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Sunrise Reminder

I have a photo of a sunrise on my bookshelf. Just a basic 4×6 image in a frame. But this sunrise means more to me than other time I’ve seen the sun come up.

About 16 years ago I surrounded myself with people and things I couldn’t resist. Honestly, I didn’t even try to resist. I went in knowing exactly what would happen.

So in the early morning hours…I got in my car and headed home overflowing with guilt and shame.

Here I was saved, baptized, Holy Spirit filled…and in one night I threw it all away and did everything I swore I would NEVER do again.

I was ashamed, and felt like a worthless human, and then I drove around a corner to this sunrise…

I pulled to the side of the road, and sobbed. And sobbed. Full scale ugly cry.

With tears still streaming, I took this photo with a disposable camera to remember this moment.

Why?

In the instant I saw this sunrise, I heard God’s voice tell me He loved me .

In that moment I understood grace for the first time.

In that moment something changed in my mindset about mistakes, sin, and bad behavior. God was against sin and bad behavior because it hurt ME. It affected ME. It broke ME. He hated what sin did to His daughter.

He did not hate me because I screwed up/sinned/made mistakes.

He had not stopped loving me because I “backslid.”

Me He loved.

Sin He hated.

This was a life changer for me.

Point to ponder while you wander…

This sunrise image reminds me that His grace covers my mistakes, as I grow into who He made me to be.

AND

His grace empowers me to do things I could never do alone.

Today I can do things with Jesus I could never do by myself. Even if I blow it and screw up today, I am loved.

Love is a Verb: Quality Time

Between all the “have tos” in life is this precious substance called time.
Time is finite. Only 24 hours per day. 7 days per week. 52 weeks per year.

Time is not guaranteed. You do not know how many of these 24 hour days you’ll have.

So each of those days has so much value.

Yet we groan every Monday and beg for Friday to roll around. I’m just as guilty, believe me. I love the freedom of my weekends. Sleeping in. Alone time. Bliss.

Being introverted…I NEED alone time. And trust me when I say all y’all around me should cheer that I take alone time. I’m nicer as a result. 😉

But quality time with my people is priceless and delicious, and I need that too. I feel loved and show love by giving people my time. I do my very best to have one on one time with each of my nieces and nephews. To pour into them. To listen to them. To find out who they are and see where I can support, encourage, or dream with them. I find out how to pray for them. And let’s face it…they are a blast those kids. Seriously fun. I love them. More than they can possibly imagine.

Quality time doesn’t have to be long periods of time. But you do need to be engaged with the other person. Focused on them. Not the tv. Not your phone. Not social media. But actively listening and talking with the other person.

Quality time can be as simple as taking a walk with a friend. I miss the Walkie Talkies I used to have with my friend Kate (I moved so we are several states away now), and the deep meandering discussions I had with my friend Rachel on our walks together. Quality time can be going to breakfast the same time every week for decades, like my Papa did with his big brother, Bob. Quality time can also be a weekend away or a road trip.

But here’s the tough part about quality time, we simply do not have enough time in the day to give quality time to every single person we know. It is physically impossible. So with limited resource of time and the 2 commandments of Jesus (loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves), how can we best invest our quality time?

Well…the best example of time management was a man who only lived for 33 years on this earth. His name is Jesus. Jesus loved with all that He had. He knew how to be a servant. He spoke words of life. He gave the ultimate gift. His touch healed every single person that He touched. Literally every single one. And He understood how to balance His time.

He rested, and invested in Himself with alone time. He spent time with the Father. These two things are essential if you want to have anything to give to anyone else. Quality time with yourself + Quality time with Father God = A Filled Up You. Therefore, a better you at work, school, or where you “have to” go every day. If Jesus couldn’t love the World without alone time and God time, neither can you.

A filled up Jesus was then capable of pouring the love He received from the Father out into the world. Jesus loved everyone He encountered. But it was the love He first received from the Father.

But despite this, Jesus did not invest quality time in every single person He encountered. And neither can you. No matter how much time you spend receiving from God.

Jesus invested His time into 12. Out of the whole world, 12.

But the majority of his quality time was reserved for 3 people. 3.

Remember that when you’re scheduling out your time. Who are the people in your circle who are the top priority? A friend in crisis? Your kids? Your spouse? Your inner circle of friends? A person who you’re mentoring? Who ever those chosen few may be, don’t forget to carve out some of your precious time for them. Quality time=love.

