Missing pieces and the love that heals

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Yes. During Bible study with Parish, God reflected a heart on the wall.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:9-13

As a child, we are often excused for some of our behaviors because we are still growing and learning. We may have been disciplined within the lesson learned, but grace and mercy were a huge part of the process.

Why is it the older we become the less forgiving we are of others and ourselves?  Is it the accumulation of wrongs? Does our child-like naivety turn apathetic, or worse into self-loathing or judgment?

I Corinthians is reminding us of the responsibility to grow in Christ, but it’s also reminding us that, until we see Jesus face-to-face, we only know in part.  There will come a day when it all fits together in perfection.

My family completed a puzzle on vacation.  We started the puzzle, and throughout the week, folks would stop at the table and work on adding a few more pieces.  Looking at the details of the edges while visualizing the big picture we were creating became mentally taxing. Like most puzzle experts, we referred to the picture on the box for perspective and figuring out where colors and shapes might go.

So, all the blue colors go at the top for the sky. Green….the grass. Maybe we should do all the edges first?

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Working together as a team became a lively pursuit.  You could look across the table to see someone working on the blue and white sky and share a piece you found in your green grass. Siblings became competitive.  Amazingly, a three-year old could find a missing piece with ease.

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Our family working on a puzzle together, June 2015

Every puzzle piece of our lives, the lives before us, and after us have been created by Jesus for us to, over time, fit together.  It takes a life time and thousands of generations to bring about the final outcome.  If Jesus were to show you the box cover of His plan, we would stand amazed–the magnitude of the details would blow our minds.  That is where faith comes in.  God reveals Himself in His Word and speaks to us through the leading of the Holy Spirit, but only in part.

We worked so hard on a puzzle only to find a piece missing.  We questioned each other, thinking someone was being mischievous, or did the owners of the beach house play a trick on us?

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Doesn’t your eye focus on that missing piece? It drove us crazy. Missing pieces.  This side of heaven has missing pieces and imperfections.

Can you be okay with that? Or, will you focus solely on the missing, and be consumed with unfulfilled longings, and an insatiable appetite for perfection in yourself and others?

Please, don’t.

Recently I have been in situations and circumstances in which broken pieces were scattered everywhere.  Do I pick those up and glue them back together, Lord? Do I sweep them up and throw them in the trash and start over? Do I take the pieces and create something different? All good questions for self-reflection and change.  The best apology is changed behavior.

So, how do we live?  What do we do with brokenness in ourselves and others?

Love.

The greatest of all is love.  Jesus said so.  “For the Bible told me so”. Acts of kindness are an expression of love, but this love says, “I’m okay with me where I am in the moment, and I will love you where you are with my hurt or frustration.”

Love.

I had in my mind as I wrote the word “love”, how does one explain this type of love? My visual was the love of a parent with a teenager who is no longer wanting your advice but you love anyway. You may be worried or frustrated but you never stop loving. It’s the love that Jesus expressed to those who crucified Him and shamed Him. It’s the love when we choose to change, or love someone through their change process.

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God is calling me to love even when I hurt, or don’t understand the missing pieces.  “Love”, He says.  Don’t try to understand, fix, reason, justify, prove, or seek revenge.

When we leave the pieces to God and love who He created…

Me….

You….

…then we can walk in a love so divine it sets us free, brings peace, and unexplained joy.

I can partially know, and trust that the box cover of eternity is something beyond my comprehension and so Holy that I could not fathom it all at once if He was to show me.

Please, don’t.  I trust you Lord.

For months, perhaps years, since this little girl came into the world, I’ve been caught off guard by Jesus and His love, and I am compelled to share it and bring Hope.

I love you…

I love me…

Jesus, thank you for loving us.  Thank you that because you first loved us, we have the capacity to love beyond what we think we are currently capable of.

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Too Big? Start Small.

I love Valentine’s Day. As a child, I loved the chocolate, red hearts, and cards. I would walk around throughout the year in pursuit of heart shaped rocks.  Knowing my passion, my husband has purchased heart shaped boxes for me for special occasions during our many years of marriage.

I’m not sure why this Valentine’s Day felt different.  God, on purpose, placed a desire in me to celebrate, discover, and worship the true meaning of love.

And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35

To receive a blessing with open hands and gratitude is just as fulfilling

We are intimately linked in this harvest work…….Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing. Matthew 10:40-42

The smallest act of giving or receiving.

I believe wholeheartedly that the seemingly smallest act towards kindness, belonging, and worth provides a priceless gift.  Do you ever feel that you or what you do are never enough?  More could be done, or should be done? You leave someone who is still hurting or angry. You wake up to the same issues in your personal life.  You go to work and find that you wrestle with compassion fatigue or apathy? It’s too big. Yet, God is calling us to handle the big with the smallest act.

I visited a loved one on Valentine’s Day.  It’s too big.  My heart wants so much for her to be healed, walking around, and absent of pain.  I pray for these things, but I have no control over them. Yet, the smallest act of a Valentine’s Day blanket, a heart stuffed pillow, yogurt, and water brings hope not only to her, but to me.

