Challenge 50: Shine on Others

This day was glorious. Sun shining and blue skies made me want to ride my bike to feel what my eyes were witnessing. After stretching in my workout clothes, I strapped on my helmet and rode around my neighborhood among sprawling green trees, a light breeze and stately homes with well-manicured lawns. But quickly, pretty turned to ugly when my sites went from this

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to this

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And my insides turned from happy to sad from such beauty to despair. The more I looked the more I felt helpless, hopeless, and I wallowed there for just a few seconds because I then saw house after house like this and smiled:

sun through abandoned home

When the sun shines on or through something that’s broken, things just look better or they remind you of something better. As the light peered through broken windows, I saw aspects of the homes not easily seen through dark shadows: sturdy walls, strong floors, what used to be, and what could be. The abandoned homes suddenly had hope, the possibility of something better. Illumination and hope are key components of light. When light comes, there is no darkness and you can see clearly. We all need light in our lives. We need to receive and give light so those abandoned places in us don’t fall into despair and can recover from disrepair.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5).

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:11-14—ESV).

As we seek Jesus, the light of the world, He will shine on us to reveal our righteousness and give us hope. Whatever our issue—inflicted upon us from someone else or the suffering we experience as a result of our disobedience—God is there to help us navigate out of our darkness. Jesus has to be in the midst of our dark times. He is the only one who can restore us, giving us continual hope and peace. And many times He doesn’t shine directly upon us but on us through others:

“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:5-7—KJV).

So as we shine the light of Christ on others, we are bringing hope to the abandoned places, the emptiness of

  • Marital discord
  • Divorce
  • Fatherlessness
  • Child waywardness
  • Personal insecurity
  • Friendlessness
  • Addiction

and whatever other soul holes others may have. When we see someone abandoned, a structure of a person, let’s not seek to retreat, crossing the street for safer ground. Let’s stand firm, knowing that the God of the universe, the hope of glory, lives in and shines through us, and can illuminate the darkness of any situation. Shining the light of Christ is indeed a radical act of love.

Take a Risk Challenge: Find someone that you know has been abandoned—physically, emotionally or mentally—and shine the light of Christ by encouraging them according to the Word of God.

My One Thousand Gifts List

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The start of our homeschool cooperative
Free vegetables from an organic garden
Meeting with a potential business partner
A new meal preparation schedule
Reasonable friends
A harmonious home
Discerning sisters
My discipleship group
Deep belly laughs
A dynamic sermon on reconciliation

Challenge 49: Love as God Commands

Photo courtesy of Sacrosanct Gospel

Photo courtesy of Sacrosanct Gospel

For so long I had my life figured out. I would go to school, study journalism, be a journalist and travel the world as a foreign correspondent. I’ve told you before that I didn’t care if I married or had children. I just wanted to fulfill my career dreams and if that’s all I had, I would be content. Well, none of that, except for going to school, turned out like I thought. I am a sometime journalist, have never traveled the world as a journalist, got married and have three children. My plan for me didn’t work, but God’s plan is what is working. You would think that after my career plans got nixed for God’s plans, I would just allow Him to tell me what will be and simply embrace His plans. But you know that’s not how most of us do. We know what we want, how we want it and when we want it, and this includes just about everything, including who and how we love. But even that, as God has been impressing upon me lately, must be done according to His plan.

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently…” (1 Peter 1:22).

“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).

“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you…” (Luke 6:27).

So God tells us to love those who we are connected to and those we are not, those who are in the Kingdom of God and those who are not, those who love us and those who don’t, those whose actions we like and those whose actions we don’t like. This, I believe, includes everyone we encounter. And then God tells us how we are to love them. We are to love

  • As Jesus loved us (John 15:12)
  • With a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22)
  • Fervently (1 Peter 1:22)
  • With forbearance (Ephesians 4:2)
  • As we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39)

We don’t have a choice because all these verses are commands, not suggestions, and they are our guide to love. So when we would rather not deal with someone who is not connected to us, who is not a Christian, whose actions we don’t like or who hates us, we have to love them. We don’t get to plan our escape from those we don’t care for, but we instead must decide how we will love by using the five ways listed above. Our lives belong to Jesus and, as such, Jesus decides what the plans are for our lives, even plans to love others.

