Wednesday, May 10, 2017

For when you long for peace

It has happened more times than I would care to count. There I am, sitting in a state of mind full of peace, calm, and contentment that suddenly turns into a state of anxiety, emotional chaos, and irrational thought.  The reasons may vary, the environment may change, and the intensity may wave, but the core remains the same.  An event, a situation, a response lets flesh attempt to take my heart captive and push out the Spirit to make a home instead. 

Peace, that blessed feeling that sends hearts back to normal rhythms and breathing back to a purely involuntary action, is one that is gifted to us through Christ.  One that means to be complete, to be whole.  Third on the list when describing the fruit given through the Spirit, Peace, when truly felt, provides your heart with such an amazing, tangible comfort that many times it can stop you in your tracks forcing you to feel it overpowering all of your humanity placing instead a feeling of awe from the warmth enveloping your soul filling all your empty places.  Wholeness.

Those distinct moments in life where you can literally feel the wave of Peace that passes all understanding are worth writing down and remembering because it is those memories that hold reminders of the Faithfulness of a Good God who loves well.

There have been many times, countless times, that I wished life were a list of tasks to check, lessons to learn and move past because once learned, never forgotten, much like riding a bike.  However, Peace, that contentment of soul, like all the other gifts, is not one and done.  Instead, they are journeys full of practice and mistakes, knowledge slowly becoming wisdom as you gain a little ground at a time as that promised daily renewal continues.

After a recent episode, that may or may not have been instigated by a 7 & 8 year old baseball game, there was prayer and reflection and a bit of begging to understand better the ins and outs of a lack of peace.  Why when it seems so solidly in place, does it also seem to leave so easily?

Yes, yes I know, and I pray you know as well, that true Peace is not found in circumstances, it is found with, through, and by Jesus alone.  This is the base of any and all things, HE will keep us in perfect peace, but this personal search was for the specific trigger, the flipper of the switch.  When you ask, when you seek, be ready to listen, because a still small voice--or in my case a completely normal tone because my Creator knows how much I hate whispering-- might be quick to respond.

Expectation robs you of Peace.

It is well known that comparison is the thief of joy, but so many other things take away that fruit promised to us, and your expectations, my expectations, of how life should go, how people should act, how situations should play out, will rob you of the Peace gracefully given and humbly received.  

We, whether we would like to admit it or not, expect our children to listen, we expect our spouses to respond with kindness and compassion, we expect our friends to be there every time we need them and say the exact words we would like to hear, we expect strangers to agree with us, we expect teams to win, actions to be rewarded, disagreements to be resolved.  We expect that no one will shove pennies in the WiiU console--hypothetically speaking of course.  But when they don't, when the world and everything in it proves again that it is far from perfect, those expectations come crashing to our feet taking the self created peace from perfection with it.

Expectation robs you of peace and then it points to a deeper root, unbelief.  

Losing your composure, not clinging to that peace given and allowing it to carry you, is most definitely natural, but is still a side effect of unbelief.  It is an attitude and posture that does not, at that moment, believe that whatever the outcome God is sovereign, that does not believe He can and promises to work everything for good, that does not believe it might be needed to redirect hearts, to sanctify, to guide, or to even bless another.  His top priority is not to make our wishes come true.  He is not making sure we win win win no matter what.  His top priority is to crowd our hearts and fill them to overflowing with Him and Him alone.

We build up our expectations because we want to create the ideal life but in doing that what is actually being said is we do not believe that the life that has been created for us is good enough.  That does not mean you sit idly by while life goes on as if you have no responsibility in the matter, it just means that if peace is never felt, then maybe you are expecting too much of yourself and of this world instead of expecting perfect plans and perfect love from the only One who can fulfill, in His way and on His time.

Peace comes from abiding in Christ.  That is where it starts and where it ends, but on the way are twists and turns that will teach you how to remain abiding in Him.  Expectations rob me of peace but that is not the exhaustive list.  Each heart is different, each person is different, each one is searching to remain in the One who is never different, always the same.

What robs you of peace, what tempts you away from abiding in Him, from forgetting that contentment comes through Him but instead placing that role of peace giver in another?

I pray you will continually grow in Spirit, asking and seeking and learning the ins and outs of your heart and His peace, pray for me.




