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Devotions

The Vanishing Letter

Have you spent much time with a toddler? Have you had the chance to observe their minds as they learn? Their world starts simply and takes on depth as they assimilate information. My brain also tends to work in circles and pictures, so I am not sure what that says about me. I often come back to themes I’ve previously, partially parsed with the Lord, but I love it because every time God brings me back around to a subject, the illustration in my mind gets richer and clearer. This time He revisited the object lesson of one-sided conversations with me and He used the vanishing letter to do it.

The letter to which I refer was written by me. You know when you have an idea and it feels important, as if God were prompting you for reasons of His own? The letter had felt like that. In all honesty, I had been meaning to write it for awhile, but suddenly, it felt urgent. So I wrote it, mailed it, and wondered what kind of response it would get.

Would the letter arrive at just the right time so as to provide encouragement to its recipient when it was crucially needed? I mentally did the math and estimated when it would arrive and waited with anticipation to find out what impact it would have.

I never heard anything. That was months ago and I found myself, on this day, wondering if the letter had ever been received and read, or if it had vanished en route. And I was feeling a little miffed.

God let me sulk for a minute before He reminded me that He had written me a letter. He poured His love and very life into His written Word and I had left it unread this particular morning. He woke me early from my sleep and put a song in my heart which I’d barely noticed. He had painted a beautiful, but vanishing, sunrise, and I had not opened the curtains. He had gifted me the resources to have a delicious breakfast, and I had gulped it down while scrolling on my phone and couldn’t remember if I’d even thanked Him. He had provided comfortable clothes and good shoes and I’d donned them without so much as an acknowledgement of His provision. And here I was, out on my walk, pouting a bit that I’d never heard from the recipient of my little letter?!

Bible and guitar on a quilt: the letter
Photo by Keilah Gepte on Pexels.com

I realized it was very likely that the urgency to write the letter was never for the benefit of the recipient, at all. I needed to write and send it so God could use the stewin’ I was doin’ to teach me. I was so humbled. I wondered at how I’d felt irked by the smallest thing and there was God, whom I had offended far more, taking the opportunity to be intentional with my heart and so lovingly correct me.

I went from curiosity about how God would use the letter in the recipient’s life to an appreciation of how He used it in mine. He showed me the importance of responding to Him and appreciating the miracles He offers to me everyday; and how vanishing on His gestures makes me guilty of one-sided conversations.

(Click One-Sided Conversations if you’d like to read the original post on the subject.)

Friend, have you been oblivious to the ways God has been loving on you? Does the lesson I learned from the vanishing letter have any relevance for you? Thanks for listening. Thanks for sharing. Thanks for coming along as we learn together how to see through the fog in our hearts and into the most amazing love ever offered. It is offered freely to me and to you. Are we noticing it? What have you received from the Lord today?

“Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Psalm 139:7-10
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Reflections

How I finally found the answer to the question: Is Benevolence Love?

The other day my husband was reading to me from our morning devotion and the author asked something like “Why is it that we show more benevolence to people on the street than to the people in our own homes?” My head immediately answered, ‘because I don’t care as much about the people on the street’.

Timeout: I know this sounds crass, so let me elaborate by way of an example. If I saw someone, who had profanity tattooed across their forehead, walking their dog on the street, I could genuinely smile at them, pet their dog and wish them a good day. Their tattoo wouldn’t matter to me. But if one of my kids came to me, in all seriousness, and stated that they had decided to get such a tattoo, I would agonize over it. Why? Because I love my children deeply and would quickly get tangled in the cause and effect of such a choice in their life.

Photo by Askar Abayev on Pexels.com

The author’s conclusion was the opposite of what I was thinking. He said that we show more benevolence to strangers because we expect grace from people close to us. His point was that our behavior toward the stranger was preferable. It made me stop and think because this is an area in which I have felt incredibly misunderstood for years. Love can be messy and complex, while benevolence is simple. But is benevolence love?

What is the correct term for the compassion I feel for strangers?

I have been told by well-meaning people that if I don’t love the lady behind me in the checkout line, or the guy sitting next to me in the waiting room, then I might not really be a Christian. I can, and often do, feel benevolence toward them, but I don’t view love as something I could possibly give to someone I casually pass by. Love is enduring. Love is committed.

Love requires a comprehensive understanding of the depths of someone and a willingness to get down in there to boost them up.

I am willing to give just about anything to see the people in my circle achieve God’s best for their lives, and it often requires significant sacrifice. Because of that, my sphere is small. It can include anyone, but it cannot include everyone. If I am bound by the constraints of time and energy, I can’t substantially love many people at once, the way I define it.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com
Love is an investment.

Are you familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan? He was the example Jesus gave as someone who ‘loved his neighbor’, as the Bible commands. He found a man who had been beaten and left for dead. He cleaned his wounds, put the man on his donkey and walked the rest of the journey to the nearest town. He took the man, who could not repay him, to an inn and left money for his stay and care until he could return to check on the healing and cover any further expense.

