Guest Post- Acts of Love

Little Gifts of Love

This guest post was written by a dear friend and ministry partner of mine, Brenda McClure.  She’s agreed to come alongside me this year and regularly write guest posts for us! Isn’t that awesome?  Did you know you could guest post, too? If you have an idea or would like to submit a post, send it to stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.  

Our two commandments in the New Testament are still in my heart.

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.  -Mark 12:30 (NLT)

Simply put, love God in every way possible.    The second is equally important:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Mark 12:31 (NLT)

No other commandment is greater than these.  And again I ask myself, “How do we love others as ourselves when often we don’t truly love ourselves?”  

Do I believe that I deserve blessings?  Do I believe that I deserve mercy and grace?  How can I want others to receive them when I don’t believe I am able to receive?  Don’t take me wrong….we will never deserve blessings, mercy, and grace.  The very definitions of them don’t lend toward me deserving them.  So, I can ask, “Do I believe I should receive blessings?  Do I believe that I should receive mercy and grace?”

When we see someone receive a blessing, do we get jealous and wonder why it wasn’t for us?  Or, do we help the blessing to go further for the person?  Matthew 5:41 (NIV) If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Notice, that the first mile may not have been what I wanted to do.  But, if I decide to go the second mile, that is because I didn’t take offense and leave grumbling.  I decide to ACT out of love and do more than I was demanded to do.

Based on the verses around Matthew 5:41, I’m not sure that I believe that I have to be the one who goes the first mile.  If we see someone do the first mile and take off in offense and leave grumbling, can we take up the second mile?   5:47 (NLT) If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?  Even pagans do that.  Our actions will define who we are.

Dearest Loving Father, please help me to accept the message of the cross for myself.  Help me to accept the grace and mercy given to me because of Jesus’ death.  Show me the places that I can offer kindness and blessings to others so that they will see you in me.  I ask this in Jesus’ name

 

Blessings,

Brenda McClure is a massage therapist and owner of Couples Touch of Love, a ministry seeking to heal marriages through the teaching of biblical touch.  Brenda has a heart for seeing relationships healed and brought back to the fullness that God designed them to be.

Guest Post- Gifts of Love

Little Gifts of Love

This guest post was written by a dear friend and ministry partner of mine, Brenda McClure.  She’s agreed to come alongside me this year and regularly write guest posts for us! Isn’t that awesome?  Did you know you could guest post, too? If you have an idea or would like to submit a post, send it to stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.  

I know this first part will sound like I am repeating myself….actually I am, so bear with me please.  When I think of the commandments given in the New Testament, the first one seems pretty simple.

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” – Mark 12:30 (NLT)

Simply put, love God in every way possible.   The second one is easy to read: Mark 12:31 (NLT) “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  No other commandment is greater than these.  However, it isn’t as easy to put it into works.  How do we love others as ourselves when often we don’t truly love ourselves?  I realized that the answer to both, loving ourselves and loving others, go hand in hand.

As I was thinking about this again, I was thinking about one of my favorite books, Gary Chapman’s, The Five Love Languages.  My first thoughts were about words, but this time I moved onto gifts…not in the way Mr. Chapman wrote about them, but about our Christian gifts.

We love one another, but do we appreciate each other’s gifts?  Are we jealous of our friends’ gifts?  Do we try to imitate them, or do we utilize the gifts God has given us?

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.”- 1 Corinthians 12:12 (NLT)

Have you ever been to a church where the “main” cook was average?  There were some wonderful cooks who attend there, but one person didn’t want to allow any other “cooks” in the kitchen.  It isn’t that the food is bad, but it could be a feast.  Our need to control or want to be in charge can lessen the blessings God has intended for everyone.

How do we love other’s gifts, when we have never sought after our own?  Or, do we try to do so many things (gifts) that we don’t do any of them well?  Have we found our special gift and embraced it without feeling less than someone who we perceive has a more “prominent” gift?