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

for when you need to say things out loud

I remember what his face looked like.  The expression of complete regret and fear with eyes that were starting to show relief.  He sat across the room, knees apart serving as a place to set his elbows, hands up ready to catch his head if it fell forward from the raw emotion swimming inside.  I knew what was coming and even though it was the last thing I wanted to hear, I begged for him to just say it, say it out loud, because then the ice would be broken, then it would be out in the light...

Our lives revolve around communication.  Even in the most isolated places on earth there is language, the ability to speak and respond in some manner so that community can work together, rejoice together, disagree with one another, and live life.  However, unless you are under the age of 4, one can not just go around saying aloud every thought that comes through the mind.  Honestly the under 4 category probably shouldn't either but so far I have yet to find someone with the skill to enable that filter.

Words harm and words heal.  The phrase "If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all" is well shared among the southern states.  It is also well known that if you are told hundreds of wonderful, positive things about yourself and then one negative, it's that one negative that will stay with you the longest.  It is for these reasons that we are told to be kind to one another...(Eph. 4:32) and to no unwholesome word come out of your mouth but only what is good for building others up...so that it gives grace to those who hear it. (Eph. 4:29)

Filters are a valuable thing.  They strain out impurities so that what you are taking in holds only that which is good for you.  In the world this may be referred to as your conscious.  Good ol' Jiminy Cricket sang a very catchy song about letting your conscious be your guide.  Listening to the inner voice telling you what is right and wrong.  In Christianity, we believe this is the Holy Spirit.  What Jesus left with his children here on this earth living inside you and guiding is your filter. Through it, with knowledge of the Word, filters our words, actions, and thoughts sifting out impurities and changing them to be more like Christ.  A point worth mentioning however, is that whether we follow the Holy Spirit's leading or not we are still loved and forgiven and never left alone.

I know no one who does not have regret over something they said that they wish they could take but as we talk today about words we speak, it's not the ones we have said to others that is the focus, it's the ones we haven't said, the ones we hold onto inside.

Maya Angelou said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." And while it is easy to immediately think that she is referring to letting out that budding writer that may be inside some, it can also be very easily applied to the story we each live out.  Each life is a story written by the greatest Author, meticulously planning and allowing experiences that will mold and shape us to become what He has designed us to be at story's end.  But within life there is beauty and despair, joy mixed with sorrow, refining and rebuilding that needs to be done and our hearts and minds often want to pull away instead in hopes to keep away the difficult parts of the process.

While much concentration is done to learn to filter our words and only let out what is helpful to others, there is an equal amount of concentration by us to hold our words inside because of what others may think if we let out our true selves.  

I would be willing to bet there is at least one thing that even right now you are keeping inside, afraid to say out loud because of how it might come across, how it will sound, how it makes you sound, because it may be wrong or because of what another may think as soon as you finish the sentence.

If you are scared to say something, that is a usually a good sign that you need to say it!

Words can eat at you if you leave them hidden, causing agony as Mrs. Angelou said, and worse keeping them in darkness, away from the Light, where they can be twisted so violently that you begin to believe the lies instead of allowing in Truth.

As a "counselor in dreaming" I have developed a simple two step process to help release those words from inside your heart.

1.  Find someone to say them to-  Lucky for you, there are two people with you all the time that you can speak to.  One is yourself, the other is God.  Yes having a bosom friend or spouse who will listen and love you no matter what you say is a pearl above price, but please do not think you need to drive anywhere, wait for your next girls' night/bible study/community group/workout/counseling session or wherever else you might have conversation.  The first priority is not to have your words heard, it's to get them out and give them a voice.

2.  Say them out loud-  Quite often this one small but not so small action is the only thing needed to bring healing and relief to your soul.  It takes courage to speak out the things you have hidden and as soon as the words have left your lips there can be peace and understanding that what you have feared so much to say may not be scary after all.  This one action is an act of faith and that act is rewarded with a precious peace that passes all understanding.

Everything we say out loud that is bottled up inside will not be right.  We have hearts full of sin and our thoughts will skewed, our opinions will be unjustified, our words will be full of envy, or unforgiveness, or doubt.  Even if more steps need to be taken to process through whatever the words reveal, they will be out, confessed, given a voice, and brought into the light and THAT is when healing can begin, when perspective is given, when wisdom is gained, and when our inner dispostions begin to change.