Benevolence is a quick deposit.

I can smile and compliment and wish well on everyone, but I call that benevolence. I can put a couple bucks in someone’s overturned cap and help a small child who dropped a shoe; again, benevolence. I can let the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness etc. that God pours into me to splash out on those nearby, but is that really loving my neighbor? Is benevolence love?

I recently heard an explanation of my responsibility that put everything into perspective for me. If God 1) shows me a need, and 2) causes me to feel the pain of it, and 3) has given me the resources to meet it, then He expects me to act on His behalf in full sacrificial love. Beyond that, allowing His Spirit to shine through me and onto those around me is enough, as long as I stay alert and available. I’d love to hear your thoughts. How big is the circle of people you genuinely love? In your perception, is benevolence love?

Related posts: Love Uncomplicated, SuperPower Sunday: Compassion
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Devotions Emotions Reflections

That Kind of Kindness

A few days ago, I wrote about Anxiety Rochambeau, and noted that kindness is the winning strategy. But, where, why and how can we find that kind of kindness which can quell a beast like anxiety? And once we have it, how does it work? Whether the anxiety is yours or belongs to someone you love, I have a vital truth to share with you.

Anxiety is the word we use in reference to a whole spectrum of symptoms which stem from one or more things that we fear. We have to address the fear in order to soothe the anxiety. The Bible tells us the secret to driving out fear:

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”

1 John 4:18a

Oh, is that all? Perfect love – piece of cake, right? No, unfortunately not for us. But God’s love is perfect; and if we accept His love, He will cause it to flood into us, through us, and overflow from us to others. I’ve written about that miraculous phenomenon in the post called Love Uncomplicated; check it out if you’d like!

If you need convincing that Gods love is perfect, consider this:

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

John 15:13

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:7, 8

God’s love is the greatest kind of love. It is the perfect sort, which is needed to drive out fear. We cannot hope to achieve that kind of kindness in and of ourselves. We must get it from Him.

“Love is patient, love is kind.”

1 Corinthians 13:4a

The only way we can hope to achieve that kind of kindness needed to quell anxiety is to tap into God’s love. If you’d like insight into how to start that relationship with God, read The Gospel in a Nutshell. Truth bomb: God’s lovingkindness can soothe over much more than anxiety, so it really is for everyone. Statistically though, you, my dear reader, suffer from anxiety or know someone who does. And God’s love is just what the doctor has not ordered.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.

Psalm 63:3

Am I saying that anxiety will disappear when that love begins to pour over our fears? I believe it is possible. But what is guaranteed is a change in perspective. The beauty of perfect love, and the kindness with which it is feely given, opens our eyes to wonders we never knew before. Truth spreads peace which begins to overshadow the fear and we want to share it with others. Once we know that kind of kindness, we have a fresh mindset and a beautiful new purpose, both of which can quell anxiety. God sees your pain. He wants to help. Will you let Him in?

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

Titus 3:4, 5

“A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

John 13:34
Categories
Devotions

Flourish

Real talk: What label would you put on me if I did any (or all) of the following:

  • Often fed my dog a candy bar for dinner
  • Drove dangerously with my babies in the car
  • Made promises to my husband with little regard to whether or not I kept them
  • Told my sister daily that she is ugly and unworthy
  • Constantly reminded my brother that he didn’t deserve good things because he’s stupid
  • Spent my mom’s hard-earned money on spontaneous and unnecessary things
  • Spoiled my dad’s reputation by my sassy lack of self-control

Would you say I was mean? Inconsiderate? Awful? And why would you say that? Because I put others at risk? I didn’t respect their feelings or their property? I failed to show concern for their well-being?

I’d be willing to bet the above does not describe you. Hopefully, it doesn’t depict me either. But what if I take other people out of it and I:

  • Often feed myself a candy bar for dinner
  • Drive dangerously in the car
  • Make promises to myself with little regard to whether or not I keep them
  • Tell myself daily that I am ugly and unworthy
  • Constantly remind myself that I don’t deserve good things because I’m stupid
  • Spend my hard-earned money on spontaneous and unnecessary things
  • Spoil my reputation by my sassy lack of self-control

All of a sudden, this hits closer to home. Am I any less mean or inconsiderate or awful if I am the one I disrespect, disregard and put at risk?

Friends, let’s start being kinder to ourselves. Let’s follow through on our aspirations. Let’s make better choices with our time and money and lets protect the preciousness of our health and wellbeing. Let’s speak constructively to ourselves and build reputations we’re proud of.

We’ve been doing it backwards. If we’re going to truly esteem those around us, we have to value ourselves. Afterall, the way we love ourselves is the standard for how well we love our neighbors. We must pick ourselves up in order to lay ourselves down. We can authentically help others to bloom once we allow ourselves to genuinely flourish.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Galations 5:14

“My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

John 15:12, 13