Challenge 12: Love for 2013

Love is not just a weekly challenge but a life challenge, calling us to change the fabric of our lives. Because this is so, I give these weekly challenges so you can experience for a week a certain aspect of love and learn the possibility of that love week being your love life. And you know I don’t just mean eros, that romance love, but I’m talking about agape, that unconditional love we should have for everyone. So this day, the last day of 2012, I want you to reflect on the challenges I have presented here on Take a Risk: Radical Love for the Soul to see how they can (or have) become a part of your love life. This takes your willingness and Jesus working through you to achieve. And we know this is possible: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13-NKJV). And we know this strength is already in us through the Spirit of God, who Jesus gave us to reside in us (Philippians 2:13). Our job is not to quench the Holy Spirit but allow His fire to light our path and ignite our souls to love in a radical way (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Acts 2:3-4). We can make 2013 the year to truly embrace radical love for life by focusing on having more of Jesus so we have more of His love to give:

Be Thankful
Encourage the Ultra Miserable
Have a Plan
Counter the Attack
Make Another Attempt
Thank Your Offender
Love Consistently
Rejoice for Others
Love Those You Disdain
Love Through Pain
Rejoice and Be Glad

My One Thousand Gifts List

Having dinner ready before 4
A cancelled appointment
A more complete blog post than I ever imagined
More parenting column ideas
Feeling deep love for those who offended me
Talking to and through with a friend about our offenses and helping one another
Completing changes to my manuscript proposal
Hearing about Helena’s daughter getting an internship with Child Evangelism Fellowship
Hearing that Klark didn’t have to have surgery because God moved on His behalf
Getting to bed at 8:40 p.m.

Challenge 11: Rejoice and Be Glad

Merry Christmas

We have one more day before the big day, Christmas. “This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24-ESV). Perhaps we are looking forward to rejoicing that our favorite day is here; that we get to see the children cheer from their gifts; that we get a day off; or that we get to spend time with family. Or maybe we don’t look forward to Christmas because that special loved one is gone; we didn’t have funds to buy gifts; or we just hate how worldly the day is. Whatever our beliefs we must all stop and speak, “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Though we designate December 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus, however we feel about Christmas we must celebrate Jesus because this is the day the Lord has made and we rejoice and are glad in it because we have seen another day. And because we are alive God wants us to rejoice. He wants us to rejoice because Jesus was born to die on the cross for our sins. He paid the price so we could have eternal life. He paid the price so we can have abundant life. He gave us another day to reflect on this, to sing His praises and be more like Him. We have that chance at Christmas dinner this year. We can die to ourselves and sit next to the family member we don’t like, buy that person a gift or a card, engage in a conversation without retaliation, or simply smile when they say something crazy. We have the opportunity to remember who and what matters and to focus on Him and His great gift. Let Him fuel our attitude and actions. Christmas truly is a time to rejoice and be glad. We should let nothing get in the way of that so we truly have a Merry Christmas!

Take a Risk Challenge: Spread love to that hard to love person on Christmas. Even if you aren’t celebrating with them, give them a call or a text and express the love of Jesus to them. Jesus is the reason for ALL seasons and spreading His love is always appropriate.

My One Thousand Gifts List

My EEW family showing overwhelming support for the loss of my granddad
Seeing beauty in ashes on route to and in the neighborhood park
Sitting on the porch with Flynn and the boys eating popcorn and enjoying the weather
God reminding me that I “value people” so I don’t harm them when expressing my disappointment
Being a witness to Charyse as I’m working through my anger and disappointment
Giving Charyse wisdom that clearly came from God
Tabitha calling offering to support me in the home and with the children after thinking how nice it would be to have her help this day
My back not hurting this day because of help from Tabitha enabling me to have a stress-free day
A literary agent lauding my book proposal and telling me that it would receive the agency’s rare gold badge because of its outstanding quality
Spending intimate time with Flynn in the afternoon and early evening

