What It Really Means To Love

Hello beautiful people!

I have been on a serious vintage Kirk Franklin kick lately…I mean completely bypassing his newer albums for the oldies but goodies. I’m talking about way on back to God’s Property! (GP, y’all, C’MON!) The CD that I have been bumpin’ nonstop since last week is this one:

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This CD has some gems that I still remember: Stomp, My Life Is In Your Hands, and The Storm Is Over Now, but my current favorite is Love.

“Love/a word that comes and goes/but few people really know/what it means to really/love somebody/ohh love/though the tears may fade away/I’m so glad your love will stay/Because I love you/and you show me/Jesus/What it really means to love”

This song has me spending a lot of time thinking about how the word “love” is thrown around like money at the mall. People use it to  denote something that they like even slightly, to show sentiment to people that they wouldn’t honestly miss, and to cover unimportant things like shoes and shows. What this means, though, is that a lot of times, we are moving through this world with heart muscles that aren’t being used to their full potential.

My thoughts on this subject are twofold, but before I get into them, it bears repeating that the prototype for love IS God. I know that there are many who would beg to differ, but I stand firm in the belief that loving/knowing God (and moreover grasping His love for me)has made me more able to love others in every aspect of my life, and more able to see love for what it is. I am a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend and a better teacher because I know God…and in my mind, it has everything to do with intent.

I have a question for you, darling. Take a good, hard look at yourself, and ask yourself which of these three categories you fall in: are you nice, are you generous, or do you love sacrificially? This isn’t designed to make people feel bad, but if we are in the world claiming to love and be loved by an enormously good God, and we are made in b’tzelem Elohim (made in the image of God), then we are challenged to live in a way that extends beyond our comfort zone. So which are you? Do you love and do for others only to the very point where it is convenient? Do you go further and lavish others? Or are you willing to love on people to the point where you yourself feel stretched?

I asked my Facebook friends for a good example to further demonstrate these different levels of love, and my good friend Brandi came up with this:

Nice is the coworker that is going to lunch that says “hey, I’m headed to _____. Would you like something?” The gesture was sweet, because they didn’t have to, but trust and believe that if you mentioned being hungry and they weren’t going anywhere, you would’ve gotten no response.

Generous is the coworker that takes it a step further. They are the coworker that goes out to lunch and brings you back something without asking and without waiting on payment. You may offer to pay them back, and they may or may not rebuff the offer, but the gesture of them grabbing something that they know you’d like sticks with you.

Then we have Sacrificial Love. I know that I am not the only person that, despite the best laid plans, has come up short on money at some point. Your “big deals”–rent, car note–are taken care of, but you are scraping bottom, babysitting cups of yogurt and cans of tuna fish. Baby, you are on the struggle bus!

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You found 4 dollars between the car seats and realize that that is just enough to drive on over to McDonalds and scrabble together something that looks like lunch. You get back, ready to tear into your sandwich and fries or McPick Two or whatever they are marketing nowadays and realize that your coworker one cubicle over has even less than you do.They are sitting at their desk making a meal out of Altoids and drinking water. Even though you don’t have anymore money, and even though you were really looking forward to that food, something in you just KNOWS (only you can describe what that knowing feeling is) and you hand over that meal to the person who needs it more than you do.

What is the prototype for this kind of love, you may ask? As with everything I say here, the original model comes straight from His word. Two scriptures:

John 15:13 English Standard Version (ESV)

13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Heart question: Just how much are you willing to lay down for someone that YOU love? Jesus was willing to give it all, sacrificially. Knowing that He was setting himself up for some serious heartbreak and pain, He still died.

Romans 12:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Heart question: How are you seeking to outdo in showing honor? Are you doing just enough, or is the way you love stretching the world’s boundaries of what it means to go “all in”.

Looking at Kirk Franklin’s song, the methodology is clear: Few people have the knowledge or inclination to truly, sacrificially love, but luckily there is always an example to show us how.

