Defenseless Love

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and how long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all knowlege – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17-19)

Researcher/storyteller Brene Brown observes that vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, love, and tenderness. And the key to connection is allowing ourselves to be seen as we are, believing we are worthy of love and belonging. Vulnerability is the willingness to say “I love you” first. The willingness to risk a venture or relationship with no guarantees.

This is the story of the Son of Man. God making himself vulnerable. God in a diaper. A small child, entirely dependent on his parents for food, clothing, and a place to lay his little head. The One Who Holds the World, cradled in the tender arms of his mother. A life marked by dependence as even to His last breath He would cry out, “Daddy, help me!”. Opening Himself up to my scorn and apathy, risking Himself by making the first move in saying, “I love you, Eric.”. With no guarantees, Jesus allowed himself to be seen, revealing the immeasurable depths of Abba’s fierce longing for me.

The breathtaking vulnerability of Jesus is a wholehearted, passionate love in which nothing is held back.

In Him, I have everything. In Him, joy is born to me. In Him, my uniqueness is celebrated in unselfconscious creativity. In Him, I recognize my worth. In Him, safety is found to become vulnerable myself in the belief that I am worthy of love and belonging. In Him rest is found as I abide in the fierce tenderness of Jesus. There is no more trying, it has already been done for me. There is no more hoping, my hope has been found. There is no more shame, He became shame for me. I am enough.

The God who goes before me has gone before me in vulnerability so that I may be vulnerable. He has been courageous so that I might find courage. He has loved first that I might truly love.

To know the untamable, wholehearted, vulnerable love of God is to be lost in the adventure of divine romance, without fear, trusting Abba’s tender desire for my good.

Whispers of Thunder

There are a hundred reasons why not to do something. A hundred reasons why not to risk. A hundred reasons to hide who I am behind who I imagine “others” might find acceptable. A hundred reasons why “it” will never work. A hundred reasons to fear. A hundred good reasons filled with all kinds of common sense. A hundred excellent reasons fixed in the concrete of painful experience. A hundred reasons to believe I am not “enough”.

Jesus is not worried or intimidated by any of it. He is not surprised at my list of reasons. He knows me and likes me. Of course, He loves me, too. He loves me with all my silly reasons. That love is so precious to me, but one can be loved without being liked all that much. It’s nice to know I am liked by Jesus. He loves spending time with me. I’m good company to Him. I get a funny grin as those words are typed out in front of me on the screen. It, too, sounds a little silly and to some maybe even arrogant, but it’s not. If everyone knew that about Jesus – REALLY knew it, as in BELIEVE it – how much better might we treat ourselves and, by natural extension, others.

So when I start to listen to the voice of fear in my mind and agree with it, Jesus is not surprised or alarmed. He has suffered with me through my pain, even more than I. He has cried tears for my tears. He has held me close when I was trying to pull away. He has felt my fear and longed for my freedom with sweat drops of blood. He is my very best friend, brother, and soulmate.

And so, while a song plays in the background, His whispers through a line of verse echo like thunder in the deepest places of my heart, “Even the impossible is Your reality”. And I know it is His kind voice I hear as tears roll down my face. I laugh at my own silliness as I confess openly my fears to Him. I tell Him he is crazy, and with a twinkle He responds, “How long did it take you to figure that out?”.

Another song plays. It seems as if Jesus has decided to use music as His voice today, “Abide with me, abide with me; don’t let me fall, and don’t let go. Walk with me and never leave. Ever close, God abide with me.” I sing along, telling Him I am afraid but if He sticks really close I’ll be ok.

The plans God has for me are good. Like a doting father wishing the best for his beloved son, and the son has it all already if he will only believe it. His adoring gaze assures me that all will be well. I am enough, and I can step out wholeheartedly with courage, knowing I am never alone.

Unsettling Compassion

Mark 6:34 When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.

To set the scene, the disciples had each returned from their “mission trips” and then met with Jesus to tell him all about what had happened. That day, there was a constant coming and going of people, so much so that the disciples hadn’t even had a chance for a bite to eat! In kindness, Jesus told them to come away to a private place he knew to get some food and rest. Tired, hungry, and I’m sure glad to get some quiet time in a secluded place with just the guys, they grabbed a boat and left.