I think we have to love ourselves enough to find out what our gifts are.  A couple of years ago, I took a Christian gift evaluation on-line test.  As I went over the results of it with a mentor, he looked at me and said, “You didn’t do the test correctly.  You lied to give you the outcome you wanted.  Brenda, the results of this test aren’t true.”  You see, I didn’t tell the truth about my love of music.  No, I’m not a world class musician, but I do love music.  When I did go back and tell the truth, of course it didn’t tell me to go start a worship band, but it added that to my profile.  When you take your gifts test, do you answer to get the results you think you want or do you answer truthfully?  God chose our gifts just for us.  No one else can do that thing (gift) like we can.  A small seed falls into the ground and makes a tree.  The smallest gifts can be the most impactful.

Recently a good friend of mine posted on Facebook, “Thankful my thoughts are not God’s thoughts and my plans are not God’s plans.”  To be truly thankful for this, we have to take our agenda out of our idea of our gifts.  This means we also have to love others with their gifts.

The flip side of this is that we can’t try to get everyone to have our gift.  Not everyone wants our gift.  If you love music and you are a part of a worship group, you can’t force someone to hone their love of music into a gift of music.  The song you sing will feed them without them having to become a singer.

Dear Wonderfully Loving Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the gifts you have entrusted me with.  Help me to use them to the best of my ability to further your beautiful kingdom.  Help me to love your children’s gifts and receive them into my heart without trying to change or mess with them in any way.  Help me to receive the love you want me to receive from others gifts and help me to give to others through my gifts.  I ask this through Jesus’ name and blood.

Blessings,

Brenda McClure is a massage therapist and owner of Couples Touch of Love, a ministry seeking to heal marriages through the teaching of biblical touch.  Brenda has a heart for seeing relationships healed and brought back to the fullness that God designed them to be.

Guest Post- Words of Love

 

This guest post was written by a dear friend and ministry partner of mine, Brenda McClure.  She’s agreed to come alongside me this year and regularly write guest posts for us! Isn’t that awesome?  Did you know you could guest post, too? If you have an idea or would like to submit a post, send it to stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.  Here’s Brenda’s words on…well, words…Enjoy!

When I think of the commandments given in the New Testament, the first one seems pretty simple.

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. ” Mark 12:30 (NLT)

Simply put, love God in every way possible.   The second one is easy to read:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Mark 12:31 (NLT)

No other commandment is greater than these.  However, it isn’t as easy to put it into works.  How do we love others as ourselves when often we don’t truly love ourselves?  I realized that the answer to both, loving ourselves and loving others, go hand in hand.

My first thoughts went to how we speak to ourselves and to each other.  Most of us would not speak to God in the same way we speak to ourselves and to each other.  What do words of love look like?  For me, they would always be authentic.  That doesn’t mean that they don’t have tact, just that they are true.  Proverbs 18:21a (NLT)  says “The tongue can bring death or life.”  I don’t like to be around people who always say “yes” but someone who can show me something without bringing death to my heart is someone I always value.

Words are so powerful.  In Psalm 33:6 (NLT), the Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created.  With the power of words, God created us.  With the power of words, we can lift a friend’s emotions or we can crush them.  When we look in the proverbial mirror, we speak to ourselves.  Do we lift ourselves up, or do we use the old tapes that run in our minds to identify our failures?  As we change what we say about ourselves and to ourselves, we will also be able to change how we speak to others.

Lord, please help me to speak about myself the way YOU see me.  Help my heart to soften to your words about me.  Use me to speak to your children.  Help me to speak to your loved ones in a way that reflects how YOU see them.  Give me words to speak to my friends and strangers only in love.  I ask this in Jesus’ name… 

Blessings,

Brenda McClure is a massage therapist and owner of Couples Touch of Love, a ministry seeking to heal marriages through the teaching of biblical touch.  Brenda has a heart for seeing relationships healed and brought back to the fullness that God designed them to be.

To Be Faithless and Repent

“In the time of his distress he (Ahaz) became more faithless to the Lord..For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said ‘Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.’ But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel.”

–      2 Chronicles 28:22-23

Oh, Lord- I have more than a little Ahaz in my heart. You, too?  When life really gets hard do you look around and make idols of the gods that are working for other people?

