How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

dad and daughter cuddling on couchLike her parents, my oldest daughter is more on the introvertive side.  Sure, we can host crowds of people, or invite friends over, but we find our energy reprovisioned in a still and quiet house, being able to rest, read, pray and relax.

So it was appropriate after a busy season of hosting that my oldest daughter simply wanted to cuddle on the couch.  Just to be close and to rest.  In the quiet.  No words.  Just rest.  As I enfolded my arms around her, it occurred to me the benefit of this simple process.  I simply held her, stroking her hair by her face, letting her know she was loved. Home.  Safe.  And accepted, just as she was.  There was not any need for performance here.  No striving to earn either my love or her ability to come near.

I was struck with the similarity of this picture with my daughter and my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  God, too, wants me just to be with Him, to pause from the busyness of the day (days?!) so that He can remind me that I, too, am loved, am accepted just as I am without any need for performance.  His love for me is “deep, vast beyond all measure,” as the hymn says, powerful enough that in God’s giving His only Son, it brings many a wretch His treasure, bringing many sons to glory.

Each of us—my daughter, you and I—are learning these truths, that “because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions, for it is by grace we have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2).  May this reality of ours become more and more accepted, noticed and lived in each day.

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Fiji the Lost Dog, and a Glimpse Into the Heart of the Father

ImageThis morning, as I woke up to make coffee and start the day, I noticed a small white blur outside the front window.  “What was that?” I wondered.   A small tuft of white went by again and I saw a dog walking by.  No leash.  No owner following it.  As the dog walked by, it looked lost.  Somehow it had escaped from its yard and was wandering aimlessly through the neighborhood.

Having my own dog, I knew that I’d want someone to retrieve him if he ever got out, so I made my way outside and called the dog over.  It was a white male terrier of sorts, and a quick look at his dog tag told me his name was Fiji.  Thankfully, Fiji had a responsible owner and there was a phone number.  Phone in hand, I dialed the number on Fiji’s tag and told the lady at the other end that I had her dog.  It was 6:30am, too early in my opinion to disturb anyone, but this was Fiji!  This was important.

After a few rings, someone finally answered and Fiji’s owner had had no clue that he had escaped during the night.  I gave the woman my address and she immediately made her way to my home—a good half-mile according to Google Maps—and Fiji quickly claimed his dogmother.  Both dog and woman were thankful.  Off they went in the dogmother’s car.  All in all, about a 20-minute encounter.  Yet, I can’t stop thinking about this morning.

Since that time this morning, I’ve thought of Jesus’ words in Luke 15 where He gives us the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.  The lost sheep, found by the shepherd who left the other 99 and called his friends and neighbors together to rejoice upon its being found.  The lost coin, found by the woman who sought it out by sweeping the house and searching the nooks and crannies of her floor, who upon finding it called her friends and neighbors to rejoice upon its being found.  The lost son, forlorn and ashamed of his actions, found by a heartbroken and miserable father who could finally rest since his son was finally under his roof.  A tired and wiser son could also finally rest since he was finally safe under his father’s roof.

Two-thousand years since Jesus’ stories above, today’s run-in with Fiji  echoes this joy.  It is but a small taste of the joy that is found not only by us as we press into the Lord, but the joy He has as we do.  And not just our joy, but that of His community as well.  Luke 15:7 and 10 tell us that “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  Wow.   As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, go and live with the knowledge that God, our Heavenly Father, wants to celebrate you and your continued seeking of Him.

Be encouraged, and do not give up.

The night of sleep that awaits Fiji tonight will be like no other.

Safe.

Quiet.

Protected.

Peaceful.  It’s the life we, too, were designed for.

Press on.

A Word for the Weekend

As we prepare for the weekend, I wanted to share with you the following excerpt from Hannah Whitall Smith’s wonderful book “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life”.  May each of us live our lives more and more in the “consecration” mentioned below.

