That’s not love

I’m finishing up part four of a Bible study on the book of Romans. Yep, part four, Precept style. We’ve been studying Romans for two years. Two years of richness, of depth, of satiation in God’s word. And this is the second time I’ve studied Romans. It’s been incredible, of course. God’s Word never fails to amaze me. It is powerful. It is convicting. It is encouraging, comforting, and surprising. His word, for me, doesn’t grow stale. It isn’t like other books where once I’ve read them, I’ve no need to read them again.

Digging into Romans for the second time has refreshed my mind and soul. Living by faith is not for the faint of heart. It is not easy. God’s grace is sufficient for this Christian, and for this Christian life, but it is not a magic pill. It is not a pain reliever. It is, however, a peace infuser.

Peace isn’t easy to come by in today’s world. Too much division, too much fear, and too much hurt have stolen from many the peace that could be theirs. We cannot be reminded enough, however, of God’s grace and sufficiency. His peace really does surpass all understanding, and His love transcends circumstances. The book of Romans reminds me that I can live by faith because God’s love reaches beyond what I can see, beyond the hurts I’ve experienced, and beyond the pain I’ve endured.

I want people to know God’s love. I want them to know how much He hurts when they hurt. I want them to know that their sin and my sin nailed Jesus to the cross, where He died so that we might have life, life eternal. Because He loved us. Without Jesus, none of this life makes sense. The book of Romans not only shows us the gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ), but shows us how to live in response to this crazy hurtful and overwhelmingly sinful world.

We are to love like Christ. We are to so identify with Christ that we look, act, and think like Him. But we can not look, act, or think like Jesus until we know Him, until we know God intimately. How well do you know God, friend? If your idea of God is that he’s some big guy in the sky who strikes down lightning on “bad” people or is some sort of magic genie who grants wishes, then I’m guessing you don’t know Him very well.

You can’t know what love is until you know who love is. God is love. God is love, and love?

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love does not envy.

Love does not boast.

Love is not proud.

Love does not dishonor others.

Love is not self-seeking.

Love is not easily angered.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil.

Love rejoices with the truth.

Love always protects.

Love always trusts.

Love always hopes.

Love always perseveres.

Love never fails.

(1 Cor. 13:4-8)

There are some who believe that every painful thing they’ve experienced in this life is God’s fault. They blame God for the hardships, the suffering, and the bad things that have happened to them. They don’t know God, and they don’t want to. They are believing a lie.

That list above? That’s what love is. I’ve also seen what love isn’t. I know what when someone claims they love you, but keeps you isolated and afraid that that’s not love. I know that when someone uses fear and threatens harm that that’s not love. Love doesn’t destroy. Love only builds. Someone I love is in an abusive relationship with someone who claims to love them. Friends, that’s not love.

I’m asking you today to spread love. I’m asking you to today to step out of your comfort zone and make the call for help. I’m asking you today to share the love of Christ, to love someone where they’re at, to reach out to them with the truth of Jesus Christ. They may reject you. They may tell God to F- off . They may threaten you or harm your loved one. But know this: There is peace. There is hope. There is love for the worst of the worst because Christ died for all.

If you see these characteristics below in someone or in their relationship with someone, then for the love of love, get help. Because #thatsnotlove.

If the person you love or live with does these things, it’s time to get help:

  • Keeps track of what you are doing all the time and criticizes you for little things.
  • Constantly accuses you of being unfaithful.
  • Prevents or discourages you from seeing friends or family, or going to work or school.
  • Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs.
  • Controls all the money you spend.
  • Humiliates you in front of others.
  • Destroys your property or things that you care about.
  • Threatens to hurt you or the children or pets, or does cause hurt (by hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, or biting).
  • Uses or threatens to use a weapon against you.
  • Forces you to have sex against your will.
  • Blames you for his/her violent outbursts.

