{re}fresh

Month: May, 2015

I Thought I Knew What Love Looked Like

by Dawn Aldrich

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The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. John 14:21

“Most live life with love gone much unsaid.” These narrated words from a new BBC series pricked my heart as I thought about all the years I withheld my love from my father; repressed my childhood affection from the one who walked away and yet returned with a repentant heart. We’d lost so much time play-acting our roles as father and daughter all those Saturdays of my youth, that when he returned in my college days, I didn’t know what to do. Showing affection was awkward, at least, and risky. I allowed the fear of rejection to build an impenetrable fortress around my heart, keeping everyone at arm’s length, especially my father.

We lived most of the rest of his life with love gone much unsaid until God took hold of my heart about nine years ago. That’s when God pried open my soul and revealed to me my earthly father through His eyes. For the first time, I was able to accept him for who God created him to be and honor all his traits in me without shame. But it wasn’t enough to only ponder these revelations alone. God challenged me to forgive my father face-to-face and to speak my love out loud to him (talk about fear and risk). It took me a long seven months of God working on me to gain the courage to face my father and risk it all, but I’m glad I did.

My earthly father passed over a year ago knowing how much I loved him and forgave him. We left no words unsaid, he and I. I thought his passing restored all lost love between us and ended my father journey, but recently God taught me differently. For I learned that I could not possibly know what a father’s love looked like (or felt like) without experiencing it first. While God restored my love for my earthly father, it was far from that innocent, untainted love between a father and his daughter. My heart yearned for that which was lost from my childhood; a love that now only God himself could restore, for my earthly father was gone.

I stood amongst a few others while the leader of the small group stood on a chair above me, putting me in the posture of a young girl and her father. He then recited my personalized scripture as though God were reading it himself:

I cherish you with an unending, undying love. I pull you near and hold you close with my absolute, dependable kindness. Though your world be shaken and the familiar be removed, still my love for you remains–my boundless, unending, immovable love. My covenant, my word, my promise of peace also remains, for I AM tender, gentle and compassionate towards you, always. (Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 54:10 personalized)

In that moment I felt four-years-old again, standing beside my father, protected and encircled in his love. God stirred my heart like never before, lavishing His love on me in such a way words cannot adequately explain. Not only was it a time of restorative love of an earthly experience from my childhood, but more so a present and breakthrough experience of the depth of God’s love for me as my heavenly Father.

Jesus said, “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV). How can we adequately love another if we have not experienced that love from Jesus first? We can read how Jesus loved and try to love as he did, but we cannot offer the extent of his love unless we first experience it from him. This teaching blew me away (First Loved to Love seminar by Rev. Mark Fee). All these years, I’ve tried to love my father as Jesus had taught me to love and honor him, but I hadn’t experienced that type of father-daughter love from my heavenly Father at all. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to ask for it.

So, how do we love as Jesus love so that we in turn can love others? One way, as Mark Fee teaches, is personalizing love scriptures like I did above. Then, read it aloud several times (I found it most  effective when someone else reads it to me, like my husband) until you can actually feel the Holy Spirit’s presence. Then ask the Holy Spirit to embellish His thoughts regarding this scripture for you personally. Record what He says to you and meditate on that throughout your day. And in addition, love others as God is loving you.

All these years I thought I knew what loved looked like, but God is showing me so much more. He is showing me how high, how wide, how deep is His love. He’s longing to show you, too. Won’t you risk it?

Humor

by Wendy

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I poked my head into my husband’s home office long enough to see him don headphones for his next Skype appointment. Backing away to avoid interrupting, I glanced up at his computer screen and saw his co-worker’s avatar – a black and white photo of a somber-faced, suit-wearing male, more like a mugshot than a pleasant introductory portrait. “Now, that’s scary!” I thought as I turned to go, until my husband startled me with his opening greeting.

“Hi, Kevin (not his real name),” he said brightly.” Y’know, when I look at your picture, why do I feel like you’re going to break my knees?”

