The Greatest Valentine by Beth Smith (My Mom!)

Happy Valentine’s Day! (Almost)

Please remember that God sent us the greatest Valentine, Jesus Christ, because he loves us so much. 1 John 4:15-16 (NIV) says, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” Love is his nature. It would be terrible to have to strive constantly to make God love us, trying to do enough to be acceptable to him, to be loved by him. That’s not the case! We can rely on his love for us, even though we don’t deserve it.

Romans 8 promises us that nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from his love.God is love. His love is eternal. And he has asked us to love each other.

We can love in thought: If we dwell on someone’s faults or shortcomings, we’ll have a mighty hard time showing them love. It’s better to believe the best of every person.Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person” (1 Corinthians 13:7 AMP). And since, thankfully, God doesn’t keep a list of our offenses, we aren’t to keep a list either.

We can love in word: After we practice thinking good things about others, it’s time to speak those good things, those words of love and encouragement. “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24 NLT). The old kid’s chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a lie. Most of us remember some sort of terrible thing said to us in childhood that still hurts. God wants us to love with our words.

We can love in deed: Once we’re thinking and speaking love, it’s easier to show our love and the love of God in what we do. “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18 NIV). For each of us the action we take will be different, but here are a few suggestions.

  • Forgive someone. (God has forgiven us, and we need to do the same.)
  • Show real kindness. (We have the power to be kind to others.)
  • Do for others. (Call a friend, do a chore that isn’t yours, or meet a need even if it’s inconvenient.)
  • Be generous with your compliments.

We need to be extravagant with our love toward others, because God has been extravagant with his love toward us. Let’s do it! Let’s start today.

Thumper Was Right

Rabbit

In the movie “Bambi,” Thumper shyly but wisely said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” Pretty good advice for a rabbit! Sure, there are times when we need to speak hard words, to stand for what is right and oppose sin or cruelty. Sadly, though, I’ve spoken harsh, negative or unkind words with no constructive reason to do so. Have you?

The apostle Paul had plenty to say about the subject. Check out these excerpts from First and Second Timothy.

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money…

 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything…

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father…

 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.”

Then Romans 12:18 (KJV) issues this rather challenging command, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Notice it says “with all men,” not just with other believers.

When I was a teenager, we used to sing “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” We will rarely draw people to the Lord, or encourage those who already know him, by being sharp tongued, critical or gossipy. And so, in the coming weeks, I hope to remember Paul’s words, revisited in the voice of Thumper, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”

What’s your favorite verse about speaking softly, kindly or carefully? Please share it with the rest of us via the comments box, and have a great week!

Photo by Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0. accessed at Wikipedia under fair use. 

 

“Look at me, Nana!”

“Look at me, Nana!” I hear those words over and over every time our grandchildren come to spend the day with us. They fill our home with energy and joy.

  • “Look at me jump!”
  • “See me dance!”
  • “Watch how high I can climb!” (See Nana gasp.)

Steve and I do our level best to watch each time our young performers demonstrate their new found skills. We never treat those watch me moments as displays of pride or vanity, and I don’t think they are. Rather, I believe we all want to be seen, to matter, to be appreciated, to know that someone cares about us and our lives.

No, I’m not exhorting you to reach for new heights of personal ego. And, yes, what matters most is a deep understanding of God’s love and care. He always sees us, and remembering that is so very important. But here is the lesson I have gleaned from my grandchildren:

We are, most of us, born with the desire to be engaged with the world around us, to be seen and to share what excites us. Life, though, can throw an unwanted cloak of invisibility on an unwitting soul. And one of the ways we can love others is by simply making the effort to notice them.

  • Make eye contact.
  • Wave.
  • Say hello.
  • Speak the names of those you know as they pass by.
  • Or be the one who takes a walk just to pass by.
  • Spend that extra moment listening, or watching.
  • Look for those who, if social mores allowed, would beg, “Look at me!” Then, look at them!

The love of Christ is often shared in simple ways. Pass it on!

photo credit: @ juniperphoton via unsplash.com

Granting Extra Grace

Have you ever goofed ? Forgotten to do a book report? Backed into a parked car? Given away a secret… Of course you have. Me too. Sometimes we have a reason for our missteps, perhaps lost sleep or a distracting tragedy. Sometimes, we just mess up.

