Challenge 70: Choose God’s Way to Love Them

They knew they were right where God wanted them to be—in relationship with each other, but they were ready to bail. They didn’t tell each other this but they told me individually just days apart that the relationship was too hard. They didn’t want to deal with confrontations, taming the flesh, hurt emotions and facing the truth. They didn’t want to “be stretched,” though they each knew this was God’s way of molding them and helping them reach new heights in love, maturity, and faith in Him. They didn’t want to risk the comfort of their lives, the predictability of their space. They just wanted to remain safe. Continue reading

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

#1241-1250
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 45: Love Beyond the Flaw

A few weeks ago I was enraged. The night surprised me because I couldn’t remember the last time I had gotten like that. An interaction with a loved one had my eyes blinking out tears and squinting to see the situation clearly and trying to settle my shaking legs and just not sin. I was hurt, disappointed and made to feel bad about the person helping me after the person had agreed to help me. The conversation ended with the person hanging up on me and me proclaiming that “I am through.”

I thought I had a right to dismiss the person; to me, it didn’t matter that we were close or the person had helped me before or that I knew the person was Godly and always had my best interest at heart. In this moment, my moment of deep disappointment, hurt and shame, my remedy was to not deal with the person on a certain level—to stop doing for them in the way they seemed bothered to help me. I was tired of this person, more often than not, detailing how helping me would be problematic. Tired of this glaring flaw, I said I was through with helping this person. God Himself would have to sit on my lap and tell me to help.

And with my words—my attitude—my chastening began.

Soon after my conversation with the person and fits of rage, I heard the Lord say “give your cloak,” referencing the scriptural passage that gives several commands of how to deal with your enemies. Though this person by far could not be classified as my enemy, I sure felt like they were in that moment. I complained to my husband, but he, like the objective guy he is, didn’t join me in my rage. Instead, he tried to help me be biblical, telling me I still had to help the person “because it’s the right thing to do.” But I didn’t care about right things; I wanted the person to suffer like I was suffering. I wanted them to experience the pain, disappointment, anger and frustration from being treated like I did something wrong after all the “right” I had already done by helping this person out numerous times. I wanted to turn off my love supply, let the person experience a love famine, and maybe the hunger pangs would cause them to not just long for my love but show appreciation for my love. I was in a bad way. I didn’t read the cloak scripture immediately, but as soon as my husband said “because it’s the right thing to do,” I turned to the scripture to get a mega dose of love goodness.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”—Luke 6:27-36 (ESV, emphasis mine)

I heard God that night but didn’t like what He was saying. So as I read the verses, I clucked my teeth, even talked badly about the passage because I have never liked it and really didn’t like it in that moment. It took two days, after praying for the person and for me, for me to receive God’s words. This is when I heard Him say “that is not the total sum of” who they are. “You can’t forget a person for one flaw.” Though I had heard what God was saying in the cliché “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” His words directly to me this night penetrated my heart and made me want to love the person in spite of their glaring flaw. Their flaw was blinding me from seeing all the wonderful aspects about the person and from seeing the love of Jesus in my life that we are commanded to give to others.

[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is what the scriptures in Luke are saying. Do good for people even when they do wrong. Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins while we were in the midst of our wrong. He didn’t say “I’m only going to die for them when they get themselves together.” If He did, He would never have taken on human form to be born to die for us. In order for us to love like Jesus, we must die to our fleshy desire for revenge and love others beyond their flaw. I believe I loved the person in the heat of the moment, not raising my voice, being sarcastic or bringing up irrelevant issues just to “win” the argument, but the words “I am through” took me out of love and into sin. I decided I couldn’t love beyond the flaw. Whenever we do that, and remain in that position, we declare Jesus’ sacrifice not worthy of adulation. But because He commands that we love others as He has loved us, we are duty bound to love sacrificially—beyond the flaw—and we will be the better for it (Luke 6:35). Jesus’ sacrifice and ours are praiseworthy.