I sputtered, giggled, covered my open mouth with my hand and ducked into the hallway, hoping I closed the door before “Kevin” could hear my laughter bubbling in the background.   “Like you’re going to break my knees?” Did he really just say that? How could he so quickly capture a moment and banter like that? I shook my head, chuckling, amazed at his ability to tease humor into any conversation.

And then I noticed what the lighthearted conversation accomplished: I wasn’t harried, frenzied and anxious any more. My morning had promised the worst of driven days as I planned to welcome 30 leaders to our home for a two-day seminar, and house six team members. If that wasn’t enough, my office looked like a cross between a bad episode of “Hoarders” and the aftermath of a black Friday sale at Walmart – and some poor soul needed to SLEEP in there. But now that I was laughing, the cleanup process seemed positively hopeful.

Somehow humor breaks through the worst of my introspection. It takes all my negative despair and restores joy and relationship. Laughter forces my spirit to brighten, and I regain hope in the midst of the world’s dark despair.

I wonder, is this just a clever coping mechanism or did God make us this way on purpose? A quick rundown of Bible stories doesn’t exactly produce fodder for a comedy routine – at least not a nice one – but humor must be in there somewhere, since we’re created in God’s image. After all, He created some rather bizarre animals (Armored armadillos? Long-legged giraffes? Waddling penguins? Rafter-hanging bats? Would a somber Creator have made those? Would YOU?). And he created (ahem) us, so HE must have laughed, right?

Come to think of it, almost every interaction with Jesus that I “see” or imagine involves Him smiling, laughing, walking through life with lighthearted security. When I’m anxiously praying that He’ll get me through my dreaded two-hour dental repair, He shows me a picture of Him holding my hand while He sits on the table, grinning, legs swinging, relaxed and unafraid. Even when He heals my greatest pains, holding me while I cry, He always ends with a smile, with joy and hope.

Yes, He weeps with those who weep and cries with us in our sorrow. He upends tables and throws money-changers out of the temple; but He also embodies joy. No one – no one – would follow a somber, intense exhorter who adds obligation and despair to already burdened shoulders. We follow a savior who endured the cross for the JOY set before Him, and his humor and lightness invade our despairing universe.

In these hard days of earthquakes, famines, violence and despair, we need this holy joy. Our personal desolation and corporate angst drive us to places no one can endure. Humor, laughter, lightened hearts lift our darkened hearts and we see again Jesus’ hand and the hope of His breakthrough redemption.

Jesus assures that at the end of all time, we will have joy. We will laugh. We will rejoice. I, for one, cannot afford to wait until then. I will find a way to laugh now and practice joy for eternity. Together, can we risk this? Can we laugh and extend His joy to those mired in pain and darkness?

Free Flyin’

by mymorethanme

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I love being clean. I don’t just mean in the context of being drug free. I mean I love cleanliness. Neat freak, clean freak–yep, that’s me. A place for everything and everything in it’s place. Fresh haircuts, filed fingernails, clipped toenails: Yes. Vacuum lines on the carpet, Pine Sol and lemon scented Pledge, dust free, jet black electronics. Nice. Lines straight, edges smooth, slack pulled tight, taught, tense. Peace…Ha.

Clean is control and sterile is sanity but as Seal once sang, “We’re never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy.”

Enter one hard-working, dusty, shaggy-faced husband and two romping, stomping, outdoors-loving young boy-men and cleanliness and I are outnumbered. Grasping for control, it is revealed as the mirage it’s always been. Quick! Get me my antibacterial spray. Get me my hand sanitizer. Get me my dust cloth. Get me my pen and pad. Get me my safe box, weighed outcomes, and calculated risks. Quick, get me my coffin. Time to settle in and get cozy.

Striving for life we spiral toward death.

Rest, release, receive.

Die to live, a seed, covered, smothered by filth, good soil, clean dirt.

Now grow. Live.