We are now living in days of distraction. Days of concern and unnoticed self-absorption. I hope you will join me in this challenge:

Choose to be one of those who grants extra grace. If you are slighted, offended or inconvenienced in the weeks ahead, chalk it up to the offender’s lack of sleep or focus or to their unseen hardship. Absorb the discomfort inflicted by another with a great degree of patience and understanding, whether it is deserved or not.

“What would Jesus do?” is a time-worn question now, but it’s still a valid one. He would act with extra grace. He DID act with extra grace, in indescribable ways. And, while calling us to do the same, he enables us to do the same. So, we have a responsibility to follow in his footsteps. This is a part of loving one another as Christ loves us, a Bible lesson we’ve all been taught and can easily spout, but now have a chance to live out on a daily basis.

And that’s enough for today.

Tell me, though, if you have the time to comment, where is it the hardest for you to follow in His steps? And how are you managing?

 

54

wedding Beatriz Perez Moya via Unsplash.com

Today marks the 54th anniversary of a couple dear to me. In their honor, I’m writing about marriage today. But if you’re single, think of it as tips for a deep and dear friendship.

Our pastor, Ky, said this about marriage: “The essence of marriage is for 2 people to live out gospel grace with each other.”

What does that look like in a practical sense?

  • I think it involves spending time together. For Steve and me that includes syncing our schedules as much as possible, and being very careful about our use of “screens.” Taking regular walks together enhances our communication, as does just sitting down to the table for a meal or a game.
  • It includes making prayer a priority—together and out loud—even if it’s only for a couple of minutes a day.
  • And it means each putting the other first.

This excerpt from an earlier blog based on the writings of Sheldon Van Auken covers a great deal of marital grace. His lesson is two-pronged:

  • Love others far beyond yourself.
  • Do your best to trust the people you love.

Sheldon and his wife, Davy, made this pledge to one another: “Whatever one of us asked the other to do – it was assumed the asker would weigh all the consequences – the other would do. Thus one might wake the other in the night and ask for a cup of water; and the other would peacefully (and sleepily) fetch it. We, in fact, defined courtesy as ‘a cup of water in the night’. And we considered it a very great courtesy to ask for the cup as well as to fetch it.”

Imagine what would happen if all requests between spouses (and, for that matter, friends) were handled in this manner! Were love and trust to prevail, there would be little room for discord. I try to ask of Steve only that which I have already weighed and considered best for him to do. And while I sometimes fail, it is my intention never to question his requests of me. In a perfect world, where the “cup of water in the night” principle reigns, each request one of us makes of the other is granted if at all possible. Isn’t it what our Lord would do and would have us to do?

Grace. It’s a tricky thing. May we give and receive more and more of it as the years go by! (If you have a tip to share regarding grace in marriage, please send it on!)

And for a bit more of Sheldon Van Auken’s wisdom, here’s another archived blog:https://smoothersailing.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/scratch-and-dent/

Were You Friends First?

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Many of you already know my story. (You can read a longer version here.)

Steve and I met in our high school library at the end of our freshman year. Sadly, I made no impression on him whatsoever. He still swears we didn’t meet until the first day of Mr. English’s chemistry class the following year. What we both agree on, though, is that we became fast friends and weathered the good and bad together from then on.

Romance wasn’t part of the picture until we were juniors. And that was a good thing.

Steve and I learned how to be friends first. If you were blessed with the same scenario, then you know what a terrific start it is to a life of marital bliss. Our deep friendship helps carry us through the less-than-blissful bits. If you dove right into romance, or have forgotten how to be friends, allow me to give you a few refresher points, taken in great part from last Sunday’s sermon. (Thanks, Matt!)

  • A friend shows up.
  • A friend sticks around.
  • A friend pays attention, takes the initiative in meeting a need, and goes the extra mile without being asked.
  • Friends pursue a common goal, and, for believers, that means—most of all—they pursue the Lord together.

And here’s a quote to ponder: “It takes great courage to be a friend.” Marriage—and all true friendships—require a willingness to be second, to love to the point of sacrifice, to open oneself up enough to speak the truth (with kindness!) and, as Proverbs 17:17 says, to “love at all times.”

Married? Be friends!

Single? Be a friend to at least a few who need your friendship and bring you joy.

Have a little extra time today? Take a moment to read all of Proverbs 17. It’s packed with good advice. You can find it right here.