Take a Risk Challenge: Do something kind for a person whose glaring flaw has made you stop helping them. Perhaps, because their flaw may place you in physical danger, you must love them from afar but do so in a tangible way (in addition to prayer), like sending a card. Performing a tangible act in spite of their flaw is indeed a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

#1211-1220
An impromptu visit from Andrina and seeing the boys love on her
Money to download the worship CD “Alone” by Clint Brown that I’ve wanted for months
An outline and some writing on my discipline column
Hearing Lysa TerKeurst on the radio tell her amazing story of adopting two teenage boys from Liberia
All the boys being their own person at London’s birthday party
Talking to my postal worker about the state of Christianity
Marlin at church with her girls
Flynn’s challenging sermon “What Report Do You Give?”
A quiet evening of writing
Technical difficulties with WordPress that allowed God to show me the perspective I should have about blogging (why He has me doing so)

Challenge 43: Love with Humility

About two months ago I taught a workshop on prayer in the sanctuary of a church and I felt the Lord telling me to sit down for the presentation. I sat the entire time. Last week I taught a workshop on prayer in a conference center and I felt the Lord telling me to take off my shoes. I had bare feet the entire time. As I have been thinking about the similarities of these two incidents—workshops on prayer and positions of humility—I was only making the connection between the type of teaching I was doing with the position that I had been commanded to be in. I simply thought God was trying to communicate that teaching on prayer required that I demonstrated the humility necessary when praying. While I still believe this is true, I began to get a bigger meaning of those two acts when thinking of my service for the past two years to my mother.

Recently, in addition to the errands, phone calls and bill payments, she asked me to cut her toenails and scrub her heels. In essence, she wanted me to give her a pedicure. My mother has NEVER been prone to get pedicures and probably has had less than 10 in her entire 71 years. She would cut her toenails, but never thought much of the importance of grooming her feet beyond that. You may remember me writing about how the Lord spared my mom’s life several times after extreme health issues. After a long hospital stay and rehabilitation work, she is alive and physically stable, but her body is weak. Because of her feeble condition she can’t reach to cut her nails or otherwise really groom her feet. So when she asked me to do so I KNEW she was really in need. I got my tools and headed to her place.

I got on my hands and knees, even laid on my side to get to parts of her feet that I couldn’t reach (because she couldn’t lift her leg to make her feet easily accessible). So as I laid and kneeled I soaked, scrubbed, cut, shaved, smoothed, dried, creamed and polished various parts of her feet. All the while, we talked and laughed, strengthening our bond. Four hours later, even with more work to do, she and I were pleased with the outcome; she was grateful and my heart felt good. And after those times of teaching on prayer, my heart felt good just like when I cared for my mom’s feet. The obvious connection to all these incidents is humility, which is the message of service, which is the message of love.

No matter the act of service—whether teaching in front of crowds or helping the weak, like the elderly or your own children—humility is required. Too often many of us may do an act of service and murmur and complain about what we are doing. We tell the person how we hope they are grateful for what we are doing, mention that we had to rearrange our schedule to help them, keep looking at our watch, huff, roll our eyes or something else like that. We constantly remind them of how great we are for helping them and how pitiful they should feel for having to have us help them. This is not loving service but is lording service which is not really love at all (Mark 10:42-45). The key to love is humility and humility shows in service to others.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:4-8).

Our Lord Jesus, God Himself, served us willingly and because of Him, our world is eternally better. Let us seek to make someone else’s world better by following Christ and loving others with humility. They will be grateful and your heart just may feel good.

Take a Risk Challenge: This week when you serve someone, commit to doing so without murmuring and complaining but with humility.

My One Thousand Gifts List

#1191-1200
Listening to Selah in the early morning
Praying with Flynn, Joshua and Nate
A visit to Nana’s and helping her feel at ease using her alarm system
Carla forgiving me for forgetting to edit her blog post
An early evening family nap
Receiving an unexpected email from LaSonjia telling me of her admiration of me as a woman of God
A Spirit-filled and fulfilling conversation with a friend
Watching The Wiz with the boys
Lunch at Leo’s Coney Island with the family
Having a kind waitress

Challenge 20: Show Biblical Love

Christopher Brooks, senior pastor of Evangel Ministries in Detroit, speaks at the Christianity Today This is Our City party at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Christopher W. Brooks, senior pastor of Evangel Ministries in Detroit, speaks at the Christianity Today This is Our City party at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

“Biblical love is doing whatever it takes to show someone the glory of God.”—Pastor Christopher W. Brooks during part 3 of his sermon series Encountering Jesus (February 24, 2013)

Take a Risk Challenge: While interacting with others this week, do whatever it takes to show others the glory of God. Expressing biblical love truly is displaying a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

