Tag Archives: love

Never be Left Out

It’s hard to feel left out no matter how old you are, especially when things like work and church start to feel more like social clubs. We even feel left out of things we wouldn’t even be interested in if we were invited. Somehow we think we should be invited regardless of our level of interest.

I remember when I was a kid, and I would want to invite every person in my class to my birthday party so nobody was left out. My parents would usually set a limit on how many people I could invite, and then my mom would tell me not to talk about the party at school because it might make someone feel left out. Let’s face it, we are going to have times when we are left out and it’s okay. We might be left out of a work meeting, a wedding celebration, or a big decision. While we might consider being left out of these things a disappointment, we should celebrate being left out of other things that our colleagues, friends, family, and neighbors have to deal with. No one ever said, “Wow! God didn’t even think of me when that person was diagnosed with cancer. How dare him!”

Instead of looking at the “what” we were left out of, let’s look at the “why.” The only why we need to consider is that it just wasn’t God’s will. You got left out of a promotion. It wasn’t the right job, the right time, the right boss. You got left out of a group get-together with your fellow church members. You were meant to spend alone time with God or maybe God prevented you from getting in a car accident. Maybe God knew you wouldn’t have a good time.

I recently heard a sermon that convicted me of feeling bitter when God does not live up to my expectations for him. The message was taken from Luke 7:18-35. John the Baptist is in prison, and sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is in fact “the one who is to come.” The pastor explained that John had more evidence that Jesus was the Messiah than any other living person, and yet he questioned Jesus because perhaps Jesus did not live up to John’s expectations for him. Maybe he expected Jesus to break him out of jail, or any number of other expectations.

Does God not care about you because you get left out? Does he plan on you being alone forever? Does he plan on you making minimum wage forever? Does he want you to feel lonely, rejected, and even unwanted? No. He wants you to feel closer to him than ever before. He wants you to fill up on his love to share it with others. He wants you to share about a time when you were lonely with someone who is feeling lonely or left out now. What you are going through is just a season, and seasons have an end, a transition. Seasons also help nourish the earth in some way, and they will nourish your soul just the same. You will come out of this season of feeling left out with a stronger faith, a more moving testimony, and a whole lot of new friends. People will be drawn to the love of Jesus you reflect after spending all that time with him. No promotion, party, outing, or meeting can create the relationship you grow from one-on-one with the Lord.

One last word of advice, if you feel left out, try inviting people to do things often and accepting invites whenever possible if the invites are to do something that interests you. If you haven’t been invited, perhaps it’s because you’re not around to invite or maybe you are hard to reach. No matter the reason, God is doing something in you during this time, and you need only trust in him to finish that work.

Don’t get left out! Comment, like, and follow for more good stuff.

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Growing Pains

Aside from being one of my favorite childhood favorite TV shows, growing pains are no joke. Many times God allows us to be in uncomfortable, even painful circumstances to push us to grow. This stretching and strengthening exercise makes up your most emotionally and sometimes physically difficult times in life.

Looking at my parents’ lives I can see how much their marriage grew through their suffering during four years trying to adopt and years of caring for their ailing parents. God used each of these times to improve on their love for one another and for God himself. Seeing their growth gives me comfort in this season of life.

A friend and I were just talking recently about a time of suffering in her life. She described feeling small. I remember each day telling her she was still big, but it was hard for her to see her own strength. Now that a few years have passed she tells me she was always big, but she just couldn’t see it.

I have felt small during the last few weeks. I have thought about giving up, but it’s impossible to give up on life when God is at the center of it. He simply doesn’t stand for quitters of life. Like a parent he doesn’t always give the pouting child his full comforting attention during those moments of feeling small because he knows there’s something more to gain from our suffering and pain. He knows when watching from a distance is more helpful than immediately giving us comfort.

I am up at 4:00 a.m. writing this post because I am very uncomfortable in life right now. I have felt small, sad, angry, confused, even sick from the stress and pain of growing. When God woke me up at 3:30 this morning, even in my discomfort I felt things would be okay because this is just the feeling you get during the strengthening and refining process. I have witnessed many testimonies of the strength that comes from this pain, and it is worth it.

A loving God is not a God that gives us a life full of nothing but easy moments.

Please share your testimony of the growth and strength that came from your suffering.

Value Born Out of Love

You may have gathered from previous posts that there is a significant change happening in my life. Recently I have decided to transition from my church of eight years to a new church closer to my home. This was not a decision that I expected to make, but one God made for me and confirmed over and over again through other believers. While it is bittersweet, I have already reaped many rewards from this decision.

First, I reaped the reward of complete peace. Secondly, I received incredible support and love from friends and family. Earlier this week I received a card from one family, showering me with love and fond memories. The most special message I received was on the bottom corner of the back of the greeting card. In his 10-year-old handwriting my little friend and Sunday School student, Ryan, wrote that I am the “best, coolest, funniest person ever.” How can I argue with Ryan’s compliment? He obviously knows what he’s talking about.