First of all, Jesus is incredible in his awareness of what these men needed. Real, felt, physical needs. Food. Rest. Quiet. He didn’t say, “Great job guys! Now let’s get back out there and help these people!”. He did not use people. He loved them. He knew weariness, He knew hunger, He knew thirst, He knew discouragement because He experienced all of it himself. His kindness toward these men was the kindness of The God Who Knows. God with us. Emmanuel.

But Jesus and his disciples didn’t get the Men’s Retreat they so desperately needed. At least not then, because somehow the word of their destination got out and, when they beached the boat at the remote cabin, they discovered a crowd waiting eagerly for them. I can imagine the bleak looks shared and sagging shoulders as their hearts fell in disappointment. If Jesus felt this way, however, it was immediately swept away by roaring floods of compassion.

Mark 6:34 can be literally understood as, “Coming ashore and seeing the large crowd, His gut wrenched with tender compassion because they were like little lambs with no shepherd. He began to teach them many things until it was quite late.”

Just sit quietly and digest that for a moment. The gut-wrenching tenderness of Jesus.

Oh, the unfathomable depths of the compassion of God for us! So much so, that even through His own weariness and hunger, seeing the lost standing there on the shore like so many helpless and lonely lambs provoked a visceral internal emotional reaction that compelled Him to gather them around Him like a mother hen gathers her chicks and teach them until it was quite late. He couldn’t not do it. The unsettling compassion of God will not allow inaction. Henri Nouwen says the Hebrew word for compassion is rachamim, which refers to the womb of Yaweh. He writes, “Compassion is such a deep, central and powerful emotion in Jesus that it can only be described as a movement in the womb of God.” The vulnerability of Jesus in this is staggering. In His deepest depths, Jesus was moved with compassion. The storehouses of God were opened to reveal what are the unimaginable quantities of deep, abiding, relentless tenderness for us.

Understanding the compassion God feels for me is the very first step to my compassion for others. But the second step isn’t compassion for others. The second step is being moved to compassion and kindness towards myself. I am hardest on myself in a way I would rarely be towards others. Being kind to my failures, shortcomings, silliness, and everything else about myself I don’t like is the bridge from the active compassion of Jesus toward me to my own actions of kindness and compassion to those around me. Seeing myself as Jesus sees me is part of abiding in Him. Am I being more righteous than God by treating myself with harshness while He treats me with kindness? A thousand times, No! The more you really know Jesus, the more you will understand who God is and the better you will treat yourself and, as a result, others. That is true freedom. The freedom to love.

Impossible Joy

I suppose suffering has been a part of my life since my first tooth came in. I have discovered since that there are many different kinds of suffering. I say I have discovered, but everyone has discovered and there are more qualified discoverers than I to explain it. I am undeterred.

What I would like to focus on primarily is the kind suffering which has been entered into knowingly, yet perhaps not quite knowingly. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church in regard to trials, “Not that the troubles should come as any surprise to you. You’ve always known that we’re in for this kind of thing. It’s part of our calling.”

There is the story of a young man who signed up as a deckhand on a crab boat off the coast of Alaska. It was to be his first time out. He is excited and ready for the journey. In fact, he cannot wait to sail the high seas to enjoy the adventure and comradery that hard work brings to the men who share in it. A few days after setting out under clear skies they begin to drop their pots into the cold Pacific, the captain hoping for a big score of king crab to fill the boat. He knows a storm is brewing and is anxious to get finished.  Suddenly, the storm arrives and waves begin to swell higher and higher as the winds pick up speed. Over and over, the vessel is carried to the ridge of a crest and then plunges down to the trough below in a heart sickening free-fall. The boy watches in fascinated horror as the next wave completely engulfs the bow, and heavy sheets of cold, Pacific salt water wash over the deck before draining out the scuppers as the boat struggles up the side of the next wave. He is shocked at the scope of ferocity and power on display and how the large craft they are on now seems so insignificant in light of it all. He begins to regret his decision to come along, wishing instead to be with his loved ones, safe on land in a warm house as rain pelts harmlessly off the roof. Sweating with stress, he feels helpless and frightened to the core. Presently, he looks around the cabin and notices that the other men are joking and smiling – one man is even sleeping! The boat once again shudders violently as it reaches the bottom of another trough. They seem relaxed. How is it that they appear so unconcerned in this storm, he wonders? Summoning his courage after some time, he ventures over to ask an older man who is sitting alone smoking and watching the others. “How can they act this way while the storm is so bad, and we are all in danger of dying?”, he asks with shaky voice. The old sailor looked at him a moment with a certain wise understanding. He took another long drag on his cigarette and blew a smoke ring, watching it float away and slowly dissipate. He then spoke almost as if to himself, “The sea has always been this way and we are simply temporary guests upon her waters. Embrace the storm and trust the captain. He knows how to drive in rough weather.”

