Never Forgotten

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Is there a scene more to despise

Than a sparrow forgetting the air where she flies?

Or a trout disdaining the river he breathes?

But, oh how much worse when I forget Thee!

. . . . . . .

But there is a scene that I recognize

The sparrow cannot forget her fledgling’s cries.

Or a trout forget to swim up the river

Your sweet, “I remember Thee,” standing forever.

. . . . . . . .

This sparrow is missing the glory today,

The trout has no joy in his watery play.

But I have now this unfading delight

That though I forget, my Savior will not.


“…they have forgotten the Lord their God.” (3:21)

Recently, I read through the book of Jeremiah. Israel was seeking things that do not benefit her (2:8), forsaking the fountain of living waters (2:13), forsaking God Himself (2:17,19). And, in all of that, proclaiming her own goodness (2:23). God’s charge: adultery (3:1) But, how merciful our God is! “Yet return again to me….” (3:1). What does she give in return? A brazen face, a refusal to be ashamed.

This leads up to that dreadful pronouncement–You have forgotten the Lord (3:21). And inside my soul, I tremble, for this is the sin that I dwell in every day. See, outright rebellion begins with that small choice to forget. “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1).

I seem to be a record-time forgetter.

I pray.

And God, to my amazement, hears.

He answers and I could shout.

Because of His awesome timing, His creative answers to my pleas, His mercies that span wider than I had dared dream.

And the next instant, I forget.

 I feel, in an moment, like a lost child in a monstrous world of enigmas. Situations are screaming at me. Questions of right are nagging me to decide between one desire and another. I can’t–or maybe I don’t want to– loose my death-grip on life. How can I possibly shudder enough at this idea–I’m always forgetting God.

My heart flies, undone, to the Rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2). I lean, panting against it, a child afraid of the dark and afraid of the Light. There is a voice, an ancient, ageless Word:

“I remember thee” (2:2).

Me! He remembers ME! In spite of my constant cycle of forgetting Him, in spite of my daily relapse into the things I’ve grown to hate (Romans 7), in spite of the sin that still clings like a rotten cloak–He REMEMBERS.

Over the many past weeks as we’ve studied love, I came closer and closer to the realization of my utter deficit of love. In the same way, as I see my heart’s forgetfulness, I begin to understand just how unbelievable it is that I could forget how much God has done. But dwelling on my lack of consistency will not solve my problem.

Only dwelling on Christ’s faithfulness, his totally reliable memory, will give me the strength to run back to Him again after another episode of straying. He has set his seal on us–graven our names into his hand  (Isaiah 49:16). There is a good reason for me to turn in disgust from my sinful forgetting–to repent and cry out for forgiveness. Our crime is not diminished by His mercy. But at the same time, I am not to continually live in sorrow over this error!

We have a glorious hope and a God at our side who wants to fill His dear ones with joy in Him. Like a lost child, run home! Whenever you see that you’ve gotten off the road, turn around and run back!

There’s a feast waiting for us when we get there!

“Go back, go back to the ancient paths, Lash your heart to the ancient mast,

And hold on, [girl], whatever you do, To the hope that’s taken hold of you,

And you’ll find your way, You’ll find your way

If love is what you’re looking for, The old roads lead to an open door,

And you’ll find your way, You’ll find your way,

Back home.”

– Andrew Peterson, “You’ll Find Your Way” –


“His Grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” – John Newton

The Grand Experiment

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“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

– Matthew 6:21, NKJV –


Last week, I announced that today’s post just might be revolutionary.

My head feels full of a Living God of Love that I can worship, but cannot grasp.

Yet, I still must DO something. Somehow, I have to make the leap from theory to practice. From describing Love to actually living it.

As we have learned in the past weeks in the Practical Love Series, Love can be compared to many things.. We have discovered that even our selves must die in order for Love to be formed in us. All must be given over to Christ. All these lessons are still in place–and vital–as I approach today’s post.


Jesus’ famous words about our treasure were not merely a tool to urge disciples to be more generous in their tithing. Giving away money is only one facet of Love. His statement is much bigger than that.

