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Choosing to Love Requires Action

In our culture, people all around us are starving for Love. Children, Twenty-somethings, Middle-aged and the Elderly are all looking for love, their hearts longing for it.

Love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. Luke 10:27

The keys to all the law, simply expressed, is LOVE.

If we long to show love to the hurting and broken, or even to our own family for that matter, loving God must be our first objective. Scripture tells us that love originates from the Father. That His very essence is Love and that we can only love Him because He first loved us. Love begins with God. His great love pursues us, and it is our choice to receive it and to love Him back.

Practically speaking, loving the Lord with all that we are means we consider Him in ALL that we do. We choose time with Him, our Relationship with Him, as first priority every day and then we follow His guiding for the day.

My dad says it all comes back to one simple phrase, “Die to yourself.” He says it so often that it has become kind of a joke. We always know if we are asking for counsel…it will usually come back to “Die to yourself.” It sounds pretty simple…but it is a choice we have to make every day. We die to the “to do list” that keeps us from that precious time with Him in the morning. We die to the book we really want to read until after we spend time in His word. We die to our compulsion to check social media until we’ve checked out our prayer-life. We put God in His rightful place in our day. We make Him the priority, so we can know and love Him more. Loving the Lord is a two way street. It isn’t God pouring out His love and me standing with arms open to receive it only to turn away and go about my business. He waits for me to respond to Him. The Lord longs for my love…He died for my love. He rightfully deserves my love.

We then have to love ourselves. For how can we pull the splinter out of one man’s eye with a plank in ours? (Luke 2:42) Accepting that “I am created in His image, a workmanship of God to do His will…and He calls me GOOD!” (Gen 1:27, Eph 2:10) allows us to love others, without letting our own failures, hurts and scars mar how we express His love. It’s putting on God glasses, so to speak, and looking at myself through His lens. When we understand how precious we are in His sight we can’t help but to want to share it with others…to give them a Hope and a Future. (Jer 29:11)

As we deepen our time with the Lord, He reveals in us His love for us.

As we allow His love to so engulf us that we ooze His goodness and mercy, and His pure and perfect love, only then can we truly love our neighbor. But love is more than a verbal expression, it is action ordained from and directed by the God of the Universe, love personified.

You see, love is an action. God showed His love for us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died and gave Himself up for us. (Rom 5:8) No greater love is this: that a man lay down his life for his brother. (John 15:130) These are scriptures that show the action of love. It’s giving up our wants in order to serve. It’s putting others’ needs before our wants. It’s “dying to yourself”. But we can only successfully love others well when we have first spent time seeking God’s direction and soaking up His love.  Love is an action that is God directed and ordained and direction comes when we are in His presence.  It is not serving the poor at a soup kitchen to check off your good deeds list. It is not contributing money to the mission field because it’s the “right thing to do.” Love in action is not a list of good deeds that do not originate in God’s leading in your life. If God hasn’t directed your heart to do it…it’s just dead works, my friend.

Too often, in attempts to spread the love of God to others, we fill our lives with service because we are “supposed to,” but we feel overwhelmed and frustrated. We tire and feel overburdened and overwhelmed. Scripture tells us that His burden is easy and His load is light. (Matt 11:30) Now that doesn’t mean what He asks of us will be easy or effortless, but it does mean the drudgery is gone. When we love and serve others as God leads us, he equips us for the task at hand and fills us with joy!

Single moms are crying out for love. Broken teens are longing to feel loved and beloved. Elderly widows are still searching for Love that never ends. Impoverished people are looking for love that meets their needs. People aren’t looking for a handout or to be the recipient of our “good deeds”. No! They are looking for true love. Pure love that can only come from the Father and stand the test of time and holds them in their time of dark. How will we know how to show love to them if we haven’t spent time with the only one who can truly love them right where they are, exactly how they need to be loved? We can’t. How can we love hurting people, people with scars when we can’t see past our own hurt and scars? We can’t.

Let us love deeply the God who created all things for His pleasure and who died to call us His own. May we see ourselves as beloved daughters and sons who are redeemed and seated in the high places with Christ so we may share His great love to those around us in a personal and meaningful way…that they would know the Love of Christ and be given a Hope and a Future in and through Him.

