention & maybe challenge you to some ongoing generosity with Jesus.

How so?  What Jesus likes more than your words, money, service, clothing, church attendance, etc. is your self.  When we give all of ourselves to Jesus, it seems to me that this gives Jesus the greatest pleasure!  So here are some wrapping ideas for your presence with Jesus:

  • time:  we can give Jesus time in all kinds of ways – as we drive, in those unexpected moments of pause with a cancelled appointment and in the morning / night to be present
  • words:  it’s always good to give thanks to Jesus (for daily things, miracles, unexpected blessings, rich conversations, etc ), as well as some worship for who Jesus is
  • attention:  let’s ask the Holy Spirit to increase our awareness of Jesus’ presence, since He said He’d never leave nor forsake us.  I ask, throughout the day, for help with my focus and attention to sense Jesus

Be sure to wrap your presence with time, words and attention, to give your self wholly to Jesus!

Late Wrappers

Wrapping Christmas presents isn’t in my top 5 thrilling adventures. So I’m a late wrapper. In addition to being a late wrapper, I’m also not a very good wrapper. I have the “get ‘er Done” mindset. But lest we miss the whole point, keep in mind that we’re endeavoring to express genuine love & generosity, regardless of the wrapping or when we wrap our presents
I’d propose that our Heavenly Father wants to let us a know a few things this Christmas to reinforce His genuine love & generosity to us:

  • Wrapping: Jesus, the Fathers ultimate gift to us, came wrapped in human garb, as a newborn
  • Timing: Paul says that in the fullness of time, Jesus became flesh to live among us. God’s timing is perfect!
  • Spectacular: despite being wrapped in human garb, Jesus’ arrival was announced with splendor, grandiose display & jubilant celebration.

It’s ok if you’re a late wrapper, a crummy wrapper or if you’re a timely & spectacular wrapper! No matter what, let’s keep genuine love & generosity our primary goal!

Was Jesus Cranky?

““I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
In Luke 5:32, Jesus told the religious leaders these words in reply to their complaint about Him eating & drinking with shady characters. And throughout all of Luke 5, the people who get a sharp tongue from Jesus are the religious leaders.
As I’ve thought about this, maybe Jesus was loving this group of people by being cranky & confrontational because they were deceived. Perhaps Jesus wanted to heal the deception in their lives so they could have an intimate relationship w Him & they needed the non-gentle approach. Let’s remember that genuine love celebrates truth 🙂

Love Well

I have lots of people in my life who are very different from me. I have friends who are professional, starched, button-down, pressed & who have life wrapped around their little finger mostly. I have other friends who are a little more like me, less polished & borderline bohemian.
But loving well is the bridge that connects me with people regardless of our differences. And here’s the truth that needs to reside in the marrow of our bones: people don’t have to be like us to be loved by us. Indeed, Jesus loved a wide spectrum of people, including cheats, hustlers, liars, whimps & wannabes. Loving people is an internal decision & this doesn’t need to be dependent on who they are, what they do or how they behave. Let’s be committed to loving well!

Jesus Was an Infant Refugee

Presently, I’m in Bangledesh & getting ready to visit the refugee camps of the Rohingya for my work with Saving Moses. These refugees were recently displaced from their homes across the border in Burma & there are almost a million refugees, of whom more than 10% are under the age of 5. So I’m keen to visit these camps & see what we can do to help.
I️ find it interesting, at this time, to think about Jesus’ birth & His subsequent flight to avoid the bloodbath Herod demanded when he couldn’t find Jesus.
This is my first time to experience real time the crises & traumas associated with being a refugee, so I️ welcome you to come along with me through my blog & pictures.
Let’s consider Christmas from a different point of view 🙂

The Crazy Guy

Jesus left a crowd of people where He was appreciated and valued so He could help a raving lunatic.  In Mark 5:1-20, we read about a man who was completely undone and thoroughly tormented by loads of demons.  He was demon possessed and was living a very tortured, painful and isolated life.  When he was described in these verses, I was deeply moved by his tragic existence.  He would roam the tombs & mountains with no human contact, gashing himself, screaming and unclothed with no hope of reprieve or help – until Jesus came.