Have you ever had to work on a project that you really hated? A prospect that dismayed, appalled, and exhausted you? Did you feel the same way about it when you finished? If you managed to do it well, did you find that the despised task gave you just a shred of pleasure when you stood back and saw the results? I have.

Just to let you know, I’m not a fan of concrete.

But a few years ago, when my family decided to expand our garden, we researched and found out that concrete block raised beds were the perfect kind of addition for us. This decision catapulted our family into a three-year building project full of cement crusted gloves, sunburns, aching backs, and a LOT of work.

As I slathered mortar in between block seams, I didn’t particularly care for concrete. When my fingers were trapped under the falling edge of a 30 pound cement block, I certainly did not enjoy the process.

But now….now, it is all different.

I look back and see the labor and the sweat and even the pain, but twelve raised beds stand inside  the garden fence now. They overflow with tomatoes and cabbages and strawberries. Green beans arch over the pathways.

I look out over the fruitful project and say, “It was worth it.”

Mind you, I still don’t enjoy smashing my appendages with oversized bricks. But my persistent labor–and that of my family–turned the difficult task into an abundant harvest.

The process: HARD. The result: WORTH IT.

The practical part of Love is not easy either. Once we understand that our only hope of Loving is if God Himself fills us with His strength, we still have to roll out of bed every day and get to work. How do we do it? From the perspective of giving, Randy Alcorn explains Practical Love in this way:

“God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). This doesn’t mean we should give only when we’re feeling cheerful. The cheerfulness often comes during and after the act of obedience, not before it. So don’t wait until you feel like giving—it could be a long wait! Just give and watch the joy follow.” ―Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle

In the same way, you and I can’t wait until we feel Loving in order to start Loving. This kind of Love–the choice–is not hypocrisy. I have heard well-meaning girls say, “I can’t pretend to like that person. That would be hypocritical.”

Dear ones, this is not the case. Yes, you would be a faker if inside you had no desire to show Jesus’ Love to that person. However, if you truly desire to Love and merely do not feel the emotion at the moment (or ever!), do the Loving thing.

That is not hypocrisy. That is the imitation of Christ.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis discussed this idea. He pointed out that, as we imitate a person’s actions, we eventually learn to do better and better at the task. A baby is not very agile, after all. He is not born with a vocabulary already downloaded into his little head. Instead, he must learn by echoing his parents’ words or copying his parents’ movements. This is how we learn to Love like Christ Loves. This is how the new life is strengthened in us.

So…are you ready for the Grand Experiment? This week, I am picking a family member whom I especially want to learn to Love better. Every day this week,  I plan to do three things:

1. Pray for this person every morning before I get out of bed. I want to ask God, “How do you want me to show Your Love to this family member today.” Also, I have to remember to pray for God’s strength–the only way to pull of this Grand Experiment.

2. Choose a “Will Not” to focus on for the day. For example, “I will not sigh when Mom asks me to unload the dishwasher” or “I will not object when my sister picks out the movie she wants to watch instead of the one I prefer.”

3. Prepare a “Will” to accomplish for the day: “Today, I will write my dad a note thanking him for all he does” or “Today I will take my brother out for a Sonic drink.”

The idea of this “Grand Experiment” is not to be nice to someone for a week and then stop again.

Rather, consider this our first baby steps toward Practical Love, our first three push ups in a new fitness program–or maybe learning the ABCs of this new language.

Are you ready to be God’s Love to that one person today?

Let’s do it!

“The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: the Christian, trying to treat every one kindly, finds him liking more and more people as he goes on – including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning…When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity –


 Ideas? Questions?

Let us know how you plan to show the Love of Jesus for your Grand Experiment this week!


 

The Paradox of the Holy Fire

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Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.  All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them.”
– Matthew 16:24-25, CEB –

We’ve talked about Love.

A language, a gift, a labor of prayer, a tree, a song.

For me, this Practical Love Series has impacted me in an unexpected way…


Love has grown from “practical” to Immense.