What Ryan doesn’t know is that I am not cool or funny, but one thing I believe he does know, is that it is important for people to feel that way. When you love someone you make them feel valuable. Because Ryan’s act of love, I wore a smile all week. His love reminded me of the value I have as someone loved by friend and family as well as my Heavenly Father.

Who can you love and give value to today?

 

When the Hungry Cry Out

Last Friday while preparing my lunch I saw that I had way more fruit than I could possibly eat, so I packed it into a bag with some other unwanted snacks and set off for work. I thought about giving it to my coworkers, but then I remembered the group of homeless people that sleep outside the work parking lot. Perhaps they would want some fruit and crackers.

When I arrived to work I was surprised to see that the group I normally see was gone. That’s unusual, I thought. After work I gathered my purse and the bag of food and wondered if the group would be back that evening. I wandered out another entrance and immediately came to a couple of disheveled men chatting. Not sure of whether they would be offended by my offering, I started unpacking my bag a few feet away. They looked up with hopeful eyes, as if wondering if I would share with them. When I saw their glances I explained that I had bought in bulk and had too much food to eat myself. In their gratitude they offered me a newspaper, the kind that the city provides for the homeless to earn money for meals.

As they handed me the paper, they began explaining to me why things are the way they are for the homeless, basically covering the topic of the paper. To my surprise, the older man revealed that he was recently diagnosed with cancer and that he is afraid of what will happen if he needs chemo or radiation. How will he care for himself as someone without a home. His resources are so limited. I listened quietly until he said, “But I believe my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can heal me!” I think my eyes widened. I didn’t expect to hear that through the cloud of pot smoke that was forming around us. You see, the other man had been smoking the whole time. Then he, the guy who was smoking, started telling us about a prayer ministry he was a part of in L.A.

It goes to show God’s children come in all shapes and sizes. After they were done sharing I offered to pray and the older man grabbed my hands and said, “You pray first.” I prayed a short and simple prayer asking God to be with them and keep them safe and for the older man to be healed. By this time we were on a first name basis. When I finished praying the older man looked up, eyes wide and said, “Wow! That was a powerful prayer.” Then the other man started praying, and boy did I feel the Holy Spirit…or maybe it was a contact high (just kidding). At the end we all said Amen, and the older man exclaimed, “I am healed! I believe I am.” The other man kept proclaiming, “You are healed in Jesus’ name.”

A few minutes later the younger man asked the older man, “Are you sick?” Through a frown the older man said, “Yes…” to which the younger man responded, “But you just said you were healed?” The older man laughed, “Well, I forgot. I smoked two bowls before we prayed!” We all burst into laughter, and I truly believe the joy they felt was not just the influence of marijuana but the joy of the Lord upon them.

God is good, and He does not discriminate. He blesses those He wants to bless whether they are stoned or sober. I praise God for putting those two in my path that day. Who knew that on the streets of Berkeley in a cloud of smoke I would meet two of my Brothers?

The things that have grown my faith more than anything else are those instance just stumbled upon, interactions with strangers on the street. God uses all kinds to teach our busy minds and hearts to love.

No Algorithm for Love

Streamlined, that’s pretty much the way I like things at work. I like to perform a task efficiently, and I expect others to adopt the same efficient process or I adopt theirs if it’s more efficient. The point of being streamlined is for everyone doing a particular task to achieve the same result in the least amount of time, at least those are my thoughts.

Evangelism and discipleship is a bit different. No two people came to know Christ in exactly the same way, and yet it doesn’t stop Christians from developing a new algorithm to convert people. It seems kind of silly. I’ve been wrestling with this idea of strategizing for Jesus since last Sunday, and I can’t say I’ve come to terms with it just yet. In the great commission Jesus went to his disciples and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus didn’t say do this, not that, in groups of 3, not 4, and meet once a week, every week for 5 weeks. Jesus didn’t say that because he knew that what was going to work for Jake Smith may not work for Mary Jones.

I am in no way saying that you shouldn’t adopt a way of evangelizing and discipling people, but don’t limit yourself to one method. Your method should be love, and love in its purest form given from the blood of Jesus. If you are befriending non-Christians for the purpose of converting them because you want to or because your pastor told you to, they are going to see right through that. And if for some reason they don’t recognize it right away, they will surely realize it when you stop calling once they are converted.

My advice would be to not worry about your method, the algorithm to use. Don’t waste your time considering exactly what you will do to convert a person or a group of people, just start your day in prayer and studying scripture. When you pray ask God to allow you to see people through His eyes. As you become more aware of those around you, you will start to develop friendships. If you are truly walking with the Lord, you’ve already evangelized just by dialoguing with them. “What?” You might say, “You didn’t share the gospel.” Wait for it…

When these new friends become less new (or maybe still new) they will catch you off guard and ask you, “Why are you so happy?” Now, for Christ’s sake, open your mouth and share the gospel, and share it like you really, truly believe it. Share it with the Holy Spirit in you, not some algorithm.

Jesus’ love, hope and peace, they speak for themselves, but every once in a while we get to share the why…

Bark Unto the Lord

In this day in age there are not many shepherds, so it may be difficult for us to imagine the Lord as our shepherd. One thing we probably can relate to, however, is owning a pet. Let’s just skip owning a cat because we don’t really want to use cats as role models for following…they kind of lack the ability to follow unless a bowl of fish is involved.