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -Jesus (Jn 16:33)

Sometimes we experience suffering because of bad decisions made by ourselves or someone close to us. There is also a kind of suffering brought about simply by the course of life, perhaps even leading to the death or injury of ourselves or a loved one. And then there is suffering which comes because we have accepted with our whole heart the disruptive invitation of Jesus to journey with him wherever He leads.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…  James 1:2a

It has taken me many years to understand what is written in every story, flowing in every song, and woven into the very fabric of life. That suffering is unavoidable. It rains on the evil and on the good. As Christ followers, we are presented with the apparent paradox of experiencing joy on the needle’s tip of suffering. How on earth is that possible? Joy is defined officially as the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation. So even the dictionary definition seems to contradict the possibility of being joyful in the midst of suffering. Suffering and joy seem antithetical to say the least.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matt 19:27

When I was in my late teens, God brought a friend into my life unexpectedly. I was a country Minnesota boy living in Chicago, working in a printshop when I met Dan. He worked in the same building and noticed the 1979 Mercury Capri I was driving at the time, which led to a conversation with me about it. It turned out he was also from Minnesota and shared my love of cars, so naturally we hit it off right away. It’s been almost 30 years since the day he stopped to talk to me, and though the paths of our stories have diverged greatly during that time, we have remained more brothers than friends through it all. When we do get together it feels natural to get lost in conversation, laughter, or good-natured ribbing while hanging out or doing projects. And if you listen closely, you will notice something interesting. The reminiscing over fond memories and the focus of ribbing comes out of the stories we share, and those stories are typically of suffering. The suffering which time transforms into a fond memory. One cold Chicago winter night, we backed Dan’s Toyota Supra into the tiny garage under our house to replace the failing clutch. Of course, we started late, and under the influence of pizza and Mountain Dew attempted something neither of us had ever done before. We had no YouTube videos, but we did have manuals to guide us into the unknown. About 4:00 in the morning, a few cold hours after we installed the new clutch, I was in the driver’s seat with the car door only half open because of the narrow confines of the garage, alternately holding the clutch pedal to the floor and then at his shout from beneath the car releasing it as he tried to bleed the system. My leg was tired. I was tired. He was tired. And cold. We were both ill-tempered at the late hour and our inability to bleed air from the hydraulic clutch system. Finally, we gave up and went to bed. Not an inspiring way to end a story. After attempting great feats, they gave up and went to bed. The End. The car sat in the garage that whole next week. Eventually, Dan called a tow truck to pull it out of the garage and take it to a shop. The mechanic there must have been shaking his head at these two teenage boys when after removing the transmission he discovered the clutch plate installed backwards. Put in the right way, the hydraulic clutch worked flawlessly, and the car was fixed. The memory of that night is still a source of joy for us to look back on and laugh. The experience drew us closer as friends and the memory brings depth to the relationship we have. We know each other better through the suffering of that night. We have many such stories. Sometimes he has carried me through personal tough times and sometimes I have carried him. Sometimes we have failed each other. This is the nature of relationships. And life.