Point to ponder while you wander…Papa God is all about quality time with us. He asks us to seek Him, then promises that He’ll show up every time. And He’ll fill you with His love. He’ll reveal who He is, and give us help with our day. What He did for Jesus, He’ll do for you.

Musical Monday: Pieces

There’s a line in “Pieces” by Amanda Cook that gets me every time. Every time I hear…

“It isn’t shy, it’s unashamed. Your love is proud to be seen with me.”

My mind is filled with an image of me at my worst. Then Jesus in white extends His hand to me to help me up. I’m muddy, scraped up, and bloody…but Jesus holds His arm to me, and escorts me through the crowd. He puffs His chest out like I’m the most gorgeous gal in town, and escorts me like a gentleman. Proud.

Not pride in a bad way. But in a way that says, “I know this woman. I love this woman. And I don’t give a damn what you think of her, because to me she’s worth everything. Even my life.”

Then my heart melts into a gooey blob…and I get teary. Leaving me all a fluttery and reminded that I am loved.

So thank you Amanda Cook for this amazing reminder of His love for me.

The link to lyric video is above…or you can read the powerful words here…

U

nreserved, unrestrained
Your love is wild, Your love is wild for me
It isn’t shy, it’s unashamed
Your love is proud to be seen with me

You don’t give Your heart in pieces
You don’t hide Yourself to tease us

Uncontrolled, un-contained
Your love is a fire burning bright for me
It’s not just a spark, it’s not just a flame
Your love is a light, that all the world will see

You don’t give Your heart in pieces
You don’t hide Yourself to tease us
You don’t give Your heart in pieces
You don’t hide Yourself to tease us

Your love’s not fractured
It’s not a troubled mind
It isn’t anxious, it’s not the restless kind

Your love’s not passive
It’s never disengaged
It’s always present
It hangs on every word we say
Love keeps its promises, it keeps its word
It honors what’s sacred, cause its vows are good
Your love’s not broken
It’s not insecure
Your love’s not selfish, Your love is pure

Point to ponder while you wander…You are loved. Right now. Right where you are. Period.

No Camouflage 

This is a painting I made for a friend, a camoflauged version of Psalm 139. Which is all about being unable to hide from God and His love for you. I liked it. She liked it. So I’m sharing it.

Adam and Eve tried to hide from God in the Garden because of what they had done. We all know that we cannot hide from an all-seeing and all-knowing God. But most of us still try it. It’s silly and pointless but we do it.

But why?

Shame. Fear. Guilt. Those are all tools of the darkness, the enemy, to steal your joy, hope, peace, and distract you from your purpose.

Take your mistakes immediately to God, because in the light there is hope, healing and restoration. 

Point to ponder while you wander…​There’s no camouflage from God. He sees you, even if no one else sees you. You are not invisible nor forgotten, but engraved on the palm of His hand. Nothing can stop Him from loving you. Nothing!

Rainbows are a Sign

Rainbows. I love them. And I usually start singing Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog…or at a minimum just smile.

There are lots of things associated with rainbows…the most popular being pots of gold…of course. Who doesn’t want a pot of gold? 

But the truth is that rainbows have a much deeper meaning beginning after the great flood as recorded in Genesis.

​”Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.” Then God said to Noah, “Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.” Genesis 9:12-17

What a beautiful promise and covenant sign! 

But to me, rainbows are reminders that God keeps His promises. All. Of. Them.  Including the ones He’s given to me. 

He is a good God who keeps His promises. But sometimes life gets to us and we begin to doubt. We doubt that His promises are true for us. But they are true. They are true for you. They are true for me!

About 3 weeks ago I saw a double full rainbow. It was incredible! I saw it happened in middle of a frustrating situation. Seeing it gave me peace, because it reminded me that I wasn’t forgotten.

Yesterday I saw another huge beautiful rainbow! And then another one this morning out my window at work. I am so thankful that God speaks to me in pictures when I’m struggling to hear His voice clearly.

 And I have been frustrated and that’s causing me to struggle to hear Him. I have begun to doubt a particular promise He gave me (one of two promises that mean the most to my heart). 

God didn’t try to convince me or argue with me. He simply reminded me with beauty that He is God. And that He keeps His promises. He is the best Daddy.

Point to ponder while you wander…He is good. All day. Every day. He is always speaking and encouraging us. We just need to keep our eyes and ears and hearts open to receive what He is trying to say.