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In my lent devotional on 2/13/16 this was shared: (please try to see the connection of the smallest act in something too big)

Written By Caitlin White
Communications, First Presbyterian Church
Athens, GA

Trina Davis was born and raised in New Orleans and owned a hair salon there before the storm. She had always enjoyed arts and crafts in her spare time, so when she returned after the evacuation to find her old neighborhood in ruins, she found a creative way to respond to the brokenness of her hometown. With her son Max, she began collecting broken bits of glass, nails, wire, and keys from the debris, and together they transformed these pieces of trash into beautiful mosaic windows. Now her salon also serves as an art gallery, and their work serves as an inspiration to their neighbors.

When I consider the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, I am reminded of spirits like Trina’s who are able to see abundance and possibility when others are overcome by scarcity and fear. All that was needed for a miracle were little pieces, just a few loaves and fish. Jesus can take these blessed, broken pieces and transform them into something more than they are.

Sure, he could have probably created a huge feast before the disciples’ eyes, shocking everyone watching with his power and skill. Yet, for Jesus, the magic is in the sharing. He invited his followers to offer what limited means they had and take part in joyful giving and the fullness of God’s grace. Likewise, we are reminded at tables of fellowship with friends and family, at tables laid out in welcome for those in need, and, most of all, at the Communion table that the broken pieces of ourselves are sufficient, blessed, and necessary for the modern-day miracles of God.

You are sufficient, blessed, and necessary!

Do you feel that way?  Even if your situation is “too big”, do you trust that God can take your broken pieces and use them?  I think the hardest challenge is looking to God for our sufficiency.  I do not want to sound irreverent. So, please, listen to my heart on this one…….

Think on that day when the fish and loaves were not enough, but in the scarcity, God provided.  Do you think there was someone in the 5,000 who complained, or would have rather had meat instead of fish? It happens. Humans complain, covet, and sometimes curse a blessing, or small act. We humanly see the “too big” and nothing seems to satisfy. So, too, it is equally important to have open hands to receive the small with joy.  We are a dissatisfied, insatiable people.

Why?

We struggle with “who” is responsible for our sufficiency. God uses His people to provide, but God is the ONLY source of lasting fulfillment.

If my small act is not accepted or deemed insufficient, I must know–truly trust–that God is my all sufficient source, and the same source to those I’m serving.  I will not judge my worth by the acceptance of mankind.  I will not judge my sufficiency by examining the scarcity in my life, or circumstances.

I will leave you with this prayer from the same Lent devotional I referenced above.

Prayer: Generous and infinite God, just as you brought the universe into existence, so you formed each of us as your unique and beloved children. You provide all things and all possibilities. Yet, we confess that we covet and complain, failing to appreciate your bountiful blessings. Teach us your mercy, justice and creativity. Open our minds to the limitlessness of your grace and goodness, and help us to share your abundance with those in need, through Jesus Christ our Lord who reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Our Valentine’s Day–

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Love never dies

The snow had not arrived, but the forecast was imminent. I drove to my destination with anticipation.  The Holy Spirit was already there. Her room was peaceful with cards from little ones strung on a twine in the window, notes of encouragement taped to the walls, and a plaque that reminded her and all visitors that “With God all things are possible”.

She was so peaceful at rest. I did not want to wake her.  As I touched her small hand and gently spoke her name, she opened her eyes and smiled. Our exchange reminded me of running into a loved one or long awaited friend. Her smile was sweet, and her face glowing.  I told her that Jesus was glowing from the inside out of her.  Thank you.

She talked about her situation in short, fragmented sentences and teared up. We agreed that being sad was okay, and she handed me her tissue “filled with tears” she said.  “Keep my tissue with tears.”  I realized how sacred the moment was, even if it seemed odd, or confusing.  Reasoning in these types of situations doesn’t seem right, but engaging and loving a holy experience.

Love never dies.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. I Corinthians 13:8

When you sit at the side of someone not long for this world, you realize the sacred knowledge that all things in their season will cease.  All your striving, accomplishments, misunderstandings, and work will come to an end.  We will reach our limit this side of heaven and all things will be completed when we see Jesus face-to-face.

As the snow began to fall and accumulate, it was time to go home.

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These moments are not to be worshiped in such a way that we can’t live in the now. In fact, it can make the now a richer experience. Jesus tried so hard to explain this to his disciples in John 10:

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

I think of the thief who selfishly desires to take what is inherently ours. Every day there is a battle.  Will we turn our thoughts towards Jesus, or will we try to reason with a lie, or perversion of His truth?

One of the last things she shared with me was a desire to “go home”. She could not explain “home” past the simple request.  I told her if I could put her in my pocket we would go.  With a great sense of humor, she said, “That would have to be a pretty big pocket!”

“Anyone who goes through me…..”

Jesus put us in your pocket!  Help us go through you.  Help me see YOU as my home, and help me to live in this world knowing you desire more for me than I could ever dream up.