“A great many Christians actually seem to think that all their Father in heaven wants is a chance to make them miserable, and to take away all their blessings, and they imagine, poor souls, that if they hold on to things in their own will, they can hinder Him from doing this. I am ashamed to write the words, and yet we must face a fact which is making wretched hundreds of lives.

A Christian lady who had this feeling, was once expressing to a friend how impossible she found it to say, “Thy will be done,” and how afraid she should be to do it. She was the mother of one only little boy, who was the heir to a great fortune, and the idol of her heart. After she had stated her difficulties fully, her friend said, “Suppose your little Charley should come running to you tomorrow and say, `Mother, I have made up my mind to let you have your own way with me from this time forward. I am always going to obey you, and I want you to do just whatever you think best with me. I know you love me, and I am going to trust myself to your love.’ How would you feel towards him? Would you say to yourself, `Ah, now I shall have a chance to make Charley miserable. I will take away all his pleasures, and fill his life with every hard and disagreeable thing I can find. I will compel him to do just the things that are the most difficult for him to do, and will give him all sorts of impossible commands.” “Oh, no, no, no!” exclaimed the indignant mother. “You know I would not. You know I would hug him to my heart and cover him with kisses, and would hasten to fill his life with all that was sweetest and best.” “And are you more tender and more loving than God?” asked her friend. “Ah, no,” was the reply, “I see my mistake, and I will not be afraid of saying `Thy will be done,’ to my Heavenly Father, any more than I would want my Charley to be afraid of saying it to me.”

Better and sweeter than health, or friends, or money, or fame, or ease, or prosperity, is the adorable will of our God. It gilds the darkest hours with a divine halo, and sheds brightest sunshine on the gloomiest paths. He always reigns who has made it his kingdom; and nothing can go amiss to him. Surely, then, it is nothing but a glorious privilege that is opening before you when I tell you that the first step you must take in order to enter into the life hid with Christ in God, is that of entire consecration. I cannot have you look at it as a hard and stern demand. You must do it gladly, thankfully, enthusiastically. You must go in on what I call the privilege side of consecration; and I can assure you, from a blessed experience, that you will find it the happiest place you have ever entered yet.”

Neighbor Love

Some months ago, I was greeted by a loud rap on the front door, only to find a sheriff wanting to ask me some questions about one of our neighbors. This neighbor is the trying kind. So, you can imagine the frustration and anger—embarrassment?—that grew up within me when I found this sheriff at the door wanting a bit of my time.

Since then, this neighbor continues to be trying—I’ll spare you the certain ways that they are trying as some could announce who this person is. Yet, I share this story with you because all of us have neighbors like this person that stretch us in ways we would not necessarily ask to be stretched. How come this person can’t be like other neighbors—you know, the ones who bring you cookies, or muffins or are much more easy and encouraging to interact with?

Author Gary Thomas writes that, “to become mature people, we need both kinds of relationships…. It takes God-forged agape love to reach out to someone who spites you, who returns your kindness with hatred, who considers gestures of generosity to be threats, who seems hell-bent on bringing destruction and chaos and division into every moment of his or her life (and your life, too). It takes more than human inclination and natural goodwill to keep relating to someone who purposely offends, revels in creative cruelty, and strikes back with a vengeance. Even if you know that they do so out of woundedness or feelings of insecurity or abandonment, being around them still hurts. It still sucks you dry.

“But in the bottom of the dry creek bed lies spiritual life, the fossil of character formation. If we die to human potential, we can be resurrected to spiritual strength…. God invites [us] to lean on a foreign strength—to go further, to love deeper, and to learn to care in a way that [we] never knew [we] could” (from Sacred Parenting, p. 148-9).

Neighbors, and all of those who we find a bit trying in our lives, are not there for us to fix or hope they’ll leave stage right from the drama that is our lives. Instead, their role is to shape us into seeing places of ourselves that we most likely couldn’t without their presence, places of ourselves that still require fine-tuning, and need the gentle hand of the Father who calls us to live more in the grace that comes from our knowing Jesus. May each of us this week ask for God’s assistance in this endeavor and open His invitation to a deeper walk with Him as a result.