Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Extravagant Love

Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. I Corinthians 13:13, MSG

I came across this Scripture quote in one of Gary Chapman’s books this morning, and I loved the Message’s interpretation. Trusting steadily in God isn’t always easy, so that reminded me how important it is for me to have a consistent relationship with Him, and to daily/actively/intentionally set my mind to trust in God, no matter what might occur as part of His plan for me.

Then comes an unswerving hope – the word “unswerving” was particularly fresh to me this morning because I had to swerve out of the way of a car that was drifting into my lane. But here I am prompted to do the exact opposite -- stay the course, hold strong and steady with perseverance and tenacity.

But then, ah then, I am told to love extravagantly. The dictionary definition of extravagant is: going beyond usual bounds; unrestrained. The word is originally from the Latin extra “outside of” and vagary “wander, roam”.

Extravagant – I love the sound of this word. I imagine saying it and tossing my arms wide open slowly – extraaaaavaaaagant! Not restrained, not frugally, but full force head on “bring it!” L-O-V-E!!!!! We are so careful and safe about showing feelings. We play games with one another, wear masks, hold back for fear of being wounded again, or sometimes it’s simply the fact that in this crazy busy day and age we just don’t even have time to think about nurturing a loving relationship with those we love the most. It’s just a day-to-day there-they-are hi-how-are-you kind of take-it-for-granted emotional sleepwalk.

But you know… things happen… and often we find ourselves faced with the regret of not having loved extravagantly, no matter why the reason. Before we know it, in a breath, we’ve lost an opportunity that can never be reclaimed.

I want to wander outside the norm of love – to go beyond the usual boundaries. On a foundation of trusting in God and hoping in Him, I want to run with arms and heart wide open, loving with every ounce of me that I’ve got, unafraid and extravagantly – so that someday my epitaph would include the phrase “Boy, she really knew what it meant to love – I always felt loved by her.”

If Christ loved me enough to open his arms wide on the cross just for me (the epitome of extravagant love), then surely I can follow His example and open my arms wide to others.

Monday, December 13, 2010

When We're in the Dark - "Streams in the Desert" Devotional for Today

Today's devotional is from the classic devotional book "Streams in the Desert"

Title: When We're in the Dark

"I will give thee the treasures of darkness" (Isa. 45:3).

In the famous lace shops of Brussels, there are certain rooms devoted to the spinning of the finest and most delicate patterns. These rooms are altogether darkened, save for a light from one very small window, which falls directly upon the pattern. There is only one spinner in the room, and he sits where the narrow stream of light falls upon the threads of his weaving. "Thus," we are told by the guide, "do we secure our choicest products. Lace is always more delicately and beautifully woven when the worker himself is in the dark and only his pattern is in the light."

May it not be the same with us in our weaving? Sometimes it is very dark. We cannot understand what we are doing. We do not see the web we are weaving. We are not able to discover any beauty, any possible good in our experience. Yet if we are faithful and fail not and faint not, we shall some day know that the most exquisite work of all our life was done in those days when it was so dark.

If you are in the deep shadows because of some strange, mysterious providence, do not be afraid. Simply go on in faith and love, never doubting. God is watching, and He will bring good and beauty out of all your pain and tears. --J. R. Miller

The shuttles of His purpose move
To carry out His own design;
Seek not too soon to disapprove
His work, nor yet assign
Dark motives, when, with silent tread,
You view some sombre fold;
For lo, within each darker thread
There twines a thread of gold.

Spin cheerfully,
Not tearfully,
He knows the way you plod;
Spin carefully,
Spin prayerfully,
But leave the thread with God.
--Canadian Home Journal

This classic devotional is the unabridged edition of
Streams in the Desert. This first edition was published
in 1925 and the wording is preserved as originally
written. Connotations of words may have changed over the
years and are not meant to be offensive.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
(Matthew 11:28-30, Message)

Once again I’ve done it – overcommitted my calendar, my time and my energy. I think this is a gift, really, as I do it so well and with such little effort. “Yes, I’ll be there! Sure, no problem, I can do that! Oh, won’t that be fun – would love to!” Boundaries? Margin? Oh, I start off with good intentions, and even put a scant bit of padding around some activities on occasion. But it’s a fleeting thing, and before I know it, quicker than a go’round on the hamster wheel, there I am again, full throttle into exhaustion.

What I love about this version of Matthew 11:28-30 is the simple phrase “unforced rhythms of grace”. Most days are forced for me: I have to force myself to get up in the morning, force myself to plod along (and try to stay awake), force myself to go here/there (often forcing myself not to speed), force myself to get to bed at a reasonable hour, force my brain to stop so I can actually fall asleep (unless, of course, I just drop into a coma because I’ve stayed up far too late). Ah yes, Luke Skywalker, the force is certainly with me – and making me crazy.

“Unforced rhythms of grace” – sigh… just reading and thinking those words immediately puts me into a calmer frame of reference. I envision a stream glittering in the sunlight, a lightly wooded path redolent with wildflowers, kissed with the soundtrack of nature. I actually begin breathing deeper and slower, and I feel the tension ease in every muscle. I think of the unforced rhythm of treetops as they gently dance in the wind.

Like the old hymn that Billy Graham used in his crusades, “Oh Lamb of God, I come… I come”. I want to recover the life You have planned for me, Father, not this insanity of days and nights cluttered and littered with this and that and the other thing. I am so addicted to busy I can’t even get out of my own way. I’m not even sure I remember how to sit down and focus for more than a minute or two. I come to You, to sit at Your feet, walk by Your side, and learn how to rest, to live freely and lightly. I raise my eyes to You to learn Your unforced rhythms of grace. I slip my hand into Yours, Abba – hold me tightly, and lead on. Let me walk with You today.