On Lines and Love

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My recliner tipped slightly to the right as my daughter placed her elbows and weight on the armrest. She was on her knees beside the chair, and her face was inches from mine. I turned my head to study her preteen face. The braces, the glasses, the innocence.

“Mom,” she said. “What do I do if a boy asks me to be his Valentine at school today? How do I say no nicely without hurting his feelings?”

I smiled and shifted my weight in the chair so I could face her fully. All the while I searched my brain for a decent answer. I decided to teach her one of the classics. You know, a version of the old let-down line; “It’s not you, it’s me.”

“Why don’t you just tell him that you don’t really do that? That you don’t have one specific Valentine person like that. That you want to have lots of friends.”

She thought about it for a moment then shrugged and said she guessed it would be nice enough.

I continued, “Having lots of friends is a good thing!”

She stood and nodded. Conversation over.

The topic of boys and relationships is simply on pause in her young life. I may try to live in denial, but I do know that soon enough, she’ll be hoping for Valentine suitors, and not asking for advice on how to reject them. And that’s a wonderful thing. Romance, love, marriage. They are gifts, and I hope and pray all of my children will experience each someday with great delight!

But, there’s also something to be said about love in the realm of friendship. And not just in Valentine season.

I’ve been to many weddings where 1 Corinthians 13, the so called “Love Chapter” was recited. It’s fine. The attributes of love listed in this passage are great principles for love within marriage and romance. Don’t get me wrong. But, this passage, in its context, is actually talking about a different type of love. Not romantic love, but the “I want to have lots of friends” type of love.

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, and in the context of chapter 13, he’s teaching about love within the Body of Christ. Unity among believers. He’s showing them that love is the be-all, end-all. He says:

 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

(1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Listen. We, as Christians, should never forget this; It’s not about what we DO for God. It’s about how we LOVE. 

And how should we love? Paul explains that too. He tell us in verses 4-8 what love should look like.

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.

But HOW do we love like this? How do we put this into practice when ugliness like comparison, selfishness, greed, and entitlement are so easy to focus on instead? Even among Christians. Or unfortunately, especially among Christians. So how do we love like Paul is teaching?

We find the HOW in the WHO.

Maybe we do need that one Valentine after all. Love Himself.

Jesus.

Jesus is actually the author of love, the One who created it. His plan of redemption is rooted in love. John 3:16 says,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For God so LOVED…

If we love Jesus and live for Him, He will teach us how to love. It will become an overflow of our love and relationship with Him. The more we love Him, the more we will learn to love as He loves. 

We learn to love when we focus on Him, not on ourselves or each other.

“It’s not you, it’s me.” I guess Jesus could use that ol’ line too.

And use it best of all.

 

 

 

 

Why It Is Okay To Live An Ordinary Life

Why it's okay to live an ordinary life.

Have you ever felt like your days are just mundane, ordinary, and without the excitement you see in the lives of those around you? I’m so sorry. Sometimes, I feel that way too.

One of the “Slices of Hope” from my book, If Only It Were a Piece of Cake, is:

“Without the ordinary, there would be no extraordinary.”

And, this time of year, I can’t help but think of the shepherds who were told about Jesus’ birth. Maybe this book excerpt about those guys will encourage you today.

Carry on, friend. God works and meets us in ordinary places. I’m so thankful that He does.

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The following is an excerpt from the Discontentment and Insecurity chapter of If Only It Were a Piece of Cake – Slices of hope for life’s difficult moments

 

My favorite biblical example of ordinary people, in an ordinary place, who experienced an extraordinary moment? The shepherds to whom the angels told of Jesus’ birth. Talk about people just doing their job and getting on with life. These guys probably hadn’t had an extraordinary existence until that evening. The fact that they were shepherds in a fairly small town proves their ordinariness. Not kings. Not movie stars. Not even lawyers or biology teachers. They took care of sheep for a living. Sheep. Maybe throw in some camels and goats, but still, they ranked pretty low on the prestige scale. They saw the same scenery each day and night. They were probably buddies, sitting around a fire most evenings, talking about nothing spectacular. Ordinary.

And then one evening everything changed.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, “Do not be afraid.” That he says this indicates they probably were a little freaked out. Who wouldn’t be? An angel shows up out of nowhere and tells them “good news that would bring great joy for all people.” (Luke 2.) The news that the Messiah had been born in their town. The One that would rule forever and bring peace and hope to all men was born in their town!

This is the best news they, or any of us for that matter, could have heard. This is life changing. This is world changing. This is eternity changing. The shepherds, just normal guys out with their sheep, heard the news first. And then they were given the opportunity to go see Jesus. They were among the very first to meet him personally.

Suddenly, their ordinary lives became extraordinary.

But notice this. They didn’t orchestrate it. They didn’t plan it. They really had nothing to do with it. They didn’t brainstorm or vision-cast, “Hey guys, let’s be the first to hear about the Messiah’s birth. Meet me in the field Christmas day. Wear your ugly sweaters.”

No! Of course not! They had nothing to do with the extraordinary. They just were doing their ordinary jobs, on an ordinary night, when God broke through the mundane and changed their worlds.