 

This post was originally featured on I Take Joy.com which is now SallyClarkson.com

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When Does School Start Again?

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When Does School Start Again?

The countdown begins at Spring Break. The last paper chain is broken and cheers can be heard from every classroom. Graduation pictures, of all kinds, flood FB news feeds and teachers are on the edge of their chairs just waiting for the final bell to signal that Summer has finally begun! There is such excitement in the air.

Summer, in its infancy, holds such wonder. When I was young, it meant late nights playing hide and seek after dark. Catching fireflies, and of course, the daily evening visit from Bob, our snow cone man. I still miss Bob!

It was trips to the water park and sleeping in a little later. It was family time and cook outs, trips to the lake and summer camps…it was relational when I was a kid. Although the excitement of the new school year and all it held began to creep into our minds in August, I never really wanted to go back to school and miss out on all the time with my friends and loved ones that summer afforded me.

Today, it seems like a different story. I read it in my news feed beginning in mid-June. “Is it time for school to start yet?!” “Oh my goodness! What am I going to do with my kids for 6 more weeks?” And the closer the school year draws, the more frequent the lamenting. Why is this?

During the school year we get up at the same time, eat, get ready for school/work, and off we go. We come home, participate in extras, eat dinner, do homework and go to bed. Then…we do it all again. Second verse, same as the first. The beauty in the school year is routine, predictability, consistency. It’s what keeps the ball rolling. Then along comes summer. The glorious time of no bedtimes, few practices and no schedule… and in a few weeks…cranky moms and dads just ready to get back to normal.

My encouragement to you is to intentionally relish the hot summer months. Be intentional to cherish the cook outs, the pool parties and the late nights…but make sure you still have summer joy to post in late July instead of the familiar “WHEN does school start?”…create a summer time routine. Make a summer routine. After all, life is still moving forward and this is a great time to give your children training in life management. I’m sure the kitchen is a revolving door, the yards need to be mowed, and laundry still gets dirty. It takes effort on our part, as parents, but I have learned a little secret.

Children, of all ages, THRIVE with routine, boundaries and most of all…consistency.

If you want a more enjoyable summer, one that doesn’t have you wondering “How much longer do we have to do this Summer thing???” then you will have to change things up a bit. My husband says, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.” Now that’s GOOD…right?

And now, for my hints for a more enjoyable summer. I know you can’t wait!

  1. Get up. I know, I know…summer is supposed to be about sleeping late. Of course it is…but late is 9 or 10…not noon or later. Remember when the alarm went off at 5 am?
  2. Go to bed I know it is actually light outside until at least 9pm and WHO can go to bed when there is light out? I’m not saying keep the normal bed times, but save the 3 am bed times and the all-nighters for special times during the summer. They don’t need to be the norm.
  3. Get outside. If you’re like me and you live in Texas or somewhere else where the temperatures soar into the 100s…being outside doesn’t always sound appealing (except to my High School English teacher who absolutely thrives in the hot, hot summer!) But it is worth enduring the heat a bit. Being outside sparks creativity and wonder. It allows for the energy built up inside of us to have an outlet of escape. Yard work, pool time, s’mores and cook outs cultivate conversations and relationships. And there no substitute for a day in the sun to make for a good night’s rest!
  4. Chores. “But wait! we’re on VACATION!” Right…only you quickly realize that everyone else is on vacation and your work seems to have doubled. Am I right? During the year, if your kids have responsibilities around the house…keep ‘em coming! If they don’t, summer is a great time for Life Training 101. Start with their rooms or something small, but start. Life hasn’t taken vacation. I’m sure you still have dishes and laundry. My mom was a genius at summertime routine and chores. When we asked if we could go to the water park, play outside, run to a friends house or the mall…the answer was always “Yes…as soon as you_____(fill in the blank) is finished.” It took the sting out of house work, because we were going to get to do what we wanted, and it saved her from wanting to pull out her hair because the house was relatively picked up and in order. It was a win-win…Smart Mom!
  5. Limit the electronics…”and that’s all I have to say about that?” Forerst Gump

Don’t let summer become a drudgery. Don’t let a lack of routine leave you screaming “I can’t wait for school to start! These kids are driving me crazy! When will we get back to normal around here?”