You may say hard things, you may hear harder things but He is faithful and just...He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

I pray that you will give all the parts of your story a voice so He can do just that, pray for me.















Wednesday, April 19, 2017

for when you are looking for joy

This isn't the first time this exact subject has been shared, it's not even the second, or even the third.  It is in fact the fourth version of this post that has come from keyboard to screen to others' eyes.  So for a list of verses that will pull your heart in please take the time to visit one of those links.  
The original reasoning behind sharing this again was because for the third time this year some yucky germs have filtered their way through our family and constant cleaning, laundry, care taking and/or being cared for has been happening for a week straight.  Writing something original today felt like a task weighing too heavily upon my shoulders, yet skipping completely, though done before when need arises, didn't feel right either.
However as thought and word came together, the original reasoning took a back seat to fact, I needed to ponder these words and verses again, to be reminded of their truths, and to see the growth that has come because an ever faithful Father has been working in me, always working.
There have been countless times in my life where I have struggled with finding joy.  Times when I didn't feel right, just not quite myself.  Years ago, God started opening my eyes to the circumstances around these feelings so that I could begin to pinpoint when it might happen or at least recognize the cause when the lack of joy was felt. At the time, four triggers were noticed that caused the heart to dip and joy to leak instead of remain full, (1) exhaustion (2) feeling overwhelmed with too many tasks, thoughts and decisions (3) not spending time with friends who encourage me (4) letting the lives others make me feel discontent with where I am in my own life. Since the original list, another has been added.  (5) letting past trials take up too much presence in my present.  
The past longs to haunt you, to bring you back down to where you were or who you used to be but all the while God is reminding you that you are not who you were, you are a new creation, being renewed day by day.
Today the past had no hold on me, and in a situation where frustration would usually reign, where triggers would  usually flip and hard roads would be trodden down yet again, Joy was there to greet me instead.  The most beautiful part was that I didn't even have to choose Joy, Joy chose me. 
O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
Months ago, literally, there would have been more than one pity party, frustrated outburst, and emotional meltdown mixed in with the extreme search for joy in the midst of the not so normal.  Even with the hard learned knowledge that my joy does not come from me or my surroundings but only because I am a child of God and that I have an amazing Savior who sacrificed himself so that I could not only have everlasting life BUT that I may also enjoy the life he has placed me in here on Earth despite the circumstances I am in, there would have just been non-holy guilt for not living that out instead of the Joy it so beautifully describes being able to live out regardless of life's bumps.
Joy came in the morning.  It fought against flesh and won the battle and in turn reminded me that no matter how many times I have failed at this in the past, the Spirit is constantly working and changing those inner dispositions to be more like Christ so that each day I can look and see that He is good.  He is so faithful, completing that work in each of us.
But Joy is not alone.  The fruit of the Spirit takes many shapes and we each struggle with different aspects of it at different times.  We look at life and get discouraged that we aren't as patient as we would like to be.  Not as loving.  Lack self-control.  And yes kettle, this pot may be calling you black but listen anyway.  Remember you are being renewed day by day, not immediately.  Don't be discouraged by your failings, be encouraged by the one who continues to pull you forward especially when you fail.  Because when you "ask  it will be given to you; seek, you will find; knock, it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." (Matt 7:7-8)
I'm praying that you can see Joy, but even if right at this moment you see anything but, I pray that you will ask for it and seek it out because if you are abiding in Christ you will find it.  Please pray the same for me.





Wednesday, April 12, 2017

because in the midst of beauty and despair there is always a faith that keeps walking through


“How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us?
You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up,
sobs to become humanity's song--all without lifting a finger that we could see.
You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped.
If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.
We strain to hear...


The juxtaposition of beauty and despair is a constant for us all. The scales may dip to one side or another, staying down at times longer than anyone would wish or staying up so long the next dip down catches us by surprise more than it should. Growing up you learn in school about America and it's Melting Pot of colors, faces, cultures, foods. I, for one, do not remember specifically being taught that life is also a melting pot of experiences, the good the bad and the ugly as it were. There was always work hard, follow directions, and do your best with either the assumption or adult given guarantee that everything would be okay. But then things do not work out the way you thought. The formula didn't equal the intended result.