When we come across people in our lives who are broken, hurting, dysfunctional, crazy, hostile, erratic and even barbaric, let’s be willing to see past these descriptions and difficulties to see a human in need of love and redemption.  Let’s remember that the enemy of humanity is seeking to torture, deceive and destroy humans in any way possible.  On the other side, Jesus wants to work through us to bring love, healing and redemption!  Let’s make sure we stay on Jesus’ side 🙂

X-ray Vision

“. . . . , those who previously saw him as a beggar.” John 9:8b

I read this verse today & it really stood out to me about the power of vision & how we see people. In John 9, Jesus heals a man who was born blind. Before his healing, this man sat outside the temple & begged, so everyone recognized him as, ” that beggar guy.” When he was no longer blind, the people struggled to see him as anyone but, “that beggar dude.”
This has started me to think about various people I see: Bob the homeless guy at Starbucks, Tina the blind chick, Marion the needy one, Jerry the deaf dude, . . . .
If we see people only in the quagmire of their pain, dysfunction & disability, then maybe we’re limiting God’s power to work through us.
Maybe it’s a better strategy to ask God to reveal that persons true identity & divine design so that we call out their potential & not merely their inabilities & weaknesses. I’m more than a little grateful that God calls things that are not as though they are!

Unlovable

I know that there are seasons when I’m more lovable. And I’m like-able when I’m not sullen, morose, discouraged or cranky. But I’m not a robot & I go through the ups & downs of life. Sometimes I go through experiences & seasons that are extremely difficult. Sometimes, I make bad decisions, letting my flesh rule my choices & priorities & that’s no bueno.
Here’s the hope: In my paraphrase, Romans 5:8 says that in my least lovable condition, Jesus demonstrated His most extravagant love for me by giving His life in my place. I’ve read this verse loads of times, but what always stops my heart is that the verb “demonstrate” is in the present tense in Greek, which means a continuous activity. So God is continually demonstrating Their love to me, since They are Triune & that’s heaps of continuous love!!! I never grow weary of remembering that God loves me because God is love & not because I’m lovable or I deserve or earned that love 🙂

A Little More

Traveling around the world, I get to see lots of distinct preferences. For example, in Bangladesh they tend to enjoy spicy food & sometimes it’s REALLY spicy! In Brazil, they prefer community over individuality & the German language prefers precision over approximation.
But there’s one universal constant: everyone craves genuine love & I suspect this is by Divine design.
So if the universal constant throughout humanity is the desire for genuine love, it begs the question about how we can express genuine love.
When I think about expressing genuine love, I almost immediately feel inadequate & incapable. But if I think about expressing genuine love just a little more, then I’m not as discouraged. Here are some possibilities for consideration:

  • Affirmation & encouragement: recognize & vocalize something good to total strangers with sincerity
  • Gratitude: expressing thank you is a polite essential for genuine love
  • I see you: not the exterior trappings of wealth, success, begging, poverty, dirt or broken
  • Listen: hearing someone, being interested & asking questions is a way to be present & express concern, attention & genuine love
  • Borrow love: there are always people who we find challenging to love. So think in terms of borrowing love from someone you know & letting that shape your mindset for the tricky people.
  • Ask for more love – let’s never believe that we have enough genuine love.  We exist, in part, for God to love not only us but also through us!

Uber Rides

Today’s Uber driver is from Darfur Sudan. He has 7 brothers, 2 sisters & both parents all back in Darfur. This is the place where they had a genocide almost 15years ago so I was fascinated to listen to my driver talk about his circuitous journey to the US. Whenever I uber it, the drivers are always from a distant country: Mali, Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam, etc. When I listen to each of these drivers, it’s astounding to hear their stories & think about how they’ve navigated various tragedies, twists & opportunities.
Everyone we meet has had their own journeys, culminating to the moment we meet them & get to hear about their lives. Sometimes when we hear their stories it helps us understand some of their behaviors & choices. Regardless of their backgrounds or experiences, let’s choose to love & be gracious. We don’t have to know people to be loving, kind or gracious 🙂

Driven or Directed?

I desperately want to be led by the Holy Spirit, in every area of my life – my decisions, conversations, priorities, relationships, etc. If I’m honest, however, sometimes I’m more driven than directed.
For me, here are some key indicators that I’m being flesh driven rather than Spirit led:

  • my flesh tends to dictate my actions.
  • my perspective gets very self-absorbed.
  • I can be more results oriented than relationship attentive – achievements become more important than connecting with people.
  • Fear often dilutes any expression of genuine love from me.
  • I become more consumer minded rather than thinking how to be generous.