When asked to meditate on Psalm 23 this last Sunday I recalled a photo my sister posted of her dog Bruiser. A few things you must know about Bruiser is that he is a crazy hyper, little Min Pin with giant ears (now you know why they are usually clipped) and enormous adoration for my sister and niece. He just cannot get enough attention from his human family, which was even documented on a video my sister shot of him lying on the bed. His tail would slowly wag, but as soon as she would glance his way his tail will bounce from side to side like a metronome set to the fastest tempo.

Psalm 23 describes a person through the metaphor of a sheep, following God and obeying Him, and in turn receiving many blessings, even in times of hardship. Don’t you know, that even when Bruiser is punished he knows a treat is soon coming. Even when he doesn’t know where my sister is taking him, he doesn’t fear because she is with him and has his best interest in mind. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Why should we fear if it’s just a shadow? Because we don’t realize it is? Bruiser trusts that my sister knows the difference between a shadow and the real thing.

My point is, if a little min pin with attitude can trust and obey and reap great rewards in doing so, how much more can we? And how much more will God provide great rewards?

When I shared this with my sister she shared about a message she recently heard from some pastor friends who travel the U.S. preaching the gospel (or gossip as one of my Sunday School students said). Their dog takes part in their ministry, and recently they had to take the dog to the vet. When looking at the dog’s eyes they noticed a cataract in the shape of a heart. The vet told them that the dog’s vision is now heart-shaped. Dogs constantly keep an eye on their master. They are curious and hopeful creatures, begging for more when you’ve given all the treats. Isn’t that the way we are? When we see through the lens of love, we see that all we have is enough, and all we need is our Master.

It is not often I write about pets because I don’t have any of my own. Not many landlords in the Bay Area allow pets, but I get to enjoy others’ pets and they truly teach me so much. Every moment has the potential for joy, hope, anticipation, forgiveness, the list could go on and on, but in our humanness we forget the simplicity of all of it. This week I hope you feel free to pant for God’s attention and follow His every step. You are sure to receive many treats.

Lawlessness as a Pursuit of Freedom

As a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, I experience first-hand the pursuit of freedom on all sorts of topics from racism to classism. Many feel in bondage by the so-called “men in black”, the people at the top telling the little people what they can and cannot do. This notion of oppression is often true. People are experiencing prejudice in one way or another. Our society rightly celebrates historical figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., that led the revolution against social injustices all in the name of freedom and equality.

While all of this is good and right and just, we’ve somehow lost sight of where freedom ends and selfishness, even lawlessness begins. Perhaps it is that we all don’t agree on the definition of freedom. Some may even venture to say that freedom is a dirty word that only hippies and liberals dare to proclaim. The reason being, freedom is now being translated into no control, no laws, no standards.

Picture this, you are driving your three kids to a soccer game when suddenly your minivan is plowed into by a shiny new sports car. For the sake of this illustration, no one is injured. You go to court to seek justice, but when you get there the defendant says, “I don’t see why what I did was wrong. It felt good.” This is the argument of so many today. Or what if you decide not to pay your taxes? Your argument could be, “I’m not hurting anyone.” Again, I’ve heard this excuse before. Most of us can agree that there is a time and place for laws, rules, standards, but when once applied to us it can be uncomfortable. Honestly, how many times have you gone far over the speed limit, but then that one time you slow down you look at the person speeding by you like they are the criminal? We’ve all done it or something similar.

So if we can all agree that we need laws and standards, and we all agree that it sometimes means we will be uncomfortable, then why do people use the “rules” of Christianity as an excuse not to be Christ-followers? I pondered this for several days and I have come to these conclusions.

1. They have not personally experienced Christ’s love and forgiveness. For me, it was like Pringles, once you pop you can’t stop. Once I experienced it for myself, I was sold. Perhaps those people have experienced or heard only of the manmade religion of Christianity without the joy of knowing him.

2. They have not differentiated their experience with man with their experience with God. Many people decide how big, how strict, how overbearing, or how loving God is by looking at their experience with their earthly parents. They have yet to experience God’s deliverance and forgiveness of others.

3. They are not ready to give up something they know is ungodly. Overcoming vices, habits, even addictions, starts with knowing God will meet you where you are. He does not expect you to overcome these on your own before coming to know Him.

4. They genuinely believe in another god or entity or have some other spiritual belief system. You probably know people of many other faiths, and that’s okay. We are not called to beat them with the Bible, but called to love them and by loving them we reveal the person, the God of Love.

There could be a number of other reasons as well.

The fact is we are living in a world that is increasingly becoming about self, hence the term “selfie”, but in the midst of a self-centered, highly technological world, there also many who are overly aware of the world around us. You can go on YouTube and see video after video of the “news” that actually wasn’t ever aired on the news, someone took it with their personal cell phone. With all this information about injustice at our fingertips, really who are we to trust? Ourselves? Or a God that loves above all else, but also sets “laws” in place to help us avoid injury to the body, soul, and spirit? Which sounds more freeing?

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