There is a suffering that is both exhilarating and terrifying at the moment, but at the completion of which gives great satisfaction. 20 years after the first story Dan and I were in our late 30’s with children and bills and jobs and busy lives that kept us from getting together but once or twice a year. I drove 3 hours with the kids to his place one Easter weekend during a darker period of my life to hang out. Really, I needed time with someone with whom I could shed the walls I had built to protect my heart and just relax as myself – knowing I was fully accepted in all my imperfections. We decided to take the mountain bikes out Sunday morning and ride some single-track dirt trails nearby. It was overcast and cool, the perfect morning, and the trails were empty of other riders. We rode through the quiet woods, crossing dry washes, climbing and descending steep trails, the front suspension on our bikes working hard over tree roots and rocks, the only sounds being the rattle of our bikes and heavy middle-aged breathing. Presently we felt the air around us getting darker and could hear the deep rumble of thunder in the distance. We rode on, unconcerned in our ignorance. Suddenly, a massive crack and boom split the air and giant drops of rain began to fall onto the canopy of trees overhead. We looked at each other and laughed nervously as we held a brief discussion over the wisdom of heading back to the car a couple miles away. The trail was a loop, and we decided completing the loop was probably the shortest way back, so off we went, the patter of rain on leaves beginning to sound more like the roar of several waterfalls. In a moment we were soaked to the skin, riding hard down the narrow and now muddy trail to our vehicle and safety. We were wet, cold, miserable, and exhilarated. Thunder crashed, lightning flashed, wind blew hard, and the dry washes were running high and fast as we slipped and slid over wet rocks and mud and roots, pedaling through water as high as the hub of our wheels. It was glorious, and we were laughing like crazy men as water came out of the sky in sheets, running into our eyes and mouths, the wind ripping through the trees and blowing debris everywhere. This was adventure, and suffering became the supreme pleasure as our lives faced the awesome power of the storm. Coming around a corner in the trail I came on a deep, fast moving creek. As I pedaled through it, my tires sipped on the slick rocks and the current threatened my balance, but shortly I was out the other side and stopped on the opposite bank, looking back to watch Dan cross. Half way into his attempt, the tires lost grip and his bike went down with him underneath. Unbeknownst to me, his shoe was still locked into the pedal and he was trapped unable to get up. The water roared through the wash as he barely kept his chin above the surface, struggling to free himself. I was not helping him because I was doubled over in laughter. The whole event leading to the current situation made everything seem hilarious and I couldn’t stop. Soon I began to understand he was in trouble. He was not laughing. Dropping my bike, I waded into the current and followed his instructions to untangle the mess. Back on the trail we pedaled hard for the car. The rain had slowed and sky lightened by the time we were loading the bikes on the rack. We were completely soaked and absolutely heroes in our own minds. We had suffered and come through. We had overwhelmingly conquered the elements. We were men.

Shared suffering brings about greater intimacy. There is a depth there which cannot be reached any other way. To the degree we share in suffering with someone, we get to truly know them and grow closer in relationship to them. Is that any different in our relationship with Jesus? Is our relationship with Him deepened as we share in his suffering? Will our relationship with Jesus be stronger after trusting him and walking together through difficult times?

“God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9) “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17)

This leads us again to the kind of suffering entered into knowingly because future glory is promised or because the desire to be with someone or to be a part of something larger than us is stronger than the desire for comfort. A business started. A mountain climbed. A jungle explored. Treasure sought. Battles engaged. Beauty pursued. Each adventure is begun with passion and excitement for the hoped-for result. Even though the road less taken shines with the promise of suffering, that fact is eclipsed by the anticipated hope of glory at the completion of it all. The kind of suffering Jesus invites us into. Come unto me, Jesus says. If you follow Me you will suffer, He promises. He will disrupt our lives with adventures we didn’t ask for. We will have trouble we didn’t want. But all that is overshadowed by the promise of what is to come. He promises to never leave our side. He says we will share in His glory as we have shared in his suffering. When the business of the Kingdom succeeds we share in the honor. When the mountains of grief are climbed we stand on the summit with Him in breathless wonder. When the stifling jungle of life is crossed, our weariness is forgotten in the enchantment at the golden treasure discovered. Our past suffering transforms into a fond memory as we gaze in astonishment at the home prepared for us by the hands of the Carpenter from Nazareth. The scars earned in the struggle become badges of honor as we are held in the arms of our beautiful Lover. The hard won testament of a shared and abiding love. It is in this way that joy becomes an unexpected but welcome guest in the darkest places, and we find ourselves singing hymns while the other prisoners listen in amazement.

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Grubby and Carefree

Just as I am. I must come to Jesus in my mess. In my bad. In my distraction. In my laziness. In my impatience. In my anger. In my unforgiveness. In my pain. In my sorrow. Just as I am.

