Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Covering of Love

Last week, I had an encounter with an angry acquaintance.  They were upset about something that had occurred and was taking it out on anyone in their path.  This person snapped at me in a demeaning way more than once during the conversation we were involved in, and had an argument with at least one other person in my presence.  I was taken aback and, honestly, afraid to challenge them in any way because of their mood and reactions toward others that day… I truly HATE confrontation and wasn’t about to be the one who stood up against them on the topic of our conversation.

But then I did something I'm not proud of….something that I had to turn and repent for...

I slandered them.

I had gone into the original conversation knowing that there might be some strife, even knowing that I may not be welcomed, but I had set myself to keep an open mind and particularly NOT to spread slander afterward!

Later on, after the conversation, I complained to others about this person's behavior, comments, and general character.

EVEN AS I WAS COMPLAINING… I heard the prompting of the Holy Spirit reminding me that I shouldn’t be complaining!  But friends, Satan is a strong power…he can sway us away from God’s will quite easily when we let him…and I continued.

Then the next morning, I sat down for some focused Jesus time…something I had neglected over the past week or so.  (By the way, my weakness in falling into temptation and my NOT spending time in God’s Word at the same time is NOT a coincidence… they are directly connected…but more on that in another post.)  The VERY FIRST sentence I read was, “Seek to live in My love, which covers a multitude of sins both yours and others’” (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, p 168).

The verse from God's Word referenced in Jesus Calling was 1 Peter 4:8.  Paul was writing to a Christian community encouraging them to remain faithful to Christ's teachings and not be discouraged by persecution.  Paul says, "Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins" (italics mine).   God was speaking to ME…encouraging ME to remain faithful…wanting ME not to be discouraged in persecution…teaching ME to love others, even in their own sin.

Another verse referenced in that morning’s devotion that convicted me was Revelation 2:4-5.  “Yet I hold this against you; you have lost the love you had at first.  Realize how far you have fallen.  Repent, and do the works you did at first.  Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”  I for one, DO NOT want my lampstand removed from its place in heaven…and so I repented.  I cried out to God to forgive me…I allowed His love to cover my sins.

Wow!  God never ceases to amaze me how He speaks to us through His Word...right when we need it.  The key is for us to be willing to listen and apply His lessons to our own lives, our own circumstances.

We’ve all been there…whether it be a co-worker, family member, or even a friend…we’ve been tempted to complain about their actions, words, or both.  We’ve slandered them in front of others instead of allowing Jesus’ love to flow through us, covering their sins. 

If you have one of those times in mind…repent now…and allow Jesus to cover your own sins.  Then practice covering others’ in your path with Jesus’ love by praying for them instead of spreading slander and complaints.  

Jesus tells us to let our love for others be intense…then we can let Him take care of the rest. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

New Life

I wrote this post a little over a month ago when spring hadn't yet shown it's face...

When I got the text this morning, I swore out loud.  Today is the 8th school day of the year cancelled because of snow or cold.  Eight days of lost break time that is now cutting into summer vacation.  Snow days may still be days off, but I'd rather have the days that were planned to be vacation – preparing for Easter, visiting family, enjoying the warmth of the sun.  I'd rather have the new life of spring.  But it has been a bitter that has spread its bitterness into me.  

Last week, in my quiet time with Jesus, I composed this prayer in my journal...

“Lord, I beg you to help draw me from falling into depression.  I HATE feeling down, but I feel this weight upon me, pushing against me...keeping me from joy.  I want to be joyful from the inside out.  Lord, I need you to rescue me like you did with David and reach down from high to grasp me; draw me out from the deep waters.  Rescue me from this enemy of depression – for it is too powerful for me.”

I had just read 2 Samuel 22:17-18 and longed for God to come to my support.  I wasn't just feeling down...I was feeling defeated.  It wasn't just the weather, although I have suffered from seasonal depression for many years now.  The weight that was upon me came from various areas in my life.  The past few months have been heart-wrenching.  My relationships and commitments were tested.  And in the midst of the strife, my top 2 priorities in life were what I really lost focus on:  my husband and my God.

But my heavenly Father does not disappoint...He LOVES to come to the rescue.  The way He rescues is not always what we had in mind, but it is ALWAYS what we need.

Jesus began the spring thaw in my heart.

I was blessed with a new book by Lisa Brenninkmeyer called Walking With Purpose (Thank you Chrissy for finding it and for persevering to bring it to our parish).  I began reading it and have been re-inspired to set my priorities back in their proper place. 

Priority #1 = Jesus

I know that  when I am feeling off, going back to my quiet time chair where I pray is the cure.  I hadn’t been spending the time I should with the Lord, but I was reminded….   In Walking With Purpose, Lisa Brenninkmeyer says, “Finding time to pray is not an option.  It must be the most protected part of your daily schedule.”  I need to begin my day with some dedicated Jesus time.  Period.  And I want to, I even intend to.  I'll admit, I struggle with this EVERY day, particularly because sleep is my Achilles heel.  But I’m working on it.  I’m trying to make some changes to make this the dedication it should be.  I smile at myself as I think that this annoying snow day, the one I didn't want and didn't plan for, is really a blessing...I've gotten to spend all morning dedicated to my savior.

Priority #2 = Doug

My husband is the most important man on Earth to me.  Yet, I have fallen short of making him my second priority lately.  When we made the decision to take on custody of our granddaughter, I knew I'd need a constant reminder to put him first.  I hung this scripture from 1 Corinthians 1:10 (translation taken from The Voice) above our bed:

“My brothers and sisters, I urge you by the name of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, to come together in agreement.  Do not allow anything or anyone to create division among you.  Instead, be restored, completely fastened together with one mind and shared judgment.”

In the past 2 days, we've begun to refasten ourselves together.  I wouldn't have considered us to have had a broken marriage by any means…but it's easy to stop being vigilant when things feel safe, and that lack of vigilance often leads to brokenness.  I had been waiting for Doug to be the one who is vigilant, making plans to inspire the spark in our relationship, but then realized that it wasn't just up to him...and I took the first step.  A conversation centered on him…some time together without anyone else around…it's amazing how much little things matter.

I am starting to see signs of spring forming in me...God's work of new life. 

As I meditate on new life in my priorities, I am reminded that this season of cold, white, and slippery won't last forever.  Sitting in my prayer corner, in the quiet of the morning, amazingly...I hear birds.  Birds...a tell-tale sign of spring.  Now, I know that there are birds that stick around western Pennsylvania for winter, but I don't usually hear them chirping and singing among the thick white blanket of snow that has been covering this area for months....

New life is coming.  Thank you Jesus for making that happen, inside and outside.