Love & Marriage

My husband and I have been married for 23 years. Like all couples we’ve had great times, good times, and not so good (bad) times in those 23 years. I sign us up for lots of marriage conferences and classes. Not because I think we have a bad marriage, but because I want us to have the best marriage possible. We recently started our latest marriage class. It has stirred up a few things in my heart regarding love and marriage.

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19, NIV

Our latest lesson was entitled “Radical Love”. I believe to love radically we must first know that we are radically loved by God. Our love, security, identity are found in a loving God. But love is not idle and stagnate. Love moves and can’t help but flow. When we receive it, we then find ourselves having to give it. Our spouses should be the first to taste of this love. It’s good to love our neighbor, to love the widow and the orphan, to love the lost and broken, but sometimes the one closest to us, our spouse, is not shown this great love. I know from experience and there were many times I was the one not showing His love to my husband.

It’s great when you have two people receiving and giving this great love in a marriage, but that’s not always the case. I think it’s very important to realize that you are not responsible and cannot change the other person. The person you can choose to change is yourself. It can start with just one and you are the only one you can change.

Now, let me also mention that you can’t change you. God never intended for you to transform your own heart. He is offering to do that for you. You can’t make that decision for your spouse but you can make that decision for yourself. Choose to let God work in your heart and mind through time spent with Him and in His word.

…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12:2, NLV

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16 NLV

Here are two scriptures that I have found change my heart and mind allowing me to better love my spouse.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV

But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Galatians 5:22-23, Amp

I have read these scriptures. I have studied these scriptures. I have meditated on these scriptures. I have taken time to let God talk to me about these scriptures. What was the result? When my husband and I disagreed or argued, when I was tired and hungry and not in a good mood, God’s Holy Spirit would tap me on the shoulder as I spoke or raised my voice to my husband, as I defended myself or my point and simply said, “Was that patient or kind?” “Was that gentle or peaceful?” “Was that love?”

I then had two choices, harden my heart and press my point or yield my heart and simply say, “I’m sorry.”

These two scriptures First Corinthians 13:4-8 and Galatians 5:22-23 tell you who you are and can be because of God’s work in your heart. Read them, study them, meditate on them. Let God talk to you about them. Look into the mirror of God’s word and let it transform you into His image. He is love.

Little Foxes

Big: large, as in size; of major concern; important… Little: small in size; tiny; not big; not large… (dictionary.com)

Recently, I shared that I had been struggling with my emotions for a few days. I found myself being impatient, unkind, sad and angry. While there was a situation I was grieving over, I also knew that there was much more to it than that. I knew it was bad when I exploded in anger over something a person connected to our neighborhood had done. Thankfully, I didn’t explode at the person involved. Unfortunately, my husband had to hear me rant and yell about something this person had done that actually was the last straw after months of little issues with them.

A friend once shared that patience and kindness are the gauges that let you know how you are doing in your ‘love walk’. Love is patient and kind. I’ve studied God’s love for years. I taught classes on love for years. How did I get here?

God reminded me of a scripture.

…Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. [So I went with him, and when we were climbing the rocky steps up the hillside, my beloved shepherd said to me] O my dove, [while you are here] in the seclusion of the clefts in the solid rock, in the sheltered and secret place of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. [My heart was touched and I fervently sang to him my desire] Take for us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards [of our love], for our vineyards are in blossom. (Song of Solomon 2:13-15, Amp)

God reminded me of the part that speaks of the little foxes that spoil the vineyards of our love. I once heard someone share that because foxes burrow underground, they can do much damage to a crop without any evidence that it is happening. It goes unseen and unnoticed until the plant starts dying above ground due to the damage caused below ground to the roots.

Little foxes. Not big foxes. Little foxes.

God spoke to my heart and told me that I am someone that is very quick to forgive when someone has wronged me. If someone does something obviously wrong to me, the first moment I feel hurt and possibly angry, in the very next moment I choose to forgive them. Lately though, while I was still quick to forgive the ‘big’ things, I hadn’t realized that daily people were doing ‘little’ things that I didn’t even realize bothered me. But they did bother me and I didn’t even think to forgive them over something so small. Little foxes were starting to burrow.

This person I was angry with had done one unkind and ungracious thing after another. Little things. I noticed. I let them bother me yet I didn’t think to forgive. The foxes were slowly, silently spoiling the vineyards of our love.

I repented. I forgave this person. I started forgiving every person I could think of for every little thing they had done. I forgave politicians I don’t even personally know.

During a marriage class on forgiveness, the instructor shared that it’s not only important to forgive your spouse for the things they had done, but to also forgive them for the times they disappointed you. Forgive the big things. Forgive the little things.

As soon as I ‘slipped away’ for some time with God, He started exposing and taking away those little foxes. In the safety of His Presence I let it all go and forgave all men their sins against me. My emotions calmed down. The peace came. I’ve been much more patient and kind again. I’m once again enjoying the vineyards of our love with my God.

1 Corinthians 13 ~ Love is patient and kind… Love takes no account of the evil done to it… It pays no attention to a suffered wrong… Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person… And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 John 4:19 ~ We love because he first loved us.