I can’t pretend I’m an extremely loving person anymore, because I’ve grasped a little more of Extreme Love. Seeing this, seeing Him, I feel no closer to application. I feel like I’ve stumbled into a Magnificent presence, and all I can do is empty compared to His fullness.

I’ve tried to figure out how I can practice Love.

But each day, I wake up on auto-pilot and my own gratification seems to be the destination.

I’ve gotten to Step A: I am not a very loving person.

Even Step B: There’s no way I can love the way I’m commanded to, on my own power.

But where do you and I go from there?

Let’s stop pretending.

People are NOT easy to love. People can be nasty, annoying, selfish, tactless, offensive, apathetic, distant, unjust. Frankly, pretty rotten.

BUT…Sisters, this practice of Love stopped being about “those people” a long time ago.

The problem is not Out There.

It is In Here.

Something inside me has gone desperately wrong and I cannot patch it up on my own.

Love is not a matter of getting everyone else fixed so I can stand being with them.

Love is very much like lighting a bonfire. The light gives–it must, by its nature. Love does not depend on how its object receives it, just as light shines on all around it. Some things reflect back the light; some only absorb it.

But to possess this fire, something in me must burn.

On cricket-creaking nights, I’ve sat by a campfire and seen dull, dry wood kindled. The fire animates it, a resurrection in miniature. And soon what was dead crackles with life–potent orange-blue flickers of heat and light.

And yet, though now alive in a way those branches never could have been on their own, they are being consumed. Living, they die.

In this same way, sin’s entrance into the world abruptly halted the previously unbroken exchange of Love, Creator to creature.Yes, in me, in all of us, something careened off the track. Our taste for good turned sour.

Love became a light that we blind men could not even see.

Now, Love’s restoration requires death. Jesus alone could bridge Love and unloving, or open eyes so the light could come. He, as Love Himself, defined history with the ultimate act of love: His own death.

Love dies.

I shrink from this. It sounds so final, so painful, so awful. Because I don’t want to die. My will doesn’t want to die. I like maintaining my own way, following my own road, chasing my own dreams.

To love, though, I must first die.

It was that way at the beginning, when I first began to breathe resurrection air. Dead in sin, He raised me up. The dry branch was hit with a spark of living fire.

That Spark in me began a cycle of flame that both enlivens me and kills me. It turns deadness into sparkles of flaming glory, but at the same time, it burns away part of me.

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S.Lewis talks about the sanctification of the believer:

“The principle runs through all life from top to bottom, Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Fire-starting is a radical thing. At the outset of our faith, we committed ourselves to unabashed following. What many people do not realize is that this commitment does not keep our hearts focused. We have to re-commit each day.

Each day, we must again die–every minute, if necessary. “Oh Jesus, take my life and let it be Yours, forever. Set my feet on Your path and not mine.”

The flesh that battles in us must be battled with this Holy Fire of Love until Jesus comes back to complete our transformation.

Until then, as long as we keep fighting with the power of God, life will be springing up in the ashes where the fire has scorched our sin nature.

Only as we give ourselves to flames can our light begin to shine.

Our parasitic sinful self, as it dies, makes room for our new self to flourish, a fire-brushed masterpiece of the Creator God.

Only then can we get down to the business of Love, as a practical thing.

Dying, we live.


 Join me next week as I launch a Grand Love Experiment! I don’t promise a burst of genius, but I do think it could be revolutionary for my life, at least.

It is simple, but not easy. It is achievable–but not without Jesus at my side. Will you come along?


 “Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity ―

 

 

 

Costly Song

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 “Love hurts when it changes us.”

― Toba Beta ―


This is Part Five of my Practical Love Series! If you missed the other posts, be sure to go back and check them out! You can find the most recent post From the Roots of Grace here.


I can tell you what Love feels like, what it sometimes does, but writing to you about Love is like trying to capture the sun in a bottle or fit the ocean in a teacup.

I do know something about Love–it is a song, a costly song.