Take no thought. I must forgive myself for yesterday, be kind to myself today, and not worry about tomorrow. Fight only today’s battles. Set yesterday’s battles free and leave tomorrow’s battles alone.

Come to Jesus taking no thought just as I am. When Jesus pulls to the curb where I am living safely and says with a smile “Let’s go!”, I only need to accept His certainly dangerous invitation knowing that he will take care of all I need.

“But. I am not prepared!” I reason. “I am in my pajamas and have no pockets, nothing with me to help along the way!”

Gazing into His eyes, I am surprised to see longing there. “Don’t worry.”, Jesus reassures, “I packed everything we need!”

Still, I hesitate. “But where are we going? Can’t you tell me at least that much?”

He leans over and opens the passenger door for me with a playful, “Come on. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.”

And so, if I am to share in the joy and sufferings of Jesus today, I must come as I am unprepared for the journey and in all my grubbiness. In fact, it seems Jesus prefers me to come that way, grubby and carefree. Very much like a child, I think.

As we pass through the hills and valleys together, I notice a peculiar thing. Something I could not have imagined and for which I had barely hoped. The moment by moment present companionship of Jesus in my mess mysteriously transforms it into something else. Bad experiences are worked for my good. Distraction becomes focus. Laziness is compelled to industry. Impatience melts into empathy. Anger rests in trust. Unforgiveness gives way to compassion. Pain and ecstasy coexist in love, and the long, dark night of sorrow gives way to bright morning rays of joy.

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Wide-eyed Dependence

The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them. Mark 10:14-16 MSG

“Jesus was irate and let them know it.” There were a few recorded times when Jesus was really upset about something. Thieves in the temple. Hard-nosed legalism. Well-meaning adults preventing children from coming to him.

The tenderness of Jesus toward children is something to be paid close attention to. Jesus is showing us the very heart of God in his response to the disciple’s attempts to hold the children back. You can imagine the crowds pressing in to get a word with Jesus, and his disciples, perhaps naturally, are heady with self-importance at being the guardians or inner circle to their very popular teacher. They take the responsibility upon themselves to filter those who may have access to Jesus. Not out of evil intent, but simply because they want to spare Jesus the trial of being swarmed by a bunch of grubby children and their trivial needs. “They’re just kids.”, they said, “Make room for the adults and more important people.”, they sternly warned. But the disciples in turning around were startled to see the fire of anger in Jesus’ eyes and were shocked by the wild fury of his love and tenderness for the hearts of children, revealing to all who his Father really is.

“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” John 14:9

I had the opportunity to volunteer at my church’s vacation bible school this week. I entered the week with a prayer in my heart because I have been lately aware of my “adult” self preventing the child inside me from coming to Jesus. “Renew my heart to the expectant wonder and unselfconscious trust of a child in my relationship with You, Papa.”, I prayed. I entered the week of VBS with the prayer that my eyes be open to see what Abba sees and adores in the heart of children, that perhaps I might recover some of what has been stolen from my own heart. My cynical, jaded, common-sensical, responsible, well-meaning, adult heart. And so I entered the chaotic world of 150 plus children in this way, and this is what He showed me:

Unselfconscious displays of affection. Honest emotion. Uncurbed creativity. Unashamed dependence. Unrepressed enthusiasm. Unhampered questions. Relaxed trust. Wild abandon. Instinctive tenderness.

The lance which pierced my heart and mind at the same instant was this realization. That’s Jesus! The very one in who’s image I am created.  The heart of Jesus is manifested in His stunning humility.  In His utter dependence on his Father. In His fierce love. In His unashamed longing. In His wild passion.

Children represent God’s heart toward us and his desire for our hearts toward Him. There is no other like my Father. My Papa. Abba. The servant God. The God who shows me how. The God who loved me first, that I may love. The God who abandoned Himself to me, that I may abandon myself to Him. The God who died first to show me how, that I might die to live. “Amazing Love, how can it be? That thou my God should die for me?”

As the week of VBS came to a close and as I reflected on the unexpected hugs, innocent questions, bold observations, enthusiastic love, and tender moments, the words of a song kept repeating in my mind as if Someone was playing it just for me.