This makes me feel good. I can relate to the shepherds. I’ve never spent much face-to-face time with a sheep, but I’ve been known to live in some pretty ordinary moments. To know that living in the ordinary is all that is really required of me in order for God to show up and do the extraordinary, well that makes me smile.

 

For more, follow Christy on Facebook at Christy Cabe •Ten Blue Eyes•

You can find Christy’s books on Amazon, or learn more on her website here: https://christycabe.com/home/books/.

 

Outside the Ministry Zone – When God Leads You Down a Desert Road

Outside the ministry zoneHave you ever learned something new only to then read your own journal or notes and realize it isn’t actually the first time you’ve learned that very thing? You’ve learned this before, you just forgot!

Yeah, me too.

It happened to me again this week. I was doing my “homework” for BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). In this study, we go through one book of the Bible each year, chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse. I’ve been in BSF for about 9 years, and I enjoy the learning. The group discussions are so interesting. The lectures are illuminating. I even like the homework. (There’s almost never math involved, so that really helps!)

This week, we learned about Acts chapters 8 and 9. I read about Philip, who is a believer, and disciple of Jesus, going to Samaria and preaching and doing miraculous signs. Things go well. There’s a response. People hear and believe what he tells them about Jesus. The leaders of the early church, Peter and John, come and affirm his ministry there by praying for the Holy Spirit to come to these new converts.

Ministry is happening here.

And then I read further. Right after this ministry-rich time in Samaria, God asks Philip to

“Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Acts 8:26

Philip obeys. He travels down the desert road.

Wow, I thought, he’s going away from the perceived “ministry” spot, and going by himself on a desert road where there’s no ministry opportunities in sight.

And then I read what I’d written in ink in the margin of my Bible.

“Away from where the ‘ministry’ is happening.”

Oh. I’ve learned this before. Okay. Good thinking, Christy. Good thought.

Apparently, I need a refresher. I need to learn this anew. In this particular season of my life, this idea means something different to me than it must have years ago when I wrote with a pen in my Bible’s margin.

Let me be clear. God’s Word doesn’t change. It was true last time I read it too. And, I am not to take verses out of context, or make them mean only what I want them to mean. But, God’s Word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and it teaches me and impacts me in fresh ways as I apply it to different seasons and experiences in my life.

Such is the case with this passage.

This week, I was struck by the fact that Philip could have thought that his ministry opportunity for the day, or the week, was complete. Check that off the scroll, buddy! Good work.

But it turns out a man, an Ethiopian guy, was on this desert road, sitting in a chariot reading the Old Testament book of Isaiah, and needing someone to help him understand it.

The man was not in the perceived, “ministry zone,” but away from everyone else. He was in the desert. On the side of the road. Not waiting for Triple A, but waiting for someone to help him find The Way.

And Philip was God’s chosen instrument that day. God partnered with him to help this Ethiopian understand who Jesus is.

For me, in the season of life I’m in right now, I sometimes get into a rut of thinking that ministry is a “regularly scheduled program.” My husband is in full-time ministry. He has official ministry duties. I write and speak about faith and hope. Ministry does happen in these zones.

But, who is out the ministry zone waiting for me to help them know Jesus?

Is it the woman cutting my hair in the salon?

Is mom in line behind me at Starbucks?

Is it my own child who wants me to take time to listen and help them understand something they’ve been wondering through in their faith?

Philip was so obedient to travel down the desert road with no ministry plan or programming in place. He just climbed up into this guy’s chariot and started right where the Ethiopian was reading and told him about Jesus from there.

I like that.

What empty seat can I slide into? What searching heart can I help? Am I listening to God’s leading and allowing myself to partner with Him where He calls me?

I hope I can put this thought into practice. That’s what really helps me learn something for good – putting it into action.

Writing it in my margin was a good start. This time, I’m looking for the chariot on the side of the road.

How I define success. (Now THAT’S a great name!)

I held my phone in my hand and glanced down to see her message waiting for me. I sensed her desire for a solid answer she could grasp onto as well.

“I hate feeling like I’m running in the dark with this thing. Like what’s good, what’s not so good?”

She was wanting a definition for success for a particular project. I get it.

I want that too.

Success is such a slippery little noun. Hard to define. Hard to pin down.

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I’ve actually been thinking about it a lot this week, even before her message arrived in my inbox. Abraham brought it up. Well, not directly, but by reading about him as I studied for a class I was teaching.

I had just finished studying about the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament. Weird story. Basically, to summarize, a group of people “wanted to make a name for themselves,” (Genesis 11:4)  and so they tried to build a tower to Heaven. There are other indicators in the story that they were being disobedient to God’s commands, and so because of all this, they are punished. Their languages are mixed up and they can’t understand each other or work together.

“Simeon, hand me that brick, will ya?”

“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”

“No Comprendo.”

Anyhow, their desire to build a name for themselves, without God, led them to confusion and disappointment.

I kept reading in Genesis. God enters into a deal with Abraham (then called Abram) and basically tells Abram that if he obeys and worships God, making known that God’s name is great and worthy to be followed, then God will make Abram’s name great in the eyes of men. There’s the same “making the name great” thing again. But this time, it’s approved by God. But the route to get there is different. 