Challenge 10: Love Through Pain

Like most of the country, and folks around the world, I am partially-paralyzed from the shots that pierced through babies and their caretakers in Newtown, CT. Word came to me through social media and my limbs and heart were too numb last Friday for me to turn on the tube. This news of innocent lives senselessly snuffed out came in the midst of personal struggles to feel my way through physically and spiritually dying loved ones that have caused my soul to droop. I have cried. I have tried to deal with not knowing why in all the instances. And I have prayed and stayed away from the TV, not wanting to feel more heaviness in my soul. I didn’t want to talk, but on Saturday I was going to lunch with my best friend and was wondering how our time spent would be. See, there’s no pretense with us, just a lot of fuss over each other’s well being but I didn’t know how that would go. With my dying loved ones, the ones gone in Newtown and my own emotions just about gone, I didn’t know if what I had left was anything worth giving. I went. We prayed. We shared, laying our broken hearts bare. And with each thought spoken, pondered, discussed and fully embraced, we knew, again, why we are the other’s cherished friend: Without having all the answers, sometimes simply staring while sharing, we felt better, were better from being in the same space as and same place with one another. Being with good friends through bad times is a radical act of love that soothes the soul.
Take a Risk Challenge: Spend time with a good friend even if your emotions say you have nothing to give.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Josh telling me “You’re the best mom in the whole world”
A spirit-filled funeral service for my grandfather, Daniel Thomas
Tulips sent to the home from Flynn, showing deep contrition for his lack of support last week after already apologizing and my forgiving him (and after several other acts of service)
Kim, LaSonjia, Nichole and Ruth for attending my granddad’s funeral service
A picture of my family not being in the obituary showing me the extent of my growth when offended
Charles Moore for providing the food, place and service for the repast
Quiet time revelation: “You’re in the presence of greatness” being all of creation representing the Most High God whose handiwork is evident in all things, particularly humans and as such we dishonor Him when we dishonor them
Two, possibly three, article ideas for my parenting column
A powerfully effective blog post for readers and me

Challenge 9: Love Those You Disdain

Yesterday I caught one of my favorite ‘80s teen movies, “Say Anything,” on TV. This was one of the typical underdog wins movies that I so enjoy with nice guy Lloyd, the main character, unsure of his professional goals, winning the affections of Diane, who has her future mapped out for her and was well on her way to fulfilling it. Though they are opposites and people don’t think “their kinds” don’t mix, they connect anyway. They influence each other, with Lloyd helping Diane to relax more and her helping him to reconsider his perspective on things, including on old people.

Lloyd told Diane, who worked at a senior living facility, that he didn’t particularly like hanging out with the elderly because he used to work at a buffet and they would come there and stuff their mouths with food and the food would fall out the sides of their mouths. She told him “that’s ageism. Maybe their mouths don’t work like they used to.” He considered what she said and decided to help those he rejected and see a side of himself he didn’t know he had.

Of course he may have been trying to impress Diane, but nonetheless Lloyd went to the aide of those he disdained. When he did so, it didn’t seem to be a chore for him; he wasn’t condescending; and he actually seemed to enjoy himself. He found that after he faced those he previously looked down on, he actually experienced joy. Yes, this was a movie, but Lloyd’s experience has the potential to be all our experiences when we show love.

Who do you disdain? Is it the elderly? Is it the weak-minded? What about the unruly children on your block or in your old neighborhood? Is it people of another race? Whomever you answered, you know what you must do.

The Take a Risk Challenge: Perform a kind deed that causes you to come face to face with the person you identified and do so with the joy of the Lord. Truly, that is a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Several well wishes and blessings regarding my contributing to Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood
A wonderful stress-free Mother’s Day dinner all planned by my hubby as a surprise
Praying for Jan
Disagreeing with my husband but not going as far as I wanted to
Money for pizza
The chiropractor
Chloe dancing for me
Dinner on Flynn delivered
Watching the kids (mine and my sister’s) having fun
My debut as the EEW Magazine parenting columnist

Challenge 8: Rejoice for Others

I clapped and cried, rocked hard, gave high five’s, shouted and sang, laughed and hugged through the joy and deliverance from pain this past weekend. Friday, I met with my discipleship daughters and we basked in God’s great love for us in spite of the messiness of our lives. And we surrendered to the conviction from His Holy Spirit in prayer and praise. Yes, we all rejoiced.