Slip away with Him. Let Him tell you of His love. You won’t be able to help yourself, because of His love, you will love too.

You Are Invited

Over the last three days, I have struggled with my emotions. I’m sad one moment and suddenly angry the next. Sadness is something that I experience every now and then, but anger is not an emotion that I am used to. I can tell you that there is an element of grieving involved, but there were other reasons too. I planned on blogging about that today, but then a conversation with a friend brought this post about instead.

I shared with my friend about my emotional struggles over the last three days. She too has experienced emotional struggles. Hers are due to the loss of a loved one, the loss of a child. She spoke of having to choose to press through each day. I too have sensed that need to choose to press through the emotions and it’s physical effects. As we spoke, a past experience came to mind. It was the memory of my grandfather’s passing.

To this day I clearly remember his funeral. At God’s instruction I sat next to my grandmother, held her hand and meditated on His peace, the peace that passes understanding. I had this sense of her and I being encased in a protected bubble, encased in a ‘bubble’ of His peace. About a week later when my grandmother came for a visit, she mentioned the sense of peace that she felt at the funeral, a sense of being in a bubble. She had felt it too.

It suddenly became clear to me that the choice we make each day isn’t to press through emotions or struggles, but to choose to enter that ‘bubble’ of His protection and peace, choose to enter His Presence and abide there.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust”…He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge… Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you… (Psalms 91, Amp)

The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.  (Proverbs, 18:10, KJV)

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, KJV)

…Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. [So I went with him, and when we were climbing the rocky steps up the hillside, my beloved shepherd said to me] O my dove, [while you are here] in the seclusion of the clefts in the solid rock, in the sheltered and secret place of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. (Song of Solomon 2:13-14, Amp)

…How often would I have gathered your children together as a mother fowl gathers her brood under her wings… (Matthew 23:37, Amp)

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings… (Malachi 4:2, KJV)

…I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Psalm 23:6, KJV)

Daily there is an invitation. Come away. Abide in Him. In that place we experience His healing, peace, restoration, and love, Then we have healing, peace, restoration and love to take to others. You are invited.

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD… (Psalm 27:4, KJV)

For those experiencing grief:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows… (Isaiah 53:4, KJV)

The Comforter (the Holy Spirit) wants to wrap His wings around you and bring comfort and healing. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

I Have Wronged No Man

Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. (Acts 9:1-2, NLT)

They rushed at …[Stephen] and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they stoned him… (Acts 7:57-59, NLT)

Saul persecuted, arrested and was responsible for the deaths of Christians. Yet later (as Paul) he says, “Please open your hearts to us. We have not done wrong to anyone…” How can someone with his history say that?

Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities… (Psalms 103:2-3, NKJV)

Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin. (Romans 4:8, NLT)

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12, NKJV)

Today, I too can say, I have wronged no man. Not because I have always treated others as I should, but because of the blood of Jesus that brought me forgiveness of all of my sins. Today, I can also say that no man has wronged me. How can I say that? Have I always been treated right by all men? No, but the blood of Jesus was shed for them too.

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32, NKJV)

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. (Colossians 3:12-14;MSG)

I choose to forgive as freely and completely as He chose to forgive me. Selah.

Teach Me

Show me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. (Psalms 25:4-5, KJV)

I’ve written on this topic before, but felt very strongly this morning that I needed to do so again and in greater detail. In 1997 my nephew passed away a few short days after his birth. Many shared their thoughts on why this happened, why God did this. I knew God, but I knew very little about His nature and His ways. My prayer to Him in the midst of it all was this, “God I don’t know what happened, but I don’t believe You did this. Teach me about healing.”

Within two months I found myself at a new church, though neither my husband or I had considered leaving the church we had been in for years. There is so much to this story, but for the sake of space and time let me just say that less than a year later I had become a part of the healing ministry at that church including volunteering in their hospital ministry and being a part of their healing school. Many years later, many prayers later, hundreds of people ministered to and prayed for later, I became the person ‘in charge’ of the healing ministry at our church. I was in charge of training the hospital ministry team and coordinating the ministry. I taught healing school and trained the healing school volunteers. Sixteen years later I am still praying for the sick and seeing them recover. How? I asked Him to teach me about healing.

It didn’t take me long to realize what it meant to ask Him to teach me. I asked Him to teach me about prayer and soon found myself as a young woman with jet black hair, sitting in prayer meetings where just about everyone else in the room had white or gray hair. I’m not trying to make much of myself. I’m making much of my God! I asked Him to teach me about prayer and I ended up with wisdom beyond my years.

I asked Him to teach me about love and to teach me how to love. While at this same church, I not only taught classes on healing, but I also taught many classes on God’s love.

I’ve asked Him to teach me how to be a good wife. I’ve asked Him to teach me about anything and everything I can think of and He always does.

Recently I shared this with someone going through a very difficult situation. One of the things they were battling was tremendous fear. It was not only a battle that was specific to this situation, but one that they had struggled with for much of their life. I encouraged this person to ask God to teach them about His love. Perfected love (His perfect love) casts out all fear. I also encouraged them to ask God to teach them how to walk free from fear.

