The season is changing again! I woke Saturday to golds and oranges...it was a though Autumn had arrived while I was sleeping. Oh how I love Autumn. But do I miss the joys of Summer when longing for the cooler weather? Do you? How about when we "miss it" with our kids...wishing they were older or younger...etc. Join me over at The Laundry Moms as I share about Finding Joy in the Change.
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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
Early in 2013, I shared my heart to live in commUNITY with the body of Christ. It is still fresh in my Spirit and I see the idea of Doing Life Together with the body of Christ becoming an anthem to believers near and far. Being in commUNITY with others is not passive. It requires intenality. Merely being in the same room with someone is not the same as communing with them. How often have you heard others around you express their utter loneliness dispite being surrounded by people? I have heard it too many times.
So what does commUNITY look like? To me it is heart-UNITY.
Recently I was privileged to spend the weekend with a fabulous group of ladies. From the moment we arrived we could feel the love that had been preparing to receive us for over a month. My friend's home was warm and inviting. A beautiful table was set for our dinner and inviting fragrances fill the air. It was a weekend of refreshing, heart bonding, crying, laughing, praying and speaking LIFE into one another.
In order for Life to happen, our hostess was intentional in preparing the canvas on which we would paint. As time for us to arrive drew near, she sent us emails of expectation and preview, asking how we would like to spend the weekend and giving us a hint of the wonderful food she would be preparing for us. We could read her enthusiasm in the words she sent and we knew prayers were already covering our time together. We knew that our time together would be time in the presence of good friends, love and that the Spirit of God would meet us there. My sweet friend was intentional in helping us to truly be in commUNITY.
You see, it would have been a great weekend if we had all showed up to hang out. It would have been fun to laugh about our kids and all be in the kitchen preparing a meal. It would have been fun to just talk about the surface things. But intentionality made the weekend FULL and "beyond what we could thinkor imagine."
God is funny like that! He tells us that He longs to meet us where we are. He tells us to link arms with like-minded friends and admonish one another in His truth. He LONGS to love us through the relationships we have in our lives. But we can miss it if we are only surface deep.
As we walked through my friend's doors, we were ready to love on one another. We had prayed and been prayed for. The table had already been set for the feast we were to have, both spiritually and physically. We didn't need a lot of time in the shallow end of the pool...no, we dove into the deep and commUNITY happened.
I pray that God will help me cultivate commUNITY with those around me so we can dive into the depths of His love and grace together as we "do life together." That I will be intentional in preparing to be with others so the love of God can be felt in our time together.
So, how are you living in commUNITY with your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you spending time with people but staying in the shallow end?
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!
- 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?
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.”
This post originally posted as a contributor post on I Take Joy.com