Take a Risk Challenge: Choose this week to love someone with a pure heart, fervently, with forbearance and as you love yourself (which all encompass how Jesus loved us). Doing either of these is truly a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

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A warning about coming spiritual warfare
A revelation about the depth of the spiritual warfare
A friend who makes chocolate trip cookies and shares
Time at Woodside Bible Church-Detroit
The Watermans
Kendall’s amazingly hilarious story
Time in the sun with Renee
Talking with Carla
Shoes from Sharon for Justus
Justus saying he wants “to go to Mexico, California, Trader Joe’s and Target”

Challenge 48: Take Inventory

warehouse-inventory

About two weeks ago I finally organized my shoes. The several-years old shoe rack behind my bedroom door and two on my closet floor had been overtaxed with the weight of shoes and little boys testing their strength and finding a new hiding space. But, of course, as I moved the racks to organize the shoes, I had to clean the entire closet by dusting, sweeping and discarding shoes, purses and other items that no longer suited my needs. As I threw out the old I was clearly able to see what I was in need of and developed my list of and action plan to obtain what I lacked. My broken shoe racks caused me to take inventory, not just of my shoes but of other items in my closet. The broken racks helped me see the obvious and hidden issues in my closet. The same should happen in our love life, not just with romantic partners but with everyone, for we are called to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). We need to focus on fixing the broken, those places where we are having a hard time loving others, and see if there are other, hidden, areas of brokenness that we need to address so we are equipped to love others as we are called to do.

For almost a year I have given you specific challenges to love others in a radical way. Today I want to challenge you to take inventory of how you love others. We are more effective in loving others when we examine how well we are doing and what we need to do to change. This week’s challenge has us looking at ourselves through the lens of 1 Corinthians 13 with an assignment my husband and I frequently give married couples that we counsel. But because the wisdom of this passage transcends marriage, this challenge is for everyone.

Take a Risk Challenge: 1) Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 and note every word that describes what love is; 2) Look up each word in a Bible concordance to ensure you have the original meaning of the word; 3) Once you have the meanings, ask yourself how well you are loving others according to each love attribute; and 4) Pray that the Lord will show you, if you don’t already know, a) your areas of brokenness that prevent you from loving others as you should and b) how to love others according to 1 Corinthians 13. We will deal with more of this challenge in upcoming Take a Risk Challenge blog posts. Until then, take inventory to equip yourself to be able to consistently love others in a radical way.

My One Thousand Gifts List

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Carla’s cooking
Blissful sleep
My husband’s love
Bible study on Multiply by Francis Chan
Discernment
A visit with Nichole
Nichole’s spicy tortilla soup
Praise in the car before church
My 3 year old reminding me to pray before we drove to church
A faithful, personal God, Jesus, my Savior and Lord

Challenge 47: Give Others Your Best

20130910-000250.jpg With a philosophy that good food belongs to everybody, Executive Chef Alison Costello makes that a daily reality for meal recipients of Detroit’s Capuchin Soup Kitchen. “Why would I serve food to them that I wouldn’t eat?” she says, after showing me shelves, a freezer and a refrigerator of organic products and fresh produce that comes from Capuchin’s garden. This is unlike any kitchen, beside my own, that I have seen. I am surprised that Costello would have such a loving attitude for others that she wouldn’t just take the least expensive route and expect those in need to be satisfied that they got something, more than what they had. She epitomizes the challenge that I give you this day: Serve others your best, not whatever you can get your hands on just to say that you met their need. When you give your best you are truly engaging in a radical act of love.

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Take a Risk Challenge: Remember, we always must follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This week, have the Golden Rule in mind as you seek to love someone in need by serving them your best and nothing less.

NATURAL HEALTH TOUR SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2013

In an effort to prepare you to serve your best to yourselves and others, I am hosting for those in the Metro Detroit area a natural health tour Saturday, October 5, 2013. Those of you who register for both the tour and my Your Fast for Life food and lifestyle program at the same time get both for the price of one. Go here to register for either program or both and have more in your health arsenal to radically love yourselves and others.

My One Thousand Gifts List

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My five year old folding a shirt
Making a calender with my five year old
My husband being faithful to God, family and work
Christen calling
Latitia calling
My 10 year old asking solid biblical questions
My three year old telling my five year old “Jesus will help you.”
Sharing what I have
Late-night popcorn
A challenging sermon
Women who love Jesus and love me