Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Extravagant Love

It's happening. The pink and red title-wave of heart-shaped candies, balloons, and bouquets of blossoms fill the retail stores waiting to be given away ––all in the name of love.

This is one week when people are not obsessed with selfies but are more likely to take pictures of beautifully plated food, stemware filled with wine with a beaming couple enjoying the holiday set aside to display your love for another.

When I was single, navigating life in the face of loss, being a mom of little loves, working to pay the bills, do the laundry and scoop the snow off the sidewalk, Valentine's Day was at the top of my list of terrible, horrible, awful, bad days.

I dreaded it. I avoided it. I was glad when I could fall into bed at the end it.

It was probably the worse holiday for increasing the awareness of my aloneness.

Or that's how I thought. Really.... who is ever alone when you have small children?

Unfortunately, I placed too much weight of who I was and how loved I felt...... in my single status.

That was before I knew anything about the real Love.

This is when people showed up and loved on me in the mess.

If love is a verb ––and it is–– then these people were the action that showed Jesus to me. They didn't love me without truth and they didn't give me the truth without love, but with their lives, they lived something different.

It drew me to Jesus.

Thank goodness for those people who preached the gospel to me with acts of love and the way they lived ––more than words.

They understood that Love was intended to be given away not gathered up like a dozen roses on display.

Those years? I wish that I would have shifted the focus off myself and onto those around me. I think I would have moved through the grief process faster. What I know is that it was a thousand acts of love that introduced me to the Lord.

I know of a woman who was sinking under the load of loneliness and whose life was about to take another turn for the very worse. She could not see how her life could ever be different. Other women had been loving extravagantly on her.

Honestly, this precious soul didn't even know how to respond to true Love.

Until Friday.

That's when she looked at my friend and wailed, "I just want what you have!"

It was the Holy Spirit who opened her eyes to the truth but it was His people living out many acts of love that opened her heart.

And all of Heaven rejoiced that people lived the kind of life that displays Christ.

I'm still amazed at how God works.

There are so many people who need to see a love that is real.

This morning the names of people who could use some love started forming in my head.

People who probably won't be receiving a single phone call or box of candy or even a stuffed bear with a big ugly nose. We hauled one of those oversized things to the second-hand store not too long ago that had been a gift of endearment to one of our children. Nothing says love like fake fur and polyfill.

Perhaps these men and women who came to mind, aren't like I was. Maybe it doesn't bother them to be alone.

Maybe they know how loved they are and that God sees every tear and hears every prayer.

But maybe not.

They might need someone –– like me–– to tell them that I care.

It could be that I'm the one God is wanting to use to make one person feel seen and heard and loved.

And what does that look like?

Love is patient, kind, & does not envy.

Love doesn't boast & isn't arrogant.

Love isn't rude. 

Love does not insist on its own way.

Love isn't irritable, or resentful.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.

Love rejoices with the truth. 

Love bears all things.

Love believes all things.

Love hopes all things.

Love endures all things.

Love never ends. 

Trust steadily in God, 
hope unswervingly, 
love extravagantly. 
And the best of the three is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Can I encourage you to go back and read those lines slowly? Please don't let the familiarity of them cause you to miss the gift of them?

The Gospel never stops being a miracle.

That season of aloneness has given me better eyes to see those who might need a visit, a card or maybe just a cupcake with extra frosting and sprinkles.

It doesn't take much to display the kind of love that can change someone's day or as I just shared ––an entire life trajectory.

Let us love on our own people well, but let's love on a few others that will be glad we showed up.

Love is eternal, not just a single day on the calendar to live.

This week, who can you extend a little kindness to?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Space For Rest

The cold reality has set in, that I am already behind in a brand new year.

January slipped by in the leftovers of holiday hustle, the uninvited companions of cold and flu. Self-imposed quarantine and time alone with a few books and no energy.

I think it was a gift.

It forced me to rest. To reflect. To dream a little. To curl up in a chair with a handstitched quilt, herbal tea and be still.

It was uninvited time to quiet my heart and hear Gods' voice.

The book, Fervent, by Priscilla Shirer, has been my companion since November. Yes, this may be one of the slowest continual reads I've done. I began reading it after I went to the movie, War room, which I believe every person needs to see at least twice.

Fervent isn't a book you just read from front to back and say, "Well, that was sweet."

The book has revolutionized how I think about problems and people and of course ––prayer.

It has opened my eyes to the reality of the battle in areas of my life and the lives of those I love. I find that I'm not only approaching prayer differently, I'm approaching my life differently.

One subject that pierced my heart was the issue of keeping a margin of rest.

Every day there are lists that need things checked off.  Well, that's what makes me feel like progress is being made.

Over the years, I've heard many discussions about the Sabbath and a day of rest. If you haven't had to endure those kinds of conversations, here is the short story.

Long ago, God appointed a day of rest called the Sabbath. The word means, to cease, to rest. It conjures up images of the old man, in the Old Testament, who lugged stone tabloids around the desert right? That word, Sabbath, seems obsolete in our modern, fast-paced, instant everything kind of world.

There is much written and with that, much debate, on what day is the right day or if we are still obligated to observe that commandment at all.

This is what I know. Busyness is a mask for things that creep in to be more important than my relationship with God. It's as if  I think that the world will not carry on well if I don't keep up my portion of spinning plates.

To be honest, I didn't see myself as having a problem with taking time to rest.

However, when I read the part in her book about, "....margin keeps you from marginalizing God......" well I knew I had some work to do.

So, Sunday, I prayed that I would be intentional about resting and drawing near to God.

I had the best kind of day and felt a deep kind of refreshment I haven't felt in a long time. It was that feeling you have after spending hours with a trusted friend who really gets you.

Perhaps it was a coincidence, but I think it was a gift for simply taking a small step of obedience.

Priscilla quotes a friend in her book, "God doesn't want something from us, He wants something for us."

Our value isn't what we do, it's who we are. Taking time to rest is intended to have built-in time to be with the One who loves us just as we are. And rest, whatever day of the week we can embrace it, gives us the energy to do all the other days.

My first trial day of intentional rest, where I just asked the Lord to show me how to spend the time, looked nothing like I would have thought. There were moments of clarity in muddy thoughts that had been a problem weighing on me for weeks.

In the afternoon, a gift was given to me. Something I've never told a single person I've wanted for my office. (Screaming still!) And as I got ready for bed there was a message full of words, that I believe God chose to give me at that moment to remind me of  His intimate love for me.

Monday morning, nothing had changed on the list of to-do's or the crazy life, except my attitude of gratefulness to God for it.

And you know how I was feeling behind already in 2016?

That may have been the truth if my life were about producing and doing. But after time with the Lord, I realize how that kind of thinking, is not His kind of thinking. His mercies are new every morning.

I'll be making intentional space for rest this week too.

I can't promise you'll have the same kind of experience that I had, but I hope you will fight to make space for rest.

I would love to hear about how you do that.

© Rhonda Quaney