Recently I was lying by a pool with a view of Zach in a beautiful pool playing with our boys in the foreground and the mountains of southern Utah in the background while reading a book about a young girl abandoned by her mother, for her own protection, to live in extreme poverty in Nazi Germany yet still understanding compassion for all others when the world around her claimed superiority. Beauty and Despair.

It's difficult to share a cross country experience with your sons the same day you read about Syrian children losing their lives because of chemical warfare. Or checking on social media to look at pictures of a beautiful newborn right next to another showing pictures of their young son diagnosed with cancer. Or feeling helpless as you hear about yet another couple's marriage falling apart because of sin and selfishness when your own, after a similar heartbreak, is full of grace, forgiveness, and healing. Beauty and despair.

There are a few responses our hearts and minds revert to when faced with these two opposites living side by side. There's guilt, much like survivor's guilt, that your life seems easy compared to the struggle of another. There's naivety in believing that another deserves what they're getting while you deserve the rewards you are reaping--consequences are part of actions, but grace is the only reason we see blessing in our lives--Then there is that pesky desire to ignore other's plights while you just concentrate on your "good fortune" doing whatever you can to make sure the tide doesn't turn. You have probably guessed that none of these seem to be the path we should take.

A goal for many in everything life related is calm, peace, no waves, just a constant state of positive. Actions are directed at keeping the scale dipped as low as possible to the side of our earthly vision of beauty. Heaped on top of that plate to weigh it down are a combination material possessions, shared experiences, church visits, donations, and all things that bring a sense of happy no matter how short lived.

But how do we explain with our earthly sense when the scale seemingly stays tipped to the other side whether in our own lives, the lives of our friends, or the lives of strangers on the other side of the world?

The opening quote is one by Nicholas Wolterstorff in his book Lament for a Son. But that is not the full quote. It ends with this, "But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God."

When you picture that balance scale in your mind, and just so you know my picture includes a very LOST like image with black and white stones on either side, picture God, His Son, and His Spirit fully present on both sides so that one never outweighs the other because in every beauty there is an understanding of despair that would come if we did not have Him to call on and in every despair there is an understanding of beauty because He is always with us.

Hope always exists in every place hopelessness tries to overtake.

Emily Freeman said, "By faith, we trust he is building his kingdom even while we wait for the day when we can see with our eyes how he is making all things right again.

Much like my pastor's definition of love, Paul David Tripp has one on Faith that is simple to understand yet full of depth when pondered through. He describes faith as having two parts, both as important as the other. The first is believing that God exists. The second is letting that belief radically change how you live your life.

"Trust in the dark, trust in the light, trust at night and trust in the morning, and you will find that the faith that many begin, perhaps by a mighty effort will end, sooner or later, by becoming the easy and natural habit of the soul." ~The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life

So how do we explain the reasoning behind beauty and despair living side by side? We don't. Somethings are unexplainable and then again somethings just do not need to be explained. Instead, we just walk in it. Walk in the Faith that believes God exists and then continue that Faith by letting our actions shower Christ over others so that whether they believe themselves to be in a moment of despair or beauty all they will really see is Him.

As Pat Dye is known for saying, "There's going to be a lot of days where you lay your guts on the line and come back empty. Ain't a damn thing you can do about it but go out there and lay them on the line again. And again, and again."

The Truth of it is, you'll never come back empty handed if who you are laying it all down for is Christ.

Praying that in that mix of beauty and despair you can see the Faith in your life growing and the actions of your life being radically changed. Pray for me.


bec

Sunday, April 9, 2017

because it's palm sunday


I loved singing this song today on this beautiful Palm Sunday.  Holy Week feels so different this year.  Last year, with all the doubt of how long our church was going to be able to stay afloat, there was a new understanding and deeper feeling on Good Friday and the thought of how the disciples and His followers must have felt on that day when they didn't understand what was happening and why it was happening.  That loss without the Hope that was about to come.

A year later there is still sadness, there is still a deeper understanding of loss, but come Sunday there will be a different understanding of the Resurrection, of the newness that comes because of Jesus.  Hope that is alive and well, always, showing itself to us again and again with each new step.

I looked at the the precious boys given to us as we sang the verse about a generation and prayed they would forever walk in selfless faith towards their Heavenly Father, deep into the Kingdom of God, side by side.