The people of Babel wanted to make their own name great, without God, and it led to failure.

Abram wanted to make God’s name great, and it led to success.

Abram’s desire to make God’s name great even led him to his God-given purpose.

So here’s what I gather from all of these tower-building, deal-making, success-defining thoughts.

“I hate feeling like I’m running in the dark with this thing. Like what’s good, what’s not so good?”

What’s good: Obeying God and making His name great

What’s not so good: Making your own name great without God

The rest is just a pile of bricks.


This essay was written as part of the Five Minute Friday challenge where bloggers are asked to write for 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: SUCCESS

 

Fruit•it•ta•tion

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I turned my back to the class of fifth graders in order to write their responses on the marker board. The chatter continued behind me.

I had placed the students from my midweek church class into groups and had asked each to read from Genesis in their Bibles to discover what God made during each of the six days of creation.

“I have day 3! We know it!” one of the boys shouted.

“Go ahead. What did you find in Genesis chapter one?”

“On the third day, God made land and vegetation.”

I nodded and wrote with the smelly dry-erase marker again.

Day 3 – Land and Vegetation.

“That’s right.” I confirmed. “Now, can you tell me in your own words what vegetation is?”

“Oh sure! Vegetation is what vegetables grow on, and fruititation is what fruit grows on.”

I should have turned my back again, because I laughed out loud – right to his young, eager face. A technique surely not recommended in the teacher handbook.

“You’re right about the vegetation, but fruititation is not a word. Fruit grows on vegetation as well.” I said, bursting his bubble and maybe wounding his pride.

But, I’ve got to admit, I like the word.

Fruititation.

It’s really growing on me.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about fruit. The kind of fruit that we bear in our lives, and how it’s seasonal, just like the kind of fruit we pick, whether from trees or the produce department.

Recently, I walked through the hallway at church, on a Sunday morning, and was stopped by a friend. She told me she’s in a small group Bible study, and they are currently using my book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels, as their study guide. I was shocked and humbled.

Really?

She went on to tell me that they’d been having such great conversations within the group and were learning so much. I thanked her and walked away in a daze.

My mind wandered back to the hours I sat in my home office with tight shoulders and an exhausted brain. It took me three years to write that book! I literally spent days in front of a blinking cursor pouring my heart onto the page. I devoted time, tears, and cash preparing for the book launch.

One specific night, I stayed up well past midnight adjusting margins and headers, section by section, in my manuscript. It was tedious, boring, and frustrating work. I did not enjoy it. I remember being tired and annoyed.

I came back to the present and walked up the stairwell in the church that leads to and from the childrens’ classrooms. I had just dropped my own children off, and was now heading back up the steps. I passed two kids carrying their Bibles and curriculum. I wrote the curriculum they carried. The kids had their arms wrapped around it as they walked past me on the steps.

Again, my mind flashed back to the season before that curriculum was finished. I spent months writing the content, years teaching it and fine-tuning it, a solid year giving it a “makeover” and learning graphic design tricks and tools to make that possible. I put a lot of sweat equity into that curriculum.

And now, preteens, whom I don’t even know, are carrying it with them to class on a Sunday morning and unknowingly passing the author on the steps on their way.

Could this be the culmination of fruititation?

Is this the wonderful cycle of bearing fruit?

Those tedious and seemingly wasteful hours of mundane and difficult work are important. In fact, they are more than important.

They are a vital part of the fruititation cycle.

Vital how? Vital because during those tedious tasks, the not-yet fruit was being tended. It wasn’t time for the fruit to be picked, but time for it to be watered, cultivated, lovingly pruned, and painstakingly nurtured.

The fruit wasn’t yet ripe. It was out of season. And being out of season usually means it can’t be seen. It’s not ready.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t growing.

David, the psalmist, wrote about this in Psalm 1.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

David mentions the tree that is planted and prosperous. But, he also mentions that the tree yields its fruit in season.

In season.

Not always. Sometimes the tree does not have visible hanging fruit. But it’s still a fruit tree.

Sometimes my efforts are not publically visible either. They are margin moving, cursor crunching, photo editing, head gripping, tear rendering, heart stirring moments of cultivation.

And sometimes, the fruititation cycle in my life has nothing to do with writing, but with raising kids, cultivating my marriage, planting seeds of deep and meaningful friendships, and tending the soil of my own heart. It looks like difficult, honest conversations that would be easier to avoid, midnight touches of warm foreheads and beeps of the thermometer, tough love and deliberate discipline that wrings your heart into a knot, intentional time set aside for listening and truly seeing the needs of a friend, and daily surrender to selfish desires.

It’s a struggle. A daily toil.

But the cultivation leads to the culmination of fruititation.

The fruit becomes visible. But only for a time. It won’t last forever. It’s just ripe for a bit.

But oh, how fun it is to see others enjoy it!

I am thankful for the moments when the fruit of my life is juicy, and ripe, and ready. But I’m also thankful for the reminder to press on in my daily, mundane, unnoticed, and often frustrating cultivating efforts.

Because they are vital.

Without them, fruititation is just a made-up word.