———–Read More————

True peace and love are found only in Jesus Christ. How much peace do you have, friend? You are loved by a God who gave up His life for you. Will you surrender to Him? #Thisislove (1John4:10)

Blessings,

Angie signature

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Birthdays

10 years ago today was my due date with baby #6. All 9lbs., 3oz. of him were born after just 4 hours and 39 minutes of labor. While everybody thinks a fast labor is awesome, I disagree. The short labors I’ve experienced are what I call “fast and furious.” I really preferred the “long and laborious” ones! Unfortunately, we women don’t really get a choice in the length of our labor. But I digress. Back to the birthday boy.

10 years. I realize all of us mamas marvel at the birthdays of our children. Every year we can’t believe how old they are, how our baby can be a year older. Birthdays remind us of how fleeting time is. Even more so with these milestone birthdays.

Birthdays are joyous occasions, but after child loss, they are rarely ever experienced without grief attached. As our soon-to-be ten year old’s birthday approaches, I can’t help but think of his older brother. As I thought of my son’s birthday this week and of all the fun things we have planned for him, I also had the thought He was only four years old when his brother died. While it seems incredible that my birthday boy is going to be ten and amazing how the time has flown by, I am also sad that it has been almost six years since his brother has been gone. It feels like forever. And I am sad as well as joyful.

I try not to wonder what it would be like if Matt were here for his brother’s birthday. (Actually, two of his brother’s are celebrating birthdays this week. Technically, it’s this week and next week, as child #7, our youngest, turns eight five days after child #6.) But wondering and “what ifs” isn’t productive. I learned that early on in this grief journey.

Nancy Guthrie focus

Instead, I will remember God’s goodness. I will give thanks, and I will mark birthdays with joy and grief. I will open myself up to life, to now. My two youngest boys celebrate their birthdays this week, and I want to inhale every precious moment of it.

Blessings,

Angie signature

When you tell God to F- off

I realize the title of this post probably just offended some people. I’m sorry, but I’m not out to offend. I’m here to speak truth, and the truth is this: There are those outside our cleaned-up Christian world who need Jesus. They need to know that Christ died for them, that He loves them.

And these people?

They aren’t exactly pure. They aren’t exactly living the way you and I live, comfortable and clean. Our language is foreign to them. We talk about grace, peace, and love. They talk about how God screwed them over, how they got dealt a raw hand in life. They are angry and bitter. They blame God and those who belong to God. They want nothing to do with God or His people.

Can you blame them?

Too many of us, myself included, are comfortable where we’re at. We have our circles of friends, our busy lives, and our weekly church services. Hear me now: None of these things is wrong. But none of these things forces us out of our comfort zone.

You know what forces us out of our comfort zone, dear friends?

Pain.

Disappointment.

Hardship.

Sorrow.

We are often offended by the vulgar, aren’t we? Especially those of us who have been Christians for any length of time. We have forgotten that many of us were once crude ourselves. On one hand, that’s a great thing because it shows us just how much Christ has changed us. (And if you want to get fancy about it, it’s what’s called sanctification.) But on the other hand, it’s not so great because we forget just how bad we were.

While we are, as the Apostle Paul said, a new creation, we must not forget that what Christ did for us, He is waiting to do for others. We can so disconnect from our old way of life (and rightly so) that we no longer connect with those who are what we once were. We aren’t so good at extending grace to those who need it most. We, who receive such abundant grace, can ourselves be shockingly stingy in giving it.

But this post isn’t a guilt trip. It isn’t meant to brow beat you into action. It’s meant to open your eyes to the lost, those who don’t know Jesus and to see them for who they really are: not as the crack addict, the alcoholic, or the law breaker. But to see them as God sees them: hurting, hopeless, and helpless.

Do you remember when you were hurting and without hope? The difference between us and them is that we chose to turn to God instead of away from Him. Instead of bitter, we chose better. When forced out of our comfort zone we have a choice. We can blame God, seeing Him as the enemy, or we can embrace Him, believing His love never fails, never gives up, and never leaves.

I spoke to someone yesterday who told me “God can F* off.” I don’t share this to shock you or shame him. I don’t want you to think he’s a jerk. I want you to pray for him, friends. Pray for his salvation. Pray he would know the love of Jesus, the overwhelming love of Christ, that his eyes would be opened to the Truth. He warned me that every time I mention God he will hurt someone I love. Instead of wishing him ill will and returning evil for evil, I am praying harder, more fervently, and more desperately. The thought of someone spending eternity in hell should not make us rejoice, friends. I will not stop because he is not saved.