Reclaim your summer!

Be intentional to create routine and balance. Ask the Lord to give you creative routine ideas that you can implement. He will you know! He loves us and is even concerned with our daily routines. Remember, summer is a great time for families to reconnect as school and extracurricular obligations are no longer the bulk of our calendar.

I pray that we will all look back on this Summer vacation with longing. As the school year begins again, our FB posts will read, “Where did the time go? I’m just not ready for them to all go back.”

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This post originally posted as a contributor post on I Take Joy.com

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Children Don't Come With a Manual...

I often hear parents, specifically mothers, longing for a parenting manual…a spelled out book that gives detailed instructions to follow. The good news is there IS a book that has no missing chapters, is tried and true, and guarantees positive results. The instructions are written on pages and are accessible to the majority of us on every technological device we own…it is the Bible.

The Bible teaches us how to love and instruct the body of Christ. It shows us how to operate as the Body of Christ, but we miss one very important fact: our children are a part of the body of Christ.  As I read through Ephesians, a letter from Paul, a disciple of Jesus, his words spoke deep in my heart about child rearing. As you read this excerpts, read with the filter of parenthood.

1I therefore, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, 3bearing with one another {in the Greek, this means to put up with one another} in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 11And he gave some…teachers; 12for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. 29Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:1-3, 11-16, 29-32 ESV)

Many of you may be familiar with this passage and never saw its parallel message in regards to mothering. The words of Paul influence our “Ministry” in the church, our Bible Studies, our Outreach programs. We find it easy to follow the advice in these verses as applying ‘church’  and how to treat others in the ministry. We see that it is for building up of the saints, for the building up of His body, but we miss that we have the same charge as mothers.

As moms, we are called to be righteous teachers to our children. We are called to walk in humility, gentleness, patience and to “put up” with one another in love. God did not write a love letter to His own children about life and leave out how to raise Godly children. The vocabulary is just different.

For those that really like to do lists and manuals, I have put Ephesians in to a mini parenting manual…sort-of-speak.

Parenting Advice from Ephesians:

What character traits should I, as a Mother, have and show toward my children? 1. Humbleness 2. Gentleness 3. Patience 4. Forbearance- the ability to put up with one another in love 5. Kindness 6. Tenderheartedness 7. Forgiveness

How do I speak to my children?

  1. Teach/Instruct them. We speak with word of instruction and encouragement. We don’t lord over them our authority, but lead them in the way they should go. 2. Be a Truth Speaker- Speaking TRUTH and life, into your children in love. We correct and edify them IN LOVE because we are the body of Christ and are to fit together to work properly and to grow as we build one another up in love. 3. Speak with words that are uncorrupt- Corrupt means ‘rotten or worthless.’ The words we speak to our children should be good for building up that it administers Grace to the hearer. Building up our children doesn’t imply puffing them up and giving them only “pleasant” words. Correction and rebuke build up a child as well. It helps steer them down the path of righteousness. If the Lord, who loves us enough to die on the cross for our sins, rebukes and corrects us, then we do well to show our love to our children when we correct their ways and teach them what is good and pleasing to the Lord…we just do that in a manner that is loving and not rotten and worthless.

What to avoid while parenting:

  1. Avoid bitterness and wrath taking root in your life. The end result of a life of bitterness and wrath to the one who is harboring these feelings is loneliness and misery. To those on the receiving end of bitter and wrathful words is despair and sorrow. Be a life speaker. 2. Avoid living in anger or outcry (clamor). Don’t let your children feel like you are angry about their very existence. Don’t let them feel that there is an outcry of your heart, a deep regret, that you had children. Show them love. 3. Avoid slander (name calling) and malice (hatefulness) flowing from your lips toward your children. There is no place for mean and hate-filled words in parenting. Period

Why purpose to walk worthy of our calling as parents? In order for our family to be unified in the Spirit and bonded together in Peace. The end goal is a family who loves and serves the Lord, unified in what they believe and a family that lives in Peace with one another. We purpose to walk worthy of our calling so we can bring up a generation that walks in the fullness of their callings. We walk worthy in order to edify the body of Christ…your children are part of the body! We want our children to walk in maturity and in the fullness of Christ that they will be strong in the faith and not swayed by the doctrines and teachings of the world around us that tickles our ears and lulls us to sleep or beckons to us to follow.