I make idols of lots of things. Of Mexican vacations that bring friends back refreshed and relaxed…of  Law of Attraction philosophy that ‘brought’ wealth and health to a business colleague…of dream houses with granite countertops and in-ground swimming pools…of size six jeans and 6 min mile splits…of all the things that I want  that I don’t have. Of all the things that I want, but that I am not really willing to work for.

So instead of going to God with these desires- instead of seeking first the Kingdom… instead of surrendering my dreams, big and small at the foot of the cross and letting my King work all things for my good- I seek out all the tiny little gods of this world and sacrifice to them.

I sacrifice peace to the god of escapism.

I sacrifice contentment to the god of scarcity.

I sacrifice gratitude to the god of covetousness.

I sacrifice joy to the god of the narcissism.

They are my ruin.  They don’t bring life. With each sacrifice, I silence the voice of the true King in my heart, and doesn’t it seem worse when the chips are down?  At the very moment when I should be surrendering control to God, at that very moment is when I mostly tightly clench my fists around the desires of my heart and seek out an idol that puts me in control.  I wrestle with the Spirit within that quietly asks for surrender…I gag Him with rules and doctrine and drown Him out with loud music and sparkly shoes.

And then, one morning, when my sacrifices have brought weariness, I turn back to Life.  I open this love story looking for hope and find a diagnosis for my soul-sickness.

“In the time of his distress, he became more faithless to the Lord…he sacrificed to the gods…that had defeated him.”

Scripture’s truth and application ring over me like a courthouse bell rings over the town square.

Gong…when you were down, you turned to the world.

Gong…you followed their ways to find success.

Gong…you put all these things before me.

Gong…it’s destroying you.

Gong…Come back to me.  I will provide for you.

And so I choose to turn today- from all the idols I have created trying to be a ‘better’ person and from the ruin of sacrificing to the world’s little gods and their formulaic systems of success.  I choose to listen to the still, small voice that whispers words of grace and love over all the things I would change about my life.  I choose to read up on the promises made by a benevolent and compassionate King, the one true King- promises to give me the desires of my heart, to provide for my every need and to never forsake me.

And when I turn, I taste it….I hear it….I see it….I touch and feel it….

Life. 

“ I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

-John 10:10

Sprinting with God

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” – CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

It happens once in a while….God places someone or something in your path that rocks your world and shifts the gear on your sanctification process.  Anyone else experience this?  You are walking along with Jesus- happy with the God you have created, finally understanding your place in your reality- and then suddenly God grabs your hand and starts off at a sprint…

Come with me…I have something to show you, he shouts back over his shoulder.

And so I run…no sprint…to keep up- lungs breathless and legs burning…and I sense it, that just over the horizon is new revelation…new understanding…new holiness, and I can’t wait.

I’ve just begun a new study of God’s words…of his principles…of the Kingdom…and it is transforming my heart.  But sometimes, God divinely appoints someone to speak into my life exactly what I didn’t know I was needing , but was searching for, last night was one of those divine appointments.

I stayed after to request a book list of my instructor.  I had no thought of spending the next two hours pouring out my questions like a pitcher with a thousand holes in it.  With grace and truth he spoke to me and I felt the thousand little heart explosions as truth landed there between us, and what was an easy-paced walk with the Lord, turned into an Olympic record sprint.

Although David had many weaknesses, one thing he did well was to receive the Word of God from the prophets around him.  His obedience to God’s truth saved him, grew him and molded him into the “man after God’s own heart” that he was to come.  I am thankful that God has placed in my life wise prophets to speak God’s Words into me…words of life and encouragement.

As we crest the hill together, God and I, I see that this is my Adullam – my refuge…my place of learning and of building and of growing and a confirmation sweeps over me that I am in the right place at the right time. The right time to learn how a shepherd becomes a king…

“I need to know you are holding me just as closely as the day you took my life and gave me a vision, as the day you poured the oil and gave me a dream. I can’t believe this is happening. How does a shepherd become a king?”- Sara Groves, Cave of Adullum

cave-of-adullum-album-version-28426042
Cave Of Adullum (Album Version)

An update, a book review (and giveaway!), and some other lame excuses…

Ummmm…wow….so long time, no post! I feel a bit like I’ve run across a friend  I promised I would call last month in the freezer section of the grocery store.  I’m sorry seems a little lame. I missed you seems disingenuous (even if it’s true.) I’ve been a little busy is a terrible understatement, but I am sure you have been too, so it feels a lot like an excuse. Anyway you cut it, I feel a bit shameful for not having written in several weeks…so, well, I bring you presents! Presents make things all better right?