When someone tells me God can F* off, I don’t get angry or offended. I am not shocked. What I am is sad. What I am is resolved – to speak all the more about the love of God, His forgiveness, and the healing that only comes through Him. What I am is broken. Broken for the lost, the hurting, and the hopeless. I have hope. I have healing. I have found my way. Will you pray with me, friends, for this man? Will you pray for protection for my loved one and for the salvation of this man? Will you pray he finds the way, the truth, and the life? Don’t be offended by the vulgar. Be overcome with love.

Blessings,

Angie signature

When rescue is nowhere in sight

Have you ever been burdened to pray for someone, someone who needs rescuing, healing? But the rescue never comes? At least, not on your watch. This burden of prayer is a weighty thing. It begs attention. It is relentless. I have experienced it a number of times in my life as a Christian. There were times when I woke in the middle of the night, several times a night, burdened to pray for particular people. I prayed for months. Months. Which turned into years.

I have no doubt that this burden to pray is the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit prompts us as Christians to pray, to give voice to our pain and concern for others, to intercede for them. It is a gift to pray for someone else, especially when they cannot pray for themselves. I’ve experienced this. When our son died, I could not pray. Grief was too overwhelming, the wound too deep, too raw. But I am eternally grateful for those who prayed (and continue to pray) for us. It is prayer that ushers in the rescue.

Prayer rescues. No, not the way you think. It isn’t always answered by miraculous healing. (Oftentimes not.) It isn’t a formula or a wishing well. Prayer is the ushering in of grace and peace. The prayers of others are what give strength and grace to get through the dark nights, the desolate-filled days, and the weak, faithless hours. It gives the pray-er and the one prayed for a peace that surpasses understanding.

I’ve been burdened to pray for someone I love, burdened so much that I wake often in the middle of the night to pray. I stop what I’m doing, too, in the middle of the day to pray repeatedly throughout the day. I fight to choke down worry and struggle to squeeze the air out of fear. I recite Isaiah 26:3 each time worry and fear show up to pick a fight with peace and trust.

Image result for isaiah 26:3 kjv

This praying isn’t always easy. Sometimes I utter prayer like it’s an easy thing, a tongue that comes naturally, like second nature. Other times, I am rendered speechless because the circumstances look all too much like a taunting Goliath looming over me. In anguish, my lips falter and my mind scrambles to find words to my burdened heart. I don’t see God, I see Goliath.

Prayer is the telescope that changes one’s focus. It swings the view from Goliath to God. Prayer becomes the stones we throw at the giant; the circumstances and difficulties, the impossible situation that we just can’t shake off. Prayer enables us to stand firm. It becomes the gateway to Christ.

Friends, when the way of escape is not to be found and rescue is no where in sight, let prayer take you where it must: to God. Prayer is designed, not as an escape route, but as the road to freedom. It releases us to see God, to trust Him when the voice of the enemy causes us to quake with fear. Prayer keeps our eyes on Christ. The Holy Spirit fills the blank space of our minds when our own words fail to come.

Are you burdened to pray? Or, perhaps you’re struggling with prayer. Is rescue nowhere in sight? Take heart, my friend. You are not alone. You have the Holy Spirit, and you have others interceding for you. Do you want rescue more than you want God? Peace is greater than rescue because God is greater than any circumstance. Trust in God, keep your mind stayed on Him, and perfect peace will be yours. I am burdened to pray, but held in peace. May you, too, be held in peace, dear friend.

Blessings,

Angie signature

Hard seasons

Winter in Minnesota this year has been a bit, shall we say, confusing. March 6th, we had 69 degrees, rain, thunderstorms, and a tornado warning. March 7th, we are in the 30’s with snow forecast later in the week.

