No Valentine Left Behind Part 1

  The warmth of Jesus’ presence is so satisfying.  It is so sweet to hear Him whisper for you to come away alone with Him for a while.  In silence and in song, there is no place so loving as His embrace.  Why do we come back to our day to day lives?  Not because His love loses its comfort, but because we cannot bear to see others without this same love.

Valentine’s Day has become a special time with Jesus for me.  Previously, Anna and Tai have given us some great advice on how to keep Jesus as the center of your Valentine’s Day, even if you’re single.  When our cup begins to overflow, and we see His heart and His eyes of compassion, what can we do but share it?  Valentine’s Day has such a strong focus on love and sweetness, that it can also end up highlighting pain and loneliness in our lives and the lives around us.  What an opportunity to share the love of Jesus.

Whom do you have in your life that might need a touch of Jesus’ love?

The first people that came to mind for me are single moms.  Being single at all on Valentine’s Day can be tough.  A single mom carries a great deal of responsibility for the little hearts she holds, but it is not always easy for her to have those heart-to-heart conversations of her own.  This could be for any number of personal or practical circumstances.  Perhaps there is a single mom near you who could use a ray of Jesus’ joy in her life.
Even if you don’t know someone very well, flowers can be a sweet reminder that she is loved.  God didn’t have to finger-paint the plants in order for them to thrive, but He just loves to delight our hearts.  Can you believe how many beautiful things He has made?

In the same way, receiving the gift of flowers can bring so much light into a busy or stressful day.  They can be such precious windowsill reminders of God’s love.

It might take you out of your comfort zone to give flowers to someone if you don’t know her well, but don’t underestimate how much of a blessing a sincere smile can be.  It often touches people’s hearts more than they show it, and it certainly blesses Jesus to see His daughter sharing His heart with the ones He loves.

If you know her well, you may be in a position to take her out for coffee, lunch, or on a shopping trip.  You might even know her well enough to surprise her with a favorite latte at work, or to set up a chance for her to get a manicure.

Don’t forget the kiddos!  Every mom is different, and every phase of parenting every child is different.  Some moms might need a chance to regroup before they get back to tying shoes and giving goodnight kisses.  Maybe she might like some one-on-one adult conversation, and appreciate the offer to baby sit while she catches up with a friend.  Other moms might have the best Valentine’s Day ever taking a packed lunch to the park or sharing laughter with her kids and her friends over ice cream.  Sometimes the best way to let a friend know that Jesus loves her is to show her that He loves her kids.

Keep close to Jesus in prayer as you consider what Valentines He might call you toward.  Every situation is different, but He will lead you where He means for you to be His light, even if that means spending more time alone with Him before He tells you how His love will overflow through you.  Even so, don’t be afraid to share a smile and a loving word with those around you.  A little love can go a long way.

by Stephanie H.

Part 2 of this serial will be available next week.  In the meantime, how has the Lord blessed you when you were lonely, Valentine’s Day or otherwise?  Have you ever followed His direction to show love to someone even though you were nervous?  Send us a message or let us know in the comments.  We absolutely love hearing from you!

A Single Purpose

It hasn’t always been easy being single.  Even in learning to rely on Jesus, and truly seeing Him as my beloved, there are some times of loneliness that still come up.  I am at the point in my life where I can really resonate with what Katie Davis Majors wrote about singleness, and just really being happy (maybe a bit stubbornly so) with the thought of life being just me and Jesus, together forever.

But what is a single person supposed to do?  Each of us has an individual calling from the Lord, but it can seem like married couples have a clearer map to follow than single people.  There is so much to learn about caring for and considering another person even before children come along, and then life is a whirlwind of keeping them fed, loved, and in one piece through terrible twos and teens years, and then teaching them to be adults and parents for themselves.

That’s certainly an oversimplification of the process, but to a single person, it can be hard to figure out where to focus your energy if not on finding a way to get married and start a family.

Culture tells us that this is this is the season for self-love and self-discovery, but, as Tai and Anna have written before, that way of thinking never gets us very far. We can do all “twenty things to do while you’re in your twenties” and still come out more confused than before we started.  What is easy to overlook is that all of culture leans this way.  A focus on “me time” is more noticeable in the lives of singles because they seem to have less of an obligation to take care of others.  God’s people were not meant to live this way.

In Matthew chapter twelve, Jesus said that “whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (verse fifty)  And in the book of Acts, “not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” (Acts 4:32) 

God’s people were made to be a family: a family that extends beyond our blood relatives.  As Tai wrote, that does not mean that we have to be stay-at-home daughters until are married.  But it also doesn’t mean that our lives must be mainly focused on our own interests or on our work lives.

One profound way I have been learning to be a part of God’s family is by using the time I have to support my brothers and sisters who do have greater family commitments.  I am still at a stage of life where there are not many variables that would make it hard to change up my schedule if I need to do something.  I cannot imagine how great a responsibility it is to support a family at work, go home and make sure they are fed, loved, and doing well in school, maybe staying up with them at night when they are sick, then getting them up for school in the morning and doing it all over again.  Some of my colleagues do this sort of thing every day, and it is a huge blessing to me to know that I can help them in it by picking up odd tasks (turns our I love doing certain kinds of paperwork), or filling in if a sick family member needs care that day.  An added bonus is that I have also been learning many things that will be a huge benefit when I have a family of my own.  And that is just my own experience.  There are so many people who could use a little more family support.  The elderly might need a chat or a hand with the heavy lifting.  Maybe a single mom could use a friend stopping by for some girl time, a grocery shopping buddy, or a babysitter for the evening so she can wear jewelry again.  A dear pastor or leader might appreciate the lawn mowed so he can spend time with his family or take care of some of God’s other family members.