Push up through the dirt, feel the wind, the rain, the creepy crawlies. Feel the cold, cracked earth. Slide in the mud, bake in the sun. Get pressed down by sandy Feet carrying the weight of Love.

Flower and seed and get caught up in the breeze and fly….

“In a world full of people, only some want to fly, isn’t that crazy?”

Yes. Yes, it is.

The other day God made it clear He wanted me to pray for a friend. I told Him I didn’t want to. I wanted to pray for myself. I had too much me on my mind and had no room for another. I was consumed by self, as you see, I thought I was God. I thought control was mine and I could not rest or release or receive. Not for me, not for you. The control box, the coffin, has room for one. And one is the loneliest number.

Life is dirty, Love is messy. They are unpredictable, they are risky, they are exhilarating. They are electric, they are energy, they are everything.

So go ahead, climb in your coffin. Get comfy-cozy. Die. Get rained on and wind whipped. Fade and then fly. Get picked up and carried away to God-knows where for God-knows what on the breezy breath of Love, and for God’s sake, live. LIVE ALIVE. Do it now, while there’s still time. Cry and bleed and cough and snot and rant and rave and forgive and repent. Be real, go wild, get crazy.

Fly free.

Everything and nothing are under control, so be like Bob and “don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

And if it’s not, it’s not the end.

Turn the page.

 

Spilling Bits O’ Heaven

by mandyade

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The night before I was about to fly I had a dream: the Lord told myself and one other person were protecting the flight. When I awoke I understood that my faith and that of another believer would protect that flight. We were carrying His presence with us. We were spilling bits o’ heaven.

Another time while flying the pilot told us that we would have to fly through a storm and expected severe turbulence. My heart sank, turbulence made me feel sick on small aircraft. I started thanking God that He would clear the storm and that this would be a turbulence-free flight. About 15 minutes into smooth flying the pilot announced that turbulence was still coming and not to get out of our seats. He made the same announcement some time later and was silent for the rest of the flight. The flight was perfectly smooth, I didn’t even feel one bump!

As Christians, not only do we walk in God’s presence, but we bring Him with us wherever we go. People are blessed when we are around, since God’s presence flows from us and we  spill bits o’ heaven. As carriers of Him our lives are marked with His blood and sealed with the Holy Spirit. We have been recreated to carry His presence everywhere we go.

 

Joseph worked for Potipher an Egyptian pagan and Potiphers house became blessed. Though Potipher was not in covenant with God the blessing on Joseph still flowed onto this non-believer’s house-hold. Now Joseph couldn’t carry the presence of God like we do, because he didn’t have Christ’s blood or the Spirit inside him, but he was a child of promise and even he was spilling bits o’ heaven…

 

As believers, we are children of promise like Jospeh, and we are covered in Christ’s blood and sealed with the Holy Spirit. How much more do we bring God’s presence and blessing to our worlds?

 

Jonah too was a child of promise, but he didn’t always live in agreement with God and caused a ship and total strangers great danger. His influence was the opposite of Josephs even though his calling was like Joseph’s- to bless the nations and spill bits o’ heaven…

 

Though we are children of promise, blood-covered and Spirit-sealed it is possible to be of little effect. If we are not aware of our call and if we don’t live in agreement with who we are, we won’t spill God’s Kingdom to our world. During difficult or busy times we may tend to forget who we are and what we are called to. It’s during these times that we must make purposeful agreement with what God has said about us and our call.

 

Agree with and know who you are:

1 I am so valuable that God has given His own blood for me.(Jhn 3:16)

2 I have been created in God’s image and recreated as righteous in Christ. (Gen1:27, 2 Cor 5:17)

3 Though I am a clay vessel I carry the treasures of heaven (2 Cor 4:7)

4 The presence of God lives inside me and brings hope to the world (Colossians 1:27)

5 God has called me to usher His kingdom into the world (Mark 16:15)

When we live in agreement with heaven nothing can come against this truth and the effectiveness of our lives!

 

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”1 Corinthians 3:16

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