"Hosanna"

I see the king of glory
Coming on the clouds with fire
The whole earth shakes
The whole earth shakes

I see his love and mercy
Washing over all our sin
The people sing
The people sing

Hosanna
Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest [x2]

I see a generation
Rising up to take their place
With selfless faith
With selfless faith

I see a near revival
Stirring as we pray and seek
We're on our knees
We're on our knees

Hosanna
Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest [x2

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me

Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

Hosanna
Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest [x2]

Hosanna in the highest

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

for when you are learning to love part 6: loving them all

You were hardwired for love, so everything you decide, desire, think, say, and do is an expression of love for someone or something. ~ Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies



One more thing on this love learning menu.  Then after, instead of just adding more to the list, it will be time to practice those same things over and over until they become specialties walked out only by Grace given and the growth that inevitably comes from the many failures and eventual successes on the wisdom road.

We spent a week in Romania sharing this verse, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt 22:37-39), and a somewhat comical portrayal of the Good Samaritan to children and adults in which our good friend was jumped by my husband and another guy, 'beaten' up, and left writhing on the ground complaining and whining in English with a couple Romanian phrases thrown in for good measure.  Stressing that everyone is your neighbor was the point of the story.  Everyone is your neighbor.  Not just the ones you like.  Not just the ones you who were nice to you first.  Not just the ones who can scratch your back if you scratch theirs.  

To me, it seems as if this final lesson of love is the most difficult because its the one that costs us the most.  Before now everything has been head knowledge.  Learning that we need to love, learning what love is, learning what love is not, learning that we can't love on our own, learning where that love comes from, can all be done internally, alone, without truly feeling the cost of what it takes to set yourself aside and extend that love we have so graciously been given to another, any other, every other.  But that is exactly who we are asked to love, everyone.

This is all well and good on paper until the time comes to put it into action.  

In ninth grade I took Geometry.  This was one of those classes that could turn the best of math students into the worst and vice versa.  it was a completely different concept that you either got or you didn't.  For whatever reason I got it, pretty well, and one thing that has stayed with me from that class more than any other were proofs.  As much as I liked geometry, I HATED proofs.  How was it that I needed to write 15 sentences to tell you the answer that I already knew.  Well if this then this, and if this then this, and so on and so on.  Little did I know at the time that that concept would guide my spiritual heart more than anything else.

We are given this Truth that we are loved, when we are His child we are loved unconditionally with Hope eternal.  And if that, then...  From that one point we can be taken to a future of loving, one step at a time.

Preparing your mind for action (1 Peter 1:13) is an absolute necessity.  Studying, memorizing, readying yourself is an integral part, but only if when the time comes you "walk by the spirit, and not gratify the desires of the flesh."  God is going to call you to love people you want to love, people who fill you with joy and hope, pleasure and purpose, and when this happens your heart will burst with the sweet Spirit inside and surrendering yourself to it will be one of the easiest decisions you can make.  

However, in just as many instances, God will present you with people to love in that same whole-hearted, spirit surrendering way and every part of your being might feel nothing but the opposite of a loving desire.   In fact, instead of walking by the spirit and not gratifying the desires of your flesh,  your flesh will boil and fight and inside yourself you will physically feel these two forces completely opposed to one another, keeping you from doing the things you want to do or, maybe more truthfully, allowing you to do exactly what you might want to do, nothing.

Let's be honest.  There are countless times you don't really want to love the people you love so why on earth would we want to love the people we don't love.  There is no earthly reason why we should love another if we do not want to, but there is a very heavenly one that tells us why we need to.  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this ALL people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

It's HARD, when it gets personal.  When you can list reason after reason of the why you should nots, the justified examples that can be spilled out and pointed at, but if the given in our loving proof is that we are loved then eventually, following that beginning, no matter how many sentences follow, we can reach the end with a loving heart for another.  When we remember that we aren't worthy of the love we have been given, why should we expect another to earn our love in return.

In his daily devotional New Morning Mercies, Paul David Tripp says this,  "You are a lover; we all are.  We love.  It's what human beings do every moment of every day, in every location, and in every situation.  You are never not loving.  It's in the very fiber of your being.  It's the way God carefully constructed you.  Why did he hardwire you to love?  Why is this such an essential part of who you are?  God created you with this capacity so that you would have what you need to live in a deeply loving, heart-controlling, motivation-producing, worship-initiating, joy-stimulating relationship with him.  Your capacity to love was created for him.  Your desire to love was meant to draw you to him.  Your heart was designed to long for love, and that longing was meant to find its final and complete fulfillment in him." 