Saturday, my son Joshua won a community service award from the Urban League of Detroit and Southeastern Michigan and I clapped, shouted, cried and snapped, texted and posted photos as I rejoiced over the mighty work God is doing in my son.

Sunday, I celebrated, along with a host of incredible women of God, the coming child of one of my discipleship daughters. Our testimonies and confessions blessed one another as we rejoiced over the privilege to shower our sister with the blessings that the Lord has given to us.

These Friday, Saturday and Sunday events made it easy for me to rejoice as I love the women I’m privileged to lead and adore the boy God birthed through me. But, I must admit, rejoicing with others is not always that easy for me. And realizing this has not been that easy for me.

See I am the motivator, the one people come to for encouragement and guidance and love. I’m the one who will help you see what God put in you and help you use it to do what He’s called you to do. I host gatherings, make calls and meals so others feel special and welcome. These I do easily and thought ‘This is me’ until I began to see a side of me that surprised me.

When I began following a blog that started a minute ago and it had 15,000 subscribers and I had 58 subscribers after four years of blogging, I didn’t want to rejoice with my blog sister.

When another blogger began blogging after I did and she gets dozens of comments and I hardly get any, I didn’t want to rejoice with my sister.

When things are happening for others and I think those things should be happening for me it’s hard for me to rejoice. (That was hard to type.) I don’t want to take anything from them; I just want what I think I should get to come to me. And when it doesn’t, I struggle to follow the biblical commands to rejoice with those who rejoice and to rejoice always (Romans 12:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:16). I think about the time when I finally do get what I think I should get and others rejoice WITH ME. I told my discipleship daughters this and relief swept their faces, and they all exhaled. They have felt this way, too, and just were glad they weren’t the only ones battling this ugly, sinful, unbiblical thinking. We may not want harm to come to others, like King Saul did with David, but this covetous thinking puts us in a category with King Saul.

No matter the degree of our covetousness, we still can’t rejoice the way we should rejoice for those who do better than we do. All while we are clapping and congratulating, we are still thinking we want to also be the ones who people rejoice over. We should have people singing and dancing over our 10,000s—like they did for David—and not just our 1,000s—like they did for Saul (1 Samuel 18:6-8). We may not throw a javelin at the one who does better than we like Saul did to David, but we toss looks and have thoughts that clearly keep us from rejoicing with others as God commands.

So what do we do? Remember, that God has given us all gifts, but we will not use them the same way nor use them for the same purpose (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). It stands to reason, then, that we will not get the same results someone else will get. If we are both being obedient to God in our calling, the results others get are the results they are supposed to get and the results we get are the results we are supposed to get. There can be no comparison. Everyone is unique and results we receive are uniquely designed for us. In my case, my lack of subscribers and commenters helped me see I had a problem with coveting that I had no idea was there. I was paying attention to the wrong audience instead of the only audience that matters—God. When we focus on God and what He has for us, then we can easily rejoice with those who rejoice, no matter where we are in our success. That truly is a radical act of love.

Take a Risk Challenge: Rejoice for someone you would normally not rejoice for by exhibiting an open display of love (such as having flowers sent to their job, taking them to dinner, or, like in my case, writing a comment on their blog how proud I am of the blogger’s success at moving people to action.).

My One Thousand Gifts List

LaTonya Glover for having a spirit-filled, scripturally-based, illustrated sermon
Watching Pride and Prejudice
Beans & Franks
Flynn grocery shopping
Flynn’s hilarious Mother’s Day card for me
Nate arising at 9:15 a.m.
Nate asking me if I wanted to sing “How Great is Our God”
Being on time to church despite my help being late
Getting flowers
Selling 24 books at church