Perplexing Generosity

Matthew 20:1

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.”

Imagine walking through the gates of Heaven, being warmly embraced by Jesus as He beams with love for you, and invites you to dine with Him at the table. As you look around for familiar faces, you see to your horror the pedophile who raped and murdered your 5 year old daughter as Jesus warmly embraces him and invites him to the table as well! How do you think you would feel? How do you feel now?

Still stunned, you begin to notice others mingling with the Apostle Peter, Corrie ten Boom, and Billy Graham. You see in amazement Adolf Hitler being ushered to your table. Rosie O’Donnell is conversing with Eric Liddel. King David shares a laugh with President Obama and Donald Trump. You think surely you must be dreaming, but the Presence of Jesus tells you differently. You are in Heaven with the worst of the worst and the best of the best. How do you feel as you sit down to dine, rubbing shoulders with such men and women in the shining presence of God? People who perhaps found Jesus at the very last moment of their lives. People who did such awful things or lived their whole lives mocking the Gospel and persecuting Christians.

“When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’” (Matthew 20:11-12) We went to church, dedicated our life to missions, fed the hungry, served the homeless, encouraged the weak, adopted the fatherless, suffered for the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus, loved Him with our whole heart for all our days! And they get the same treatment we do?!!

How does that make you feel?

“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’” (Matthew 20:13-15)

We are brought low by the astonishing generosity of God.

Thus is the unbridled, all-consuming, crazy love of God. The God who “so loved the world”. The God who desires all to be saved and mourns the loss of even one person. The Shepherd who leaves the 99 to recover the 1. The Daddy who runs out to gather the prodigal in his arms. The God who is completely Other, who does not have love but is love.

Can we accept God as Jesus says he is? Can we disabuse ourselves of the false god we may have constructed, in whatever form it has taken? Are we willing to see Him as he is, not how we think He should be?

The astonishing fact is that God loves me with the same 100% love he has for Jesus, which is His exact same 100% love for someone like the dictator Kim Jong Un. That is the God I love.

Be still and know……

Original Love

The passionate love of Jesus cannot be contained to one method or experience. The wild freedom of Jesus’ love cannot be put in a box or understood with the mind. His love flows out to us with infinite creativity from a wellspring of boundless depths. His displays of love toward us are as unique as each person he created. Our experience of his passion is very personal to each one of us. Every special love note from him is written specifically for one person. You. Me. The beauty of a view at the perfect moment is like a work of art painted by an artist for his lover. A piece of music touches your heart as if it were written only for you at that moment. A well-timed poem or written word jumps out of the page as if Jesus himself whispered them in your ear. A friend calls unexpectedly to encourage you. You are surprised by the joy of your own laughter as nature delights you with its playfulness.  The eyes of your heart are opened suddenly to understand that which had been hidden from you for so long. Jesus reveals himself in small ways every day to each of us individually beyond what we can imagine like the tender Lover he is. Do we see Him? Do we even notice?

Shortly after my own heart had been awakened by the kind love of God, I began to notice these love notes left by my Friend. One night, on Valentines Day, I was in good spirits as our church youth were serving  a couples dinner in a room off the gym which they had decorated for the occasion. My responsibility that night was to provide safety, and I spent much of the time in the parking lot. Now, this may not mean much to you and part of me feels silly sharing this, but I use it as an example of my own experience with the originality of Jesus’ love. As I walked the parking lot, I could hear the laughter and conversation as the sound carried itself out the open doors into the black, still February night. The stars were my sparkling canopy and the moon shone bright in the east. My mind was on the One who created all of this. Stars in the sky. Laughter and fellowship. Aware of my own aloneness on that night, yet knowing in my heart I was not at all alone, my eyes fell to the pavement and there the smooth finish of concrete was chipped away in the perfect shape of a heart. There was no way to mistake it. The message was as clear as if Jesus had stood in front of me and said it out loud. “I love you, Happy Valentines Day!” Laughter bubbled up inside my chest and I smiled so big I thought my face would crack. “Thank You, I love you so much!” I said out loud. I could feel him grinning back in pleasure at my surprise.