He longs to lead, guide, instruct, encourage, and teach us. We don’t have to walk through this life alone. We don’t have to try to figure it all out on our own. Trust me you will never figure it out on your own.

Ask Him, “Teach me”. Let Him help you to have the abundant life His Son gave His life for. Selah.

…one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray… (Luke 11:1, KJV)

Touched

When I say the word ‘touched’ what comes to mind? Maybe you think of the physical act of touching. A hand reaching out to come in contact with a person or object. Maybe it causes you to think not of a physical act, but an emotional one. Being deeply moved emotionally by an act of kindness or by the suffering of another.

During a recent conference, one of the speakers shared on the woman with the issue of blood. Let’s take a look at her story in the book of Mark chapter five.

And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. (Mark 5:25-29, KJV)

I love what the conference speaker shared in regards to this woman. He spoke of how some make it seem as though she grabbed Jesus or clung to Him in some way. But he demonstrated what it means to touch. She reached out her hand and maybe with just one finger lightly, gently and momentarily came into contact with His clothes. All around Him people were pressing in. I picture people pushing and pressing being jostled about as they tried to get to Him.

And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? (Mark 5:30-31, KJV)

The disciples were thinking, “Are you kidding me? Who hasn’t touched Him?” as they were being pressed on all sides. But someone touched Him in a way that caused virtue, His healing power, to flow from Him. He wanted to know who touched Him in faith and received the grace to be healed.

As I listened to the speaker a song started to stir in my heart, He Touched Me. The song flowed through my heart and my mind. Then I heard His still small voice, “You’ve touched Me.” My heart was flooded with joy. My eyes filled with tears. I knew what He meant. He was not speaking of a physical touch. He was telling me that I had touched His heart.

Yes, He touched Me. Yet, I am humbled, amazed, and in awe of the fact that He is a Savior, our God, that we too can touch.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched… (Hebrews 4:15, KJV)

The Elephant in the Room

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down… Psalm 133:1-2, KJV

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. Mark 3:25 NIV

I have attended many churches throughout my life. I attended two Catholic churches with my parents. I attended a small Pentecostal church with my husband and his family. My husband and I attended a Methodist church while in college. We were part of an Evangelical Word of Faith church for 14 years. Three years ago we moved to another church at the Lord’s direction and with our previous pastors’ blessings. It’s been an amazing journey. At each church I saw a unique facet of our amazing and multi-faceted God. Each church added another brushstroke to the canvas that holds the masterpiece God is painting… me. At each church I grew in my relationship with God. I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.

I entitled this post, the elephant in the room, because recently I have encountered something that is obvious to so many, yet unspoken. Ignored, but still there. I think it’s time we talk about it.

Since moving from my previous church to my current church, I have noticed something that I find very disturbing. When I speak to friends from my previous church, there is tension. There is awkwardness. There is this subtle undercurrent of competition regarding the two churches. I love everyone regardless of which church we go to. No matter how many church moves we’ve made, I still consider the people in each church family and friends. Each move we made was at God’s direction and I would not ask anyone to leave one church to come to another. That is between them and God.

I have invited friends to special events at our new church, not for the purpose of getting them to change churches, but because I love my friends and feel that they will be blessed and grow from the experience. They are always free to simply say, ‘no’. Yet, the response is often tension and then an account of what God is doing in their church.

I also come in contact with people that also attended and left my previous church. Some of them had an experience that left them hurt. When I talk to them about friends that are still there, once again the tension begins to build. I encourage those friends to let God heal their hearts of those hurts.

Can I just say that my church affiliation is not my identity. I didn’t feel that when I left one church to go to another that I was in my heart leaving the people of each church. My identity is not in the name on the building I choose to worship in. My identity is in being a part of the Body of Christ. When I was at the Catholic churches I was a part of the Body of Christ. When I was at the Pentecostal church, the Methodist church, the Word of Faith church I was still a part of the same body, the Body of Christ. Since coming to this new church, guess what I am still a part of the same Body that I became a part of when I gave my heart to Jesus 38 years ago, while a member of a Catholic church. I am still connected to the believers at each of these churches.

When we allow ourselves to be separated based on denomination, based on church affiliation, understand that we are not just allowing ourselves to be divided from another church body. We are allowing ourselves to be divided from a part of Christ’s Body.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ… But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 1 Corinthians 12:12, 18-21

Whether we realize it or not, we need each other. The enemy would love to divide us. He knows a house divided cannot stand. He would love to divide Christ’s body. Let’s each examine our hearts and refuse to be divided from one another. This post is not just for those who attend my previous church, but also to any who have not attended my previous churches yet feel free to say unkind things about them or about any church or denomination for that matter. We can disagree, but we don’t have to be divided from one another in our hearts.

Jesus Himself said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” I think it’s time we stop judging, rejecting and condemning one another and start loving one another. A lost, hurt and dying world is watching.

And I end this by praying for myself, “Lord, search me.”