Friends, I charge you to look at the way you act. The words that come out of your mouth. The gestures you show towards friends and moreover towards those that you have no logical reason to extend yourself for. Let’s show the world what it really and truly means to love.

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

From Head To Toe…

Hello beautiful people!

I am reporting from home because of yet ANOTHER snow day…which would be fabulous if it weren’t for the fact that it is in the mid-forties right now and there seems to be a gentle breeze blowing outside of my living room window. From what I hear, sidewalks were pretty icy last night and this morning though, so rather than complaining, I’ll just sit here dreaming up new ways to have a barbecue on school property since we’ll be there until late July at this rate. 😉

While looking for something else last night, I came across this prayer technique for parents to use when praying for their children–praying for them from head to toe. This picture or prayer outline or war strategy or whatever you’d like to call it put a new significance on each of 8 body parts and asked for God to move through each one:

IMG_7228 Deep, huh?

(The source is Facebook, yet I don’t know the page. Just know that it isn’t mine and I’m not claiming it as such.)

I am a huge fan of praying over my classroom and over my students. I remember my mother praying over me often, and I often think of it as her own little slice of commending me back into God’s care: She would pray that I show wisdom at school, cover me when my little teenage heart got broken, and hilariously enough, I remember getting in trouble and being sent to my room and listening in sullen silence as she prayed ABOUT me…probably the last thing she knew how to do before going Madea on me. To this day, even at 28 1/2, she is still one for sending me encouraging text messages, notes, and prayers. I don’t know how many of my kindergarteners have someone at home that is contending for their well being and good judgement, so I happily start most days in the quiet of my classroom praying over each of their chairs, praying that they have had enough sleep and were shown love, talking to God about them by name, and praying on specific topics for specific kids as they come to mind, such as dealing with frustration, peace at home for one I know has a rough situation, or treating others with kindness. All in all, the process doesn’t take long but it leads me into the day with a sense of readiness.

Then I got to thinking…the one thing that is hardest for me as an exhorter is praying over myself and encouraging myself the way that I do other people. Surely, God still speaks, right? Surely the God that made the moon and stars with a purpose thought enough of me to give me a purpose too…and as much as not doing life by yourself is vital, you (I) HAVE t be able to speak words of life over ourselves when no one else is able to, or even when they are.

So before I head to class tonight, darling, I figured I’d use the above picture to craft a head to toe prayer of my own. This is for me, for you, for you to pass on to anyone who needs to remember that all things work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to His purpose. That being said, all of these pieces and parts of His creation must work together.

Father God, I come before you realizing that you have already seen today. There is nothing that will cross my path that you aren’t already aware of. I thank you for that security and peace of mind, I thank you for being covered, and I acknowledge and am grateful for your protection. Lord, I know that you know every hair on my head and that you’ve crafted me to do something that is important and that even if I don’t always know what that is, you do.

I pray for calmness and soundness of mind. Your Word says that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self control, and I know that others can see Christ resting on me in how I react to people. I ask that you help me to think before I react.
I pray for eyes that can see purpose in the everyday–that notice those interactions or opportunities that you have set before me and never brush those off as being random occurrences.
I pray for ears that hear as much of what people DON’T say as what they do–that can excise a hurt spirit from behind anger and irritation and sadness or regret from behind callous words. Please let me never take people for granted and assume that all of what I can hear is all of what there is.
I pray for a mouth that consistently looks to uplift and encourage people: students, coworkers, friends, family, and myself. The gift of speech is too precious, and let me never dirty that gift by gossiping, complaining without the goal of a solution to the problem, tearing a person down or breaking their spirit.
I pray for a heart that emotionally does its job the same as it does biologically: I pray for all of the dirt and the toxins that run through me as I get overwhelmed or just from exposure to this cruel world that we live in. I pray that what goes back out is fresh, is clean, and provides edification.
I pray for the strength to stand upright in what I believe in…that I not give into the temptation to shy away from what I know to be the truth in order to make other’s comfortable. I pray for the courage to stand erect in the face of social poison, political warfare, and  worldwide injustice based solely on the color of my skin.
I pray for hands that hug, that comfort, that heal, that high five, that hold tight, that clasp in prayer and that are simultaneously able to quickly and cleanly let go of people and situations that are not for my betterment. It is never fun to make those decisions, yet the end is worth the means.
And I pray that you always, ALWAYS order my steps, that you carry me towards people that  so urgently need to hear a word from you OR that I need to hear a word from. I pray that I am aligned with iron so that we may chase You and our purposes together and never suffer from worldly negative feelings of envy or regret. Allow me to walk beside people who don’t have a heart of competition, who genuinely want us ALL to win, and who cheer just as hard for my successes as they do for their own. Lord help me to be that person for the people that you place in my life and never disrespect my blessing.