Friends, does your spiritual life look a bit like the weather? Are you confident one minute in God’s goodness and faithfulness, but doubting His presence the next? Has your faith been taking wild swings like the brisk Minnesota wind? Have you felt a bit dismayed by the swirling circumstances around you, wishing a new season would come? Are you longing for the bitter cold of the winter to be done, to just be done and over with already?

I don’t know about you, but I am. This season has been trying. Not for me, really, but for someone I love. Their life hasn’t turned out anything like they thought it would be. In fact, it’s only seemed to have gotten more difficult over time. Winter refuses to leave. And the bitter season tarries.

Like the early budding pussy willow trees this spring, my faith bloomed when my loved one’s difficult situation first began. It was easy to be hopeful and to pray confidently. But as days passed and turned into months, and now months have turned into a year, my prayers resemble the pussy willow branches in my yard; shaking in the wind, fragile, and tested by the elements.

But I will not stop praying.

I will not stop praying because I know that God hears…even if it looks like my prayers are not answered…Because I know that it isn’t about God doing what I want Him to do, but about God being who He says He is.

Let me repeat that: It isn’t about God doing what I want Him to do, but about God being who He says He is. 

My faith isn’t in what God can do for me (or my loved one), but in who He is. When I remember Daniel or Joseph or Abraham or Rahab, I see the reality of their lives; they were difficult and, sometimes, God not only asked them to do hard things, but He purposefully allowed hard things to happen.

When God allows hard things to happen, we can do what Daniel, Joseph, Abraham, and Rahab did. They trusted God. They cried out to Him. They did what they thought they couldn’t: They endured. Because God was who He said He was. He said, “I am.”

I am…is enough for you.

I am…is sufficient.

I am…is trustworthy.

I am…is everything you need.

I am…is with you.

God is. Not He was, but is. Right now, in this unrelenting, hard season, He is. Whatever today or tomorrow holds, whether fair weather times or bitter cold adversity, He is. The winds may blow, the trials buffet, the storms assault, and the seasons drag on, but God is in the midst.

Keep trusting, dear Friends. He is…for all times, for every season.

Blessings,

Angie signature

 

A little grief education for the uneducated

If you’re on social media, then you’ve most likely seen the flurry of posts regarding Whoopie Goldberg. Rumor has it that she commented in response to President Trump’s recognition of Carryn Owens (the widow of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens who was killed during a raid in Yemen) during his address to the joint session of Congress last week.

The rumor is that Ms. Goldberg stated, “She was just looking for attention. These military widows love their 15 minutes in the spotlight” and “If it were me I wouldn’t be able to leave the house. How can someone who is truly greiving [sic] go out there and be on TV. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

While these comments have now been claimed as fake news (Ms. Goldberg herself tweeting this), I cannot refrain from addressing them. It is an opportunity for education, to educate those who remain uneducated regarding grief. Like a dog with a bone, I will gnaw at wrong responses to grief that our society at large still holds.

How many of us bereaved have heard those words “She’s just looking for attention.” or “If it were me I wouldn’t be able to…” ?

These statements are most offensive.

But why? you ask. I’m glad you asked. Here’s why:

First, it assumes intent. It asserts that the bereaved have ulterior motives. As if grief weren’t enough. Attention isn’t the priority when experiencing grief. Grieving is the priority. Assuming someone’s motives is not only dangerous, it is presumptuous. (And most often wrong.) Rather than accuse the bereaved of seeking attention, try giving them grace instead.

Second, there is no formula for losing a loved one. How one reacts when faced with loss is as individual as fingerprints. To utter the words, “If it were me….” speaks a tone of judgement and displays a breathtaking lack of compassion, understanding, and ignorance. One can imagine all they want how they would act or respond to a loss, but until they experience it, it is just that – an imagination. Rarely does reality match up with what we imagined.

These phrases are exactly what I strive to eliminate from the bereavement world. As I did with my grief blog, I will continue to make every effort I can to educate those outside the grief community. Because words like these are not helpful. Do you see someone grieving? Do you want to help them? You don’t have to be a member of “The Club No One Wants to Be A Part Of” to help someone in grief. Be the grace giver. #GiveGrace

Blessings,

Angie signature