This may seem overwhelming. The enemy may be whispering in your ear all your failures and shortcomings…DON’T listen to the lies. The Lord is with you and He love you more that you can think or hope. When we fall short…His loving hands pick us up, dust us off and set our feet back on the path of righteous parenting. Because of His great love for us, we can walk worthy of the calling of motherhood that is on our lives. We can know that our Father in Heaven is, in His perfect love, raising up His children to be examples of His love to the generations to come. Walk worthy of your calling as a mom and rest in the hands of a Loving Father as you parent the body of Christ living under your roof.

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This post was originally at I Take Joy.com as a contributor post

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Are Your Memory Books Empty?

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Are Your Memory Books Empty?

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36CuriousLittleElias We record everything when our children are little bitty. We write it in their baby book, maybe on a calendar, some keep record in a scrapbook accompanied with darling pictures from every stage of life. Their first coo, first smile, their first tooth…they are all written and documented. The first steps and the first trip to grandma’s house forever commemorated in black ink and beautiful photographs.

As they grow older, we make note of the first ball game, first day of school, and their first dance. We may even have pictures to remind us as we look back. We rejoice with them when they pass a test, when they gain revelation about true friendships and when they decide on what they want to do with their lives…but how do we record this? Is there a picture? Do we right it on the calendar or in the scrapbooks?

A few years ago I realized that the small moments in my children’s lives weren’t big anymore. I realized even many of the big moments in life were masquerading as small in the memory books of my children. Actually, they were non-existent. So I began to intentionally record the everyday graces and accomplishments of my children. Not only do I keep record in black and white, I make sure I go and retell them to my children. It affirms them, edifies them and spurs them on to greatness. To look back and remember helps us to move forward in confidence and renews our passion and zeal for goodness and Godliness.

John 4 tells the story of a nobleman who seeks Jesus’ healing for his child. As I was reading the account, I was struck with the words. “As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.” (John 4:51-53, bold, italics added for emphasis) The father KNEW the hour. He took note. He was intentional to remember when Jesus told him his child was healed. Because of this…he AND his whole family believed! You see, if the nobleman had simply left Jesus’ presence and headed home without making a note of the time, he may have doubted that it was Jesus that healed his child, chocking it up to timing and the natural process of healing. It would have been more difficult for him to convince his family that the real conduit through which the healing came was a man named Jesus. Without knowing the time, without making effort to make note, the nobleman and his family may have missed out on the reality of the miracle and in turn…their hope of salvation may have been missed as well.

Many times in scripture, parents and family patriarchs are challenged to remind the generations of what God has done.  Deuteronomy 11:18-21 says 18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.” When we are purposeful to keep record of the events and growth of our children AND see them through a Godly perspective, we are laying up these words. When we record and remember them, we are talking of them in our home, as we go, as we lie down and as we rise. We are reminding our children of the goodness of the Lord. We are taking time to call attention to the hand of the Father and how He is using THEM. We are encouraging and edifying our children in the Lord.

When we unveil our children’s eyes to God’s hand in their lives, they are affirmed in who they are in Christ. They know that they can and are being used by the Lord. They see areas of growth in their walk. Psalms 78 tells us “We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:”

We want our children, and our children’s children to love the Lord with all their heart and soul. As parents we so desire to see and leave a heritage and lineage that glorifies the Lord. How good is it then, to encourage our children in the Lord? How wonderful is it to continue to fill the memory books and calendars with the physical representations of God’s mighty involvement in our children’s lives? Start today. Jot it on your calendar pages. Begin anew in the scrapbook. Commemorate the small and big moments. Remind them of God’s faithfulness. You will be building up the generations to come as you edify their faith.

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Originally Posted as a contributor post at I Take Joy.com

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