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photo-1518568814500-bf0f8d125f46With the approach of Valentine’s Day, I’m giving you permission to love. Which is weird, I know, but maybe it needs to be said. Because let’s face it, love can be a little tricky. Mostly because people are tricky and do all sorts of things to make themselves unlovable.

They push love away with their meanness, their messiness, and their thoughtlessness. Maybe it’s a result of their baggage, their wounding, or not knowing any better. Which is sad, because even in the pushing away they really wish to be pulling in. But vulnerability is scary and takes courage, yet without those, love precariously teeters on pretense. To invite love in means to risk rejection or the ache of a broken heart. But love is the very thing our hearts need most.

As much as love can tear us asunder, it can just as easily heal.

Despite love’s glorious complexity, we need to learn to how to love, actually discipline ourselves to love, and chose to love under all circumstances. Every day we’re faced with opportunities to love so there’s no shortage of practice.

Part of love is respect. It’s listening to another’s viewpoint even when we don’t share it, extending kindness to the person whose choices or worldview you disagree with, and not tearing another down needing to prove your point.

Part of love is action. It’s refusing to turn a blind eye to need. It’s serving the stranger, listening to the lonely, and caring for your family.

Part of love is sacrifice. It’s the giving away of all you thought you didn’t have to give. It becomes tangible in the sharing of such things as time, money, or other resources that you could easily withhold.

Part of love is getting dirty. It’s refusing to remain on the sidelines of others’ lives but instead climbing into the trenches with them.

Part of love is bearing with one another and forgiving. It’s choosing to let go of hurt, blame, and shame. Quite often, we even need to learn how to love and forgive ourselves.

As we learn to love unconditionally, we become impervious to the ungracious acts of others. We discipline ourselves to not take offense, or grow upset or bitter, when treatment is less than admirable. And when we do that often enough, we grow loving.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ~ Colossians 3:13

But it’s more than respect, action, sacrifice, getting dirty, putting up with, or forgiving.

Love has to do with faith. Not in the people around you, who you are learning to love, but in the One who first loved you and sacrificed his life in place of yours. Without Christ, and the help of his Holy Spirit, I’d be remarkably unloving. My forgiveness capacity: borderline zero. Even with him it’s a daily struggle, because I prefer not to be mistreated, disrespected, or neglected.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. ~ 1 John 4:18

As God nestles into our hearts, as we draw closer to him, there becomes room for miraculous, perfect love. I say miraculous, because apart from him, there would be little chance of fear-fleeing love. Christ suffered mistreatment, disrespect, and neglect himself. Through him—and the healing nature of his love—we learn to love fearlessly, courageously, habitually, and independent from others’ treatment. What they do, or fail to do, ceases to matter as much, and that protective wall we keep up—just enough to peer over but not let others penetrate— crumbles.

God’s love heals, purifies, strengthens, and perfects. But first, we need to let it in.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

~ Mark 12:30-31

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  1. Have you received God’s offer of love?
  2. What is your greatest barrier to loving God or others?
  3. Ask God to help you love creatively and courageously today.

 

 

 

 

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English-Point-July-2010-sisters

My mom always taught us that if we were visiting somewhere, it was polite to leave the place better than we found it. That meant pretty much spotless. It’s a decent principle to live by, and, surprisingly enough, it transfers to many areas in life.

I’ve even thought about it this way: we’re visitors to this world that God has entrusted to us. He’s given us family, friends, co-workers – a whole circle of influence – whom we impact (whether we realize it or not) on a daily basis. We have free time to expend on whatever we choose from hobbies to holidays. And though there are many activities we can spend our time and resources on, when our life comes to a close, what will really matter?

It’s easy to get it wrong and think what can I get out of life, or, how can I show others how accomplished I am? But, in the end, it isn’t what you get out of life, or what you take from it, but what you deposit.

We have a choice to leave here better than we found it.

While we can easily leave a place better than we found it, we can also leave a person better than we found them by treating them with love and respect, offering help, or giving a simple compliment. We can contribute to our workplace or colleagues by doing our best work with a positive attitude. We can put aside what we’re doing to play with a child, listen to a teen, or sit with the elderly. We can expend time to help build a better future for a underpriviledged community or a better day for one single human being. We can speak kindnesses instead of insults or criticism.

There are countless ways we can improve the lives of others through selfless acts of kindness. You can probably think of many I haven’t listed. These are things of great beauty and be assured, they matter in eternity. Don’t be fooled; not one of these actions is wasted. And if no one ever notices – if you gather no accolades or awards for doing them – consider yourself blessed. God sees and is pleased.

When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.

Matthew 6:2-4 (Message)

In these ways our actions not only leave this place better than we found it, but we please our Father in heaven while growing in Christ-likeness.

At the end of the movie Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler takes inventory of his actions. Take a moment to watch the clip below. What deposits will you leave impressed on the lives of others? In what ways could you make a difference?

Watch the ending of Schindler’s List

With God’s help and wisdom, we can wisely choose how we will spend our time and resources so we can leave deposits of beauty that may touch a life, a generation to come, or eternity.

May you leave this place, even this very day, better than you found it. 

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  1. Choose one activity today and use it to make a difference. It can be as simple as a smile to a stranger, buying a coffee for the next person in line, or providing a listening ear. Pick some way to begin to make a difference to someone and leave this place better than you found it.

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