#961-970
Finishing my blog post before my children arose, giving me time to plan for engaging them
God giving me the Finding Treasures activity for the boys
God giving me a new meal to cook that was delicious
Kamil calling to see if Nate was available to go to the zoo
Going to bed before 11 p.m.
God waking me up at 4:15 a.m. and giving me chapter content for Satisfying God, my discipleship lesson focus, more children’s activities ideas and parenting column ideas
Being able to complete two months’ of minutes for the LSCO
Discovering the God’s Eye craft is a ritual tool and magical tool
Joshua asking me to pray for him because he was frustrated about having to throw away his God’s Eye and me being able to share with him the things I had to discard that represented false gods
A quiet car on the way to pick up Joshua

Challenge 17: Renounce Black Hate

alek wek

Before I reverted my hair back to its natural state 21 years ago, I had been going to the hairdresser every two weeks for almost 20 years; my mom began taking me when I was 4, saying she couldn’t do anything with my thick hair. So for the next 18 years I got my hair straightened with a hot comb, the blow dryer and finally relaxers and each of these methods changed the structure of my hair and even caused a thinning of my left edges which lasts until this day. My mom was only doing what she knew to do. When, still at 4, she had to wash my hair at home because my hairdresser was sick and she had to let it air dry because we didn’t own a dryer, I begged her to let me keep the afro my drying hair was becoming. She quickly told me she was going to press that “nappy _____.” Her declaration, an attack on my hair, began my struggle to embrace my natural hair, which I have always thought was beautiful. She thought differently, had been taught differently, but over the years she embraced her own natural hair, now having worn a short afro for about the last 10 years.

I had to wait until I was physically grown to embrace my hair, and my mom was really grown—60—when she embraced her hair. This may have been a long time for us, but it should be expected. Our culture has privileged whiteness over blackness for centuries, really pronounced when slave masters pitted house slaves against field slaves. The house slaves more often than not were the mulattos and the field slaves were the dark-skinned blacks. The house slaves didn’t have to work in the heat performing extreme physical labor. Their white skin, the result of a white slave master impregnating a black slave, allowed them the “privilege” to work closely with the slave master. In general during black American slavery, whites embraced that blacks were less than human, even years after slavery legalizing this twisted view with Jim Crow laws. And we still have laws written upon men’s hearts that manifest themselves with redlining, which is in full effect. When people constantly tell you that, treat you like and legalize you to be less of a person, it is hard not to believe it. We believe the old cultural saying “If you’re white, you’re all right; if you’re brown, stick around; it you’re black, get back.” And we all have told someone or some aspect of black to “get back” in one way or another.

Black women straighten their hair because they hate it “nappy.” Some of us won’t shop black businesses; we won’t hire black people; we won’t seek black expertise; we ignore black expertise when it’s given; we assume black shoppers and professionals are sales clerks, janitors or some other form of help; we think dark skin is ugly; we think dark people are mean, violent, dirty and other negatives associated with being dark. Some black folks bleach their skin and have surgery to slenderize their noses and lips in an effort to become privileged, to be accepted by the privileged, to get the benefits of white privilege. We hate blackness, but that’s not biblical.

From one man (God) created all the nations throughout the whole earth.—Acts 17:26 (NLT)

When God created everything, including humankind, He saw that it was good (Genesis 1:31). That didn’t change when He created other ethnic groups from the blood of the original man, Adam. So when we decide to see someone or some inherent aspect of someone as bad that God sees as good, we are not only violating the person but we are violating God. We are challenging God’s wisdom in creating black people the way He created them and are seeking to destroy what He made. He calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and the only way we can do that is if we remember that God loves them just as much as He loves us. We must model our lives after Him; we must exhibit that we are children of the Most High God. We must cease hating blackness and begin to love.

Take a Risk Challenge: So this week, to help us celebrate Black History Month here on the blog, I want you to think of the way or ways you have told black to get back and renounce that. This is the first step to being able to love blackness and is a radical act of love.

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

#851-860
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

The Challenge

Take a Risk: Radical Love for the Soul

Love makes the difference. What the world needs is love. Love covers a multitude of sins. We hear about the power of love from secular and spiritual sources and we know the words to be true. But what do we consciously do on a daily basis to show love to others? Take a Love Risk gives a weekly challenge for you to practice throughout the week to display love, especially to those we don’t think deserve it (Matthew 5:44-46).

The challenge begins Monday, October 15, 2012.