It’s the small things in a relationship which add up to the sum of its intimacy. When Jesus said giving food and water to the needy or visiting the sick or imprisoned was the same as doing it to him, it really doesn’t seem like that much. Of course it is the act of love that he is talking about. Do you think Jesus exempts himself from displaying his love for us through the little things each day? The hugs, kisses, and little affirmations we show to our loved ones if taken as individual acts are not much. But motivated by love and each act added to the next day after day, year after year can make the difference between intimacy and apathy. The passionate, mysterious, consuming love of God demonstrates itself in actions toward us every day. The cynical, religious, and rational mind will scoff, or at the very least quietly doubt. I have been all those things, and struggle with them still. The trusting, open, tender heart of a child sees the wonder in everything. As Brennan Manning says, “The engaged mind, illuminated by truth, awakens awareness; the engaged heart, affected by love, awakens passion…The love of Christ (not our love for Him, but His love for us) impels us. The integration of mind and heart shapes a unified personality living in a state of passionate awareness.”

Every life is a unique brush stroke painted in living color, combined to reveal who God is. Let the false personality you have built be washed away like a sand castle on the beach by the powerful waves of God’s measureless love for you. Abandon all to the good Papa and his loving kindness. Your true uniqueness is His very first gift to you, and the ways in which Jesus shows his love for you are special – meant just for you because he knows your heart. And remember, “Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you.” Oswald Chambers

Invitation to Intimacy

“Come to me”

Come to me and you will find a safe rest for your soul. Come to me, and I will transform you beyond imagining. Come to me all who’s hearts are weary and over-burdened. Come to me, whoever’s heart is shattered like glass. Come to me with your festering scars and cancerous sickness. Come to me, those who’s hearts are hungry and desperate with thirst. Come to me with unself-conscious abandon, as of a child to his Daddy. Come to me and I will never, ever turn you away.

Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened. Ask, and it will be given to you. Do not worry about tomorrow, our Father knows what you need. Do not condemn yourself for what you did yesterday, I don’t, and neither does Papa. As my Daddy loves me, so he loves you. He loves you as much as he loves me. He is never disappointed in you. He sees all your decisions beforehand. He is delighted in you, and longs for you just as I do. You are the Beloved.

Come to me. Find me. Know me. If you know me, you know Daddy. Dive in headfirst. Close your eyes and leap. Let go of “religion”. Do not obsess over “spiritual growth”. Stop striving and just know that I am Love. I am crazy with love for you. Abide in my love. Soak it up. Breathe it in, deeply. Know it, fully. I. love. you. Before you were. Every moment. Right now. You are enough. My love is enough. My love is Life.

Come!

“[Father], I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:22,23

 

 

Abba

You are my Daddy and I am the child you love.

When I wake up, I run to you. When I am hungry, I run to you. When I skin my knee, I run to you.  When I am frightened, I run to you. When my friend hurts my feelings, I run to you. When I have something to show you, I run to you. When I have a bad dream, I run to you. When I can’t reach, I run to you. When I don’t understand, I run to you. When I am lonely, I run to you. When I want to be held, I run to you.

You are my Daddy and I am the child you love.

You look at me with eyes full of tenderness, sparkling with laughter, glowing with delight, kind with concern. You listen attentively to my questions. You hear my cry to you in the night.

You are my Daddy and I am the child you love.

When I am at play, you smile. When I am being silly, you smile. When I am excited, you smile. When I try and fail, you smile. When I am sleeping peacefully, you smile.

You are my Daddy and I am the child you love.

When I fall down, you set me back on my feet. When I am hurt, you kiss the pain away. When I cry, your strong arms comfort me. When I am sick, you sit awake all night beside my bed. When I am lost, you drop everything to look for me. When nightmares haunt my sleep, you rock me on your lap. When we walk together, your warm hand is always there to hold.

You are my Daddy and I am the child you love.

I do not worry about my food. I do not wonder where I will get my clothing. I am not concerned about having a place to sleep.

You are my Daddy and I am the child you love.

You laugh with me in my joy. You weep with me in my sorrow. You delight in my successes. You are kind to me in my failures.

You are my Daddy and I am the child you love.

You mend what is broken. You heal what is wounded. You restore what is sick.

You are my Daddy and I am the child you love.

You are my hero and I know you can do anything.

You are my Daddy and I am the child you love.

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