We are all hardwired for love, the question will come down to how it manifests itself.  Does it come out in a love of self, in being right, in wanting personal comfort, satisfaction, retribution?  Or will it come out in an inner disposition that builds others up and inevitably points them to Jesus because it's His love in us they see.

I pray that others will see God through our love, and I pray much more needfully, that He help us love others because we know how much He loves us.  Pray for me, I'll be praying for you.





Wednesday, March 22, 2017

for when you are learning to love: questions to ask

It's Spring.  Where life's changes are seen as much in our schedule as they are in nature.  There are two baseball practices on the schedule tonight which means dinner needs to be ready early which means I cannot do my usual afternoon class at the gym which means I 'needed' to go to the gym in the morning which means writing is happening during rest time which means that any other productive things that needed to be done had to happen first thing this morning which means after all the kids are in bed tonight a bathtub full of bubbles and epsom salt will be calling my name.

Basically from before first light until long after the light fades this evening the day's to dos have wound themselves into a weird and complex reverse version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie except that there will not actually be any delicious chocolate chip yumminess as a reward.  Or maybe...

This journey from the past weeks of learning to love started as a yes to a command but has continued with many other types of YESes as understanding has continued to grow and places in my heart either with known hardness or unknown places to begin with have opened and felt that warmth of our loving Father preparing it to love in return.

There are many ways that reduce you to a place of humility.  One is to take the time to truly search and study a specific part of your life and begin to see, as you go on, how much was unknown and misunderstood; how much mystery there was in the midst of all the knowledge.

However, there are many ways to build up thankfulness within your heart.  One is to take the time to truly search and study part of your life and see how faithful God is to reach down to exactly where you are, in all your mysterious misunderstandings, and grow and change and lift your knowledge to a place closer to wisdom.

Because of this brief time squeezed in between preschool and elementary school pickups, with Narnia and a 5 year old's commentary as my soundtrack, instead of finishing up these weeks of love learning there will instead be a few questions to ponder before the finale next time around.  Using your words to ask the right questions is a vital step to developing the wisdom we long to have.  Until you know the questions to ask, you might never know if you have found the answer.

Part 1.  We began with just the first step of wanting to love, wanting to learn to love better knowing that "wisdom does not come when life works out perfectly, it comes when you fall but when you get up and try again."  Have you tried during these past weeks and failed?  Lord knows I have.   What situation(s) did you recognize a need to love better or to even let love In to it to begin with?

Part 2.  Defining love was an integral part of this journey.  Love, is an inner disposition that produces compassionate acts that builds up the object of your love.  Constant reflection on this definition has no choice but to begin to change your heart and open it up to not just recognizing compassionate acts but building a desire to produce them within the lives of others.  Have your compassionate acts towards others change and how can they still change and improve?  Write down those ways that you can see that changing in your heart, the ways compassionate acts of have achieved the building up of others.  When you see the way God has achieved that in your so far it will be a blessed encouragement when you also recognize those places where growth still needs to come.

Part 3. Learning the truth that we can't love might be difficult to take but in time makes this whole process so much easier. Have you embraced this truth? Do you know that you, on your own. do not have the capacity to love?

Part 4. We are able to love for one single reason, we were loved first (john 4:19)  It's not us, ever. It's all Him in us.  Knowing this, when a failure at loving occur there is no doubt it had it's roots in not trusting Jesus and trying to love on our own but how specifically is the right question.  In what ways and with whom are you trying to love on your own instead of letting Jesus love through you?

Part 5. ...the beauty revealed through everything covered in Christ is beauty unsurpassed. It is possible to not just live through difficult situations but to LOVE through them as well. Using the encouraging words from Isaiah 7:4 we learned to 1. be calm 2. be careful 3. do not fear and 4. do not let your heart grow weary. Unfortunately in this sinful world in which we live, difficult situations, of all scheme and scope, are inevitable and much more frequent than we would like. What situations are taking their toll on you right now? Recognize them, label them, and lay them down to the one who will not just love you through them but will enable you to love through them as well.

I'm praying for you as you reflect on these past few weeks lessons and, like in the Spring, you see the beautiful changes already made and the ways He will be faithful to bring about more. Pray for me.