Ok…so let’s dig in….

I’ve been busy:

Photo courtesy of Old Hat Studios

We have finally wrapped on Stage 1’s Fall Production of Alice in Wonderland.  Cardsman #4 and Flower/Lobster/Cardsman both did amazing jobs in their roles. My dear hubby and I ran the sound for the show (woo…that was no easy feat) .

The following week zoomed by and by Thursday I was headed to Ransomed Heart’s Advanced Captivating Retreat in Buena Vista, Colorado. The weather was beautiful and the setting absolutely stunning.  There was so much wonder and love to be had and shared there. I promise there are posts coming with what I learned, what God shared and how amazing an experience it was (but I am trying to get to the presents part :)!

But now to the nitty gritty….during this awesome experience in Colorado, I got to meet two of my favorite authors: John and Stasi Eldredge.

(I wish I had a photo with Stasi, but I forgot to bring my camera the day I chatted with her.)

John has written a new book and I was lucky enough to get a preview copy to review….and even luckier to get an opportunity to hear him speak a bit about this amazing work.  Ya’ll this is one of his bests…a book that promises to help set the Christian heart free…and delivers.

Here is the review I wrote for Amazon:

Beautiful. Scandalous. Disruptive.

This book will change your view of Jesus. John Eldredge has written a book meant to set the hearts of Christians held captive to the religiousity free. Beautiful Outlaw walks us through the gospels, the scriptural stories of Jesus’ life and instills personality, motive and heart to each one. Seeing Jesus in this way has made me fall in love with him all over again. Seeing Jesus as truly human who experienced hunger, compassion, thirst, love, fatigue, and anger helped me to come to terms with my own human experiences.

Looking at the gospels through the lens of shaping a picture of a personality has helped me understand the man more thoroughly and in so doing, understand God more thoroughly. His playfulness and sense of humor, His gentleness and compassion, His cunning and disdain for the religious spirit of the age are presented in a way that is easy and quickly understood.

This is one of John Eldredge’s best books to date.  If you are looking for the story of the real Jesus…not some “creepy, religious” version of Jesus, this book is for you.  If you are looking to set your heart free from religiousity and legalism, this book is for you. If you just want to learn more about the man and love more about our Savior, this book is for you. Read it….more than once….you won’t be sorry!

What is so cool about this book and it’s message is how generous Ransomed Heart has been with it.  They are making available an 18 video DVD series FREE by download or live stream as well as the companion study guide.  There are also opportunities to take part in a live simulcast and a small live tour this fall.  HOW COOL IS THAT? For more info go to www.beautifuloutlaw.net.

So, in the spirit of generosity that the Ransomed Heart team has started, I am giving away a copy of Beautiful Outlaw to one lucky reader….here’s how to enter:  Watch the video trailer for the book below and leave a comment with your thoughts about the trailer before midnight on Oct 19th 2011.

 

Scripture Memory…and some other thoughts..

“Moreover He said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart and hear with thine ears.”
-Ezekiel 3:10

So…Chapter Four….That’s how far I’ve gotten in this online Biblical Studies program…About a chapter a week (I’m supposed to be doing a chapter a day- at this rate I might finish sometime in 2035.)

This, just like any other good habit, is slow-forming and I am sad to say that I haven’t been nearly as faithful as I had planned to be. Life is crazy…crazy busy and I am holding on by my fingernails, but something about this particular memory verse is burrowing deep, deep- under the fatigue and spiritual weariness to the thirsty soul crying out to learn more about my Father, my Lord, my Savior.  I don’t know why, but I felt compelled to share it with you, too.

Perhaps, you can decipher best what is saying to you, but to me it’s a promise that He will speak, and me AND my heart will hear.