As a single person, I also have fewer complications if the Lord calls me to the mission field.  It might not be your call, but it is a reason to be in prayer.

If you’re not yet called to sell everything and move into the jungle, think about how you do use your resources.  If you have a good job and a family support network, you might have the opportunity to splurge on hobbies and hanging out with friends more often than others people who are supporting families. In what ways could you be supporting God’s family?  What are some of the dreams, needs, or wishes among your friends, church family, or community?  Is there a woman at church who could use some flowers today?  Is there a younger person who might need a big sister to take them for ice cream?  Has an emergency come up for a friend, making it harder to make ends meet?  Would it really make a friend’s day if someone caught the check at lunch?  This can be a tricky subject, since some people find it embarrassing when when another person meets their financial needs.  There are also cases where giving money might encourage a harmful lifestyle.  Always been in prayer about how the Lord can best use what you have, but don’t be afraid to overcome your inhibitions when He shows you how to bless His family.

Be especially generous with your prayers.  Just knowing that someone else is willing to take a few minutes out of their day to intercede for them really touches so many people’s hearts.  So many of these things can be great random acts of kindness, but take it a step forward and get to know and love the hearts of your family in Christ.   Don’t be afraid to adopt someone!  Take the love Jesus has given you and show His family how He cares for them.  He’ll use His family to take care of you too.

by Stephanie H.

Meek, and Riding on a Donkey

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is vindicated and victorious,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
~Zechariah 9:9

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem was anything but what the world expected from a king.  By that time, the land of Israel had been occupied by Roman rulers for generations.  Many must have been familiar with illustrious Roman generals parading through the streets of conquered cities, perhaps even Jerusalem, on a high-stepping war horse, arrayed in all his glory, and followed by prisoners of war and the spoils of fallen nations.  Now here is a man who may be their hope to be on top again.  They wave patriotic palm branches, the symbol of Israel as a free nation, and cry out, “Hosanna! Free us from the Romans!”  They grew so used to trusting in the things of the world, that they forgot what the Lord had promised about His coming Son.  Even as they cried out, “Hosanna to the son of David!” they did not remember what had made David a man after God’s own heart.

Interestingly, the people of Israel may have recognized that Jesus was following the example of David when He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  When the Lord was instructing the Israelites in one day having a king, He told them that the king was not to have many horses (Deuteronomy 17:16).  Not only did God want His people to keep from being led astray by the influence of Egypt again, but He also knew that a king who sought to make the office of earthly kingship too lofty and glorious by means of the beauty and strength of horses would soon forget his duty as a servant to God’s people.  They would also come to trust in their own strength more than in the presence of the Lord to guide them.  During his reign, David and his sons rode donkeys and mules, and David himself, though he kept a few chariots as spoils of war, knew that the battle belonged to the Lord.

Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.
~Psalm 20:7

God meant for all of the kings of Israel to follow the example that would be set by His Son, the humble Chief Shepherd and the Lamb of God.  The fact that the religious leaders abused their position of authority to take advantage of the poor and leave the sinners without restoration grieved and angered Him.

It might not have surprised the people of Israel to see a king of the Jews riding on a donkey, but the particular donkey may have surprised them.  While the other gospels mention only a colt, Matthew 21 speaks as though the colt and the mother were both brought along.  Some scholars suggest that Jesus may then have ridden a nursing mother donkey with her foal trailing along with her.  Others suggest that the colt, having never been ridden, would not have been especially well-groomed or yet well-tempered enough to make a very good mount.  I don’t know which it was, but both would mean two things: the ride would be slow, and tongues would surely wag.  Both are also things we have seen Jesus do, and things we can learn to do ourselves.  Imagine following a King who gently nudges a mother donkey down the street, never going so quickly that her foal gets left behind.  We start to see what kind of approach we must take when we exercise pure religion.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
~James 1:27

Or imagine following a King who is not ashamed to be seen mounted on a scruffy colt, one which is nervous of crowds, and still uncertain about having a rider.  Yet He is patient when it shies away from the shouting and from His touch.  Can we keep ourselves unstained from the world to the point that we can exercise such patience before everyone we know?

It can be so easy for me to get caught up in a mission, or a program schedule, or even my alone time with the Lord.  Yet the march of the army of the kingdom of Heaven is set at the pace of the most lowly; the most novice.  Jesus stopped for the woman with the issue of blood, stopped for the children to be blessed, stopped for the paralytic lowered through the roof, went miles out of His way to free the man possessed of a legion of demons, and stopped for the broken girl with the perfect church life and nothing to live for.

That is where He finds us all: off the beaten path.  Even so, He takes us with Him and offers us a place of honor as He enters Jerusalem.  Look at the rest of the triumphal parade.  Prisoners of war free at last from the enemy!  Look what rich spoils.  A blind beggar who received his sight, a woman from whom were cast seven demons, lepers, fishermen, tax-collectors, Gentiles!  Children as His heralds, singing in the streets!  It is the way of our Lord to be gentle and patient as He leads His children to know His ways.  His most glorious earthly moment was in the company of the most humble and lowly.  As He leads you, remember to stop and take the hands of overlooked and the unkempt, the bruised reeds and the smoldering wicks.  See what precious hearts Jesus has yet to add to His joyful family parade.

 

by Stephanie H.