Let’s be careful that we stay in Step with the Spirit & not controlled by our flesh 🙂
Be sure to pre-order my newest book about how to stay In Step with the Holy Spirit!

Things We Dont Like

Today, I’m in Bangledesh & I like being here because of the wonderful people. They are super friendly & very hospitable. Unfortunately, this country is one of the poorest countries in the world. They have annual floods that routinely displace thousands of people, killing large pockets of the population in these horrendous floods. Additionally, the education system here is still developing, so the literacy rate is a challenge. Bangladesh has 160 million people & its 90% Muslim, 8% Hindu & 2% mixture. There’s generally a high level of respect for the various differences among the ethnicities, religions & social classes here.
Today, we’ll be going around the capital city, Dhaka, & I’m super keen to spend some time here! There are about 30million people in this urban area with lots of diversity in the spectrum of poverty to wealthy. As I’m in this city, I know I’ll see things that I don’t like, but I want to see with God’s of compassion, healing & welcome. Let’s be careful that we don’t turn away from things we don’t like, when God wants us to engage & express genuine love 🙂

Walking with God

I’m presently in Cambodia with a magnificent team expressing Jesus’ love
To the babies & toddlers of prostitutes. This is a really powerful experience for everyone & me in particular. For starters, getting to love on babies is thoroughly glorious. Their bright eyes, curiosity, trust & acceptance are unparalleled in our adult relationships. There’s a simplicity & purity with babies that we seem to lose as adults. This experience is also powerful for me in getting to watch my team come together as individuals & join in cohesion, complementing each other rather than competitive division & exclusivity. Finally, this year is unique for me from the previous years. Last year when I was here, I was recovering from a concussion & that was extremely difficult, blech. The year before that, I was doing physical therapy to recover from shoulder surgery.
Going through hardships helps us appreciate the non-hardship times! Walking with God is truly the adventure of a lifetime!

A Lavish Feast

Jesus told a parable about a rich dude who made an elaborate feast, with abundant food. The dude went to extravagant lengths to prepare, complete with invitations, massive amounts of food & loads of servants to facilitate this magnificent party. When the servants went out to let the invitees know that the party was ready for them to attend, none of the invited peeps showed up. This was very rude because the dude hosting the party had killed several animals to abundantly provide food for his party. Now, he’s stuck with all these provisions & no one to eat them. Rather than letting everything go to waste, the party host sent out his servants to invite anyone & everyone to come to his party.
Here are some important take aways for us from this parable:

  • God has made an extravagant feast for everyone – there’s more than enough!
  • As God’s servants, let’s keep inviting people to experience God’s lavish love for them
  • There’s room at the table for you, your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, . . . .
    “Come & Dine!”, the Master calls!

Outrage!!!

In our modern world, outage is common & I think even expected sometimes. It seems like we can get massively incensed at almost anything: driving infractions, mistakes on paychecks or bills, government shortfalls, moral failures in Christian leaders, etc
But here’s something to consider: if sin is the common human experience, why do we allow ourselves to be outraged when people sin or make mistakes? Wouldn’t we be more constructive to celebrate the moments when humans don’t behave sinfully? What about when a driver makes space for you instead of cutting you off? That’s noteworthy! What about when a government does something positive that exceeds your expectations? This might not be often, but that’s exactly why we should celebrate it! And when a Christian leader has a moral failure, let’s not be so much outraged as we should pray for them & have sincere compassion because we identify with our own shortfalls.
Let’s aim for less outrage & more celebration 🙂
Selah

God’s Provisions

This morning, I had the most wonderful breakfast with a friend I’ve known for many years. We haven’t been able to catch up & have a deep conversation so this morning afforded the time & place for us to do just that. We shared with vulnerability about our struggles & weaknesses along with how Jesus has helped us along the journey. It’s been a long time since I’ve had such a rewarding conversation & this was absolutely a gift from God. This time was all the more beautiful because it came on the heels of a very busy & demanding weekend for me.
I’m very grateful that God supplies what we need, when we need it – even in ways that we don’t expect!!