Jesus help me to not reason with the lies of the world, but trust that You are all powerful, loving, and gracious to defend and carry us in the palm of your hand (Isaiah 49:16).  Like John, Lord help us to recline next to you and know you are our best friend, Savior, and true Father (John 13:23).

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Love Never Fails by Brandon Heath

God’s Love Wins

1 Corinthians 13:7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Christmas is a time of remembering.  We reflect back on the years as we engage in traditions and in the making of new traditions. I am watching my oldest navigate and enjoy her first Christmas in marriage, and her excitement reminds me of my first Christmas.

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Parish and I often reflect on our first Christmas in our trailer on the York river with Victoria.  She had just turned a year old that July, 1999.  We pinched every penny, and we shared a car.  With no money to buy a Christmas tree, we went “shopping” in the field next to our home and pulled up the closest resemblance of an evergreen.  With a gaping hole in the front of the tree, we filled the spot with her favorite stuffed animal at the time. Our tree stand was an old crab basket washed up from the river.

Through the years, God’s love has never given up on us.  He has remained the ever faithful One in all our circumstances.

God never gives up on us.  

Take time this Christmas to acknowledge God’s faithfulness.  Perhaps you are in the middle of a circumstance that’s keeping you from enjoying rest and peace during this Christmas season.  It’s okay.  God is faithful even in our restlessness, sorrow, and unanswered questions. The absence or presence of suffering is not our measuring stick for our Joy, or God’s favor.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

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Bankrupt without love

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (I Corinthians 13 The Message)

…unless we be animated to these sufferings by a principle of true devotion to God, and sincere love to his church and people, and good-will to mankind. The outward carriage may be plausible, when the invisible principle is very bad.  Matthew Henry’s Commentary

We are bankrupt without love.  Bankrupt is defined as “declared in law unable to pay outstanding debts”.  God’s Word reminds us that “God IS love” (I John 4:8).  We are unable to pay our debts so Jesus came to pay the price of our debts through His love in a manger, death on a cross, and Resurrection from the tomb.

As we begin this Advent season on December 1, let’s put down all ceasing and striving and rest in God’s love for us.  We truly are bankrupt without Him, and His love will bring purpose, meaning, and direction.

Lord, may Your love be my sole purpose to fill my heart and mind during this busy season.  Lord, bring us back to love.  Help us to truly believe that “the greatest of these is love”.

 

The Way of Love

I Corinthians 13

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

Chapter 13 of I Corinthians describes a holy love called agape.

The essence of agape love is goodwill, benevolence, and willful delight in the object of love. Unlike our English word love, agape is not used in the New Testament to refer to romantic or sexual love. Nor does it refer to close friendship or brotherly love, for which the Greek word philia is used. Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is distinguished from the other types of love by its lofty moral nature and strong character. (http://www.gotquestions.org/agape-love.html)

The most brilliant, talented, or gifted human being you know or admire without commitment, faithfulness, and an act of will to embrace and practice the love of God for man and of man for God is a “noisy” individual.  The kind of noise that is described as a cacophony or irritant. Perhaps we can dismiss this lack in others, but over time as you journey with God, you find yourself understanding more and more what this verse is declaring. You desire this love within in you.  Perhaps you requested this to be read on your wedding day?  The misty eyed bride and proud groom stood side by side announced that their marriage relationship would put into practice this Holy, Godly love. Friendship love surrounds them, the honeymoon night will come and their “Eros” love–sexual love, will culminate a beautiful day.

Years go by, and marriage relationships will face the inevitable trials and temptations. Children grow up, and in finding their way, make decisions that were not written in your story book.  Aging parents are cared for, jobs come and go, and your love story is played out year after year.

The greatest love is an act of will to choose agape.  It’s a commitment or act of will to forgive daily, to extend yourself in situations that most would ignore, ridicule, or chastise; yet, you choose to work at the relationship. Today, how can I act on this Holy commitment.  It is within our communion with God, that He gives us the grace and strength to act on this commitment.

  • It’s Jesus bending down to engage with the prostitute.
  • It’s God sending His Son as a little baby to save us–redeem us.
  • It’s the mother hugging her angry child.
  • It’s the husband actively loving his despondent wife.
  • It’s the wife walking the journey of her husband’s addiction, and choosing to love, and forgive.
  • It’s the caretaker listening despite their hurts and fears.
  • It’s a friend who chooses to understand the reason behind the hurtful words, and seeks to understand.
  • It’s the soldier serving his country and fighting for freedom for unborn children.

God calls us to choose joy and to love in the midst of the hard–the changes. What if God put us on hold until we figured things out?  He loves us despite ourselves, and asks us, in return, to shower that same love on those He has put in our lives. Maybe you are very busy serving and doing, but God is asking you a heart and soul question.  “Do you love?”  If not, your acts and works are noisy.  It’s a noise that mostly troubles you–your soul work.  God can heal and restore.

Today, Lord, Jesus, help me to “willfully delight” in those whom You have called me to serve and love.  Thank you Jesus for delighting in me.  May I start there–Your love for me. Jesus I know you can heal and show us how to “willfully delight”.  Amen