Thank you and AMEN.

Be blessed,
StephTheScribe

When Your Blessing Is Packaged Differently

Hello beautiful people!

A few weeks ago, my aunt ordered a textbook that I needed for this semester (that cost an arm and three legs, but I digress…) off on Amazon. Attempting to save a few bucks, she didn’t order a new copy with Prime availability, choosing instead to use one of their authorized resellers and purchase a “like new” copy.

I waited for that textbook…and I waited…a week passed and then two, I had already had the first session of the class, and right as I sent my aunt an email saying “this book never showed up”, there it was…waiting on me at the do’.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about endurance.

This could be for many different reasons. One, because my night classes started this week after being postponed due to the weather. Not thinking about the fact that these teachers had to make up for lost time just like we did in the classroom, I expected a run of the mill easy first week in all of my classes. I figured we’d introduce ourselves, go through the familiar litany of name-major-life goals, have the syllabus that was already posted online read to us in minute detail (grrr), and that would be it! Right?

Nope.    ruff

These teachers meant business. I walked out of all of my classes with reading assignments, discussion posts, and prompts for papers. Sigh…endurance definitely needed there.

But I am also thinking about endurance because I am beginning to see the manifestation of some things that I’ve been praying for during and after this fast season that I went through. Fasting is a time where we consciously take a step back from all the things that we let distract us and take up time that we could be using to get closer to God; basically saying that our flesh and impulsivity doesn’t rule us. We use that time to pray, to study, to worship, and miracles happen when we pursue God with that single-mindedness.

Sometimes, the things that we pray for with that intensity show up almost instantly. We see God move and it provides this charge like “You do see me…You hear me!” but sometimes we pray…and we wait…and we wait. Then, we wait some more.waiting

I’m not ashamed to say that I have become frustrated with waiting, y’all—for that man, for that job opportunity, for that “whatever it is” that I have prayed for. And I have also been guilty of saying “forget it!” and attempting to bring about what I asked God for under my own strength, and without fail, one of two things happens:

  1. I mess it up.
  2. I spend precious time and energy stressing and worrying over something that wasn’t mine to shoulder.

There are something like 53 different scriptures in the Bible that talk about God’s timing, but one of my favorite comes from Habakkuk 2:3:

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

There is so much GOODNESS in that verse, man! There is the fact that the vision–that move from God, that situation that you have been praying on is waiting–it is there! There is a reassurance for if it seems slow to come…God already knew we’d wonder what the holdup was. There is even the reinforcement of “surely”. God is like I said it and I MEANT it.

I prayed during the fast for several things, some of which I have seen come to pass. The school I work for had it’s contract renewed, and family members who were dealing with various health issues are seeing lights at the end of the tunnel. But there are things that I have been praying for since long before the fast that haven’t shown any sign of changing. The temptation is there for me to go out and solve these things myself. The difference (after learning the hard way sometimes) is that I know enough about the God I serve to wait for Him to move–knowing that what He brings to pass will be for my good in a way that nothing that I engineered on my own could be.

Try your best to endure…know that you are loved by a God that imbues everything and everyone with a purpose and seeks to align our lives so that that purpose is made clear.

He has made everything beautiful in it’s time…Ecclesiastes 3:11