A rock band once wrote a song about their view of love:

“Love hurts, love scars, love wounds
And mars, any heart
Not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud
Holds a lot of rain
Love hurts……ooh, ooh love hurts
I’m young, I know, but even so
I know a thing or two
And I learned from you
I really learned a lot, really learned a lot
Love is like a flame
It burns you when it’s hot
Love hurts……ooh, ooh love hurts”

These writers came to a conclusion: that Love is a lie. But as much as Love has the power to hurt, its song is much more complex. Love is not a lie–because God cannot lie. In my life, I look around–and I hear it, hear the Love rising. It is more true than they knew.

Mr. Rick goes to  my church. He spent last year watching his father die. Convenience, beloved friends, freedom–this man gave all of these up to care for his father through the last days of his cancer. One Sunday, Mr. Rick described to the congregation the terrible thing it is to watch someone you love waste away. His father was a burly man, one of those people who never get sick. Until the years wore thin and his body began to break. Mr. Rick told us of his shock to see that even his father was vulnerable to the death of this sin-cursed place. By traveling with his father to the end, Mr. Rick learned about death. But I learned a different lesson: I learned about the love a son had for his father. Mr. Rick’s lament rang silver-edged with glory, the touch of God’s love.

Mrs. Kathy is a friend, far away. She too, has taught me the song of Love. Cancer invaded her life too, already stolen away her mother and a sister. Now, another sister lies as the disease eats away at her brittle bones. People call such things tragedies, and I suppose it is. But in the face of death and decay and the gray places of the world a song peals out still–the flagrant tune of Love that conquers. Mrs. Kathy knows the song, as she and her grown-up kids take turns driving 2 hours every day to take her sister to the cancer center for treatment. They play music and talk and pray and shower the love of God on a wearing-out body, trusting in Christ alone for the reward of their labor. For Love is a hard, hard song to sing.

My Dad taught me a few bars of the Love song. A few weeks ago, he packed up and traveled over state lines to visit an aging relative. This relative, kind as she is, wants little to do with him. Phone calls are tolerated. Meetings over breakfast–sometimes. But actual interaction? She has no interest. In spite of her, my dad went to visit. Rumors had drifted in that her house was a wreck. We heard little of the next few days, but later learned that my dad had spent hours scrubbing a home that had not been cleaned for years. The hair of seven indoor cats, along with the stinging smell of ammonia from months of used litter and a collection of garage sale finds–all these things my dad reported to us in understatement. But we knew. We knew when he came home rasping, almost voiceless from the vapors he had inhaled over the past days. What is Love, if not this?

Love is starting to scare me. It’s no longer a matter of clean words and sanitary deeds and primly-dressed intentions.  Love is curiously messy and crazily involved. It is painful and unclear and full of sleepless nights and congested days.

Jesus set an example of Love for us–forgiveness for the traitor, patience for the clueless, tenderness in the pain, unending.

I am frightened. I am supposed to be an adult. But here I am, writing about Love, hearing its song all around me.

And I feel like a child, unable to walk.

Love.

It is the basic Christian virtue–“the greatest of these,” the quality that God claims as one of His names. And I can’t even take a step.

Love’s song should be as basic as humming a few bars of “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” a Christianity 101 of sorts. But I’ve suddenly lost my voice.

These examples–the grown-up people, the true adults in my life–prove to me that the song of Love is not forgotten, and that God’s children can learn its melody.

But they’re playing Beethoven when all I can find is middle C. I know right now that I am not enough. I am incapable of Love–at least, on my own.

But if Love Himself has made my dead heart pound to life, I think He can teach numb lips a new song.

I don’t think I’ll get all the words the first time. I expect some of the lyrics to hurt like a knife to the soul. I think I’ll sing a little flat sometimes. But you’ve never heard a symphony until you’ve heard the sound of Love. Minors of pain, trills of joy–all God’s notes, every one of them.

I’m not so scared after all.

This song….

It’s hard, way harder than I knew.

It’s painful, because every note points to the rebirth of the world ahead, when my Jesus makes all things new.

It’s costly, because in order to sing it right, you have to die.

But don’t worry. Love is worth it.

He always is.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

– Romans 5:1-5 –


Have you heard the melody?

Comment below and share how God’s love has been poured out through your friends and family!