Kindness is Powerful

I started a new job in a new industry about a few months ago. And I’ll be honest, I had no idea what I was doing. The work I was doing had a quick deadline and offered multiple ways for me to screw it up. Luckily for me the team I’m on has people who were willing to teach and help me. Because of that the project I’m working on is tracking to schedule.

There’s one particular man on this team that I am drawn to. His name pops up on my phone or or shows in my inbox and I smile. He walks in the room and I light right up. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening to me.

Was I crushing on him? I hoped not. Work crushes are generally a terrible idea.

Then I realized something as I was describing him to my roommate….He’s kind.  And I am drawn to his kindness.

Don’t misunderstand me- he’s not a “nice guy” or a “good guy” or anything you’d say to describe someone who bends over backwards to make people like them.  He’s not one of those no boundaries so they get walked all over “nice guys.” He’s a man’s man. He’s hard working. He does whatever it takes to get things done on time and on schedule, which I respect and appreciate. But unlike a lot of people I’ve worked with in my life, he does it with kindness.

And I’m drawn to his kindness.

That’s when about 1000 light bulbs suddenly and simultaneously flashed in my head.

Kindness is powerful.  What?

Immediately Jeremiah 31:3 lit up in my brain…”The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” NKJV

Kindness is a choice.  It comes from a position of strength and proper boundaries.  It isn’t wishy washy.  God is kind.  He’s not nice.  Nice has no boundaries.  God loves liberally and unconditionally, but he does not play games.  His love.  His kindness.  All choice.  He is not out there in desperation trying to make you like Him.  He’s like…”Hey.  I love you.  I want a relationship with you.  I’ve allowed My Son to be sacrificed for your shortcomings, failures, and mistakes, so there wouldn’t be anything to prevent you from coming to Me with boldness.  Ball is in your court, kid.  I’ll be here.”

God’s kindness takes us by the hand and says, “Get out of that sin.  You’re hurting yourself and others.”

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” Romans 2:4 NLT

Thinking about this lead me to today’s Musical Monday song…You are Good…because of the lyric “Your kindness leads me to repentance.”  The song’s been around a while but it’s a good one.  So I’m sharing it today.  Just sit and stew in the goodness and kindness of God on this Monday.  It’s Monday, so you’ll probably need to soak and stew just a little bit longer than usual.

Point to ponder while you wander…Whilst you stew and soak…here are a few verses about the kindness of our God to meditate on.  Hopefully it will draw you to God this Monday…and inspire you to be kind to others.

“Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.  Return to the Lord your God,     for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.” Joel 2:13 NLT

 “You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.” Romans 2:3-4 MSG

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,  that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)  For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.  So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7 NLT

 

 

Right Beside You!

My favorite scripture to read every January is Isaiah 43:1-19. It’s Yahweh reminding His people that He’s always been there. Reminding them He can be trusted and not to be afraid.  Then in verse 18,  He says, I’m doing something new now. It’s like the chapter to that point was to stomp the fear out of them so they would be brave enough to embrace the new thing He was doing.

This morning I read Psalm 63. When I read “Because You are my help, I will sing in the shadow of Your wings.” (verse 7 in the NIV) I saw this image of a dad running next to a kid who’s learning to ride a bike.  And I heard the Lord say, “Don’t be afraid of the new thing.  Rejoice in the new thing, because I’m in it with you.”

So be brave in whatever is before you, because He’s in it with you!!

 

That’s it?

When someone gives you a gift, just accept it and say, “Thank you.”  It’s really not a difficult concept.  But when receiving from God, I still tend to struggle with this.  I feel as though I need to clean up my own mess and earn God’s help.  That is the definition of religion, people trying to impress God with what they do and to make themselves worthy of God’s notice.

Well if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this; God already loves you as much as He’s ever going to.  Do you know why that is?  Because He already loves you completely and unconditionally.  What you do or not do doesn’t change the love He has for you.  He’s a good God who wants to bless people and enjoys giving good gifts.

The story that kept popping up to me was the story of God giving Naaman a gift.  It’s found in II Kings 5.  Naaman was a great Aramean warrior, who was beloved by his king, and also happened to also to be a leper.  Naaman’s wife had a maid from Israel, who told Naaman that she knew of a prophet who could heal him.  So Naaman went to Elisha’s house.  Here’s the story beginning in verse 9 and going through verse 16.

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house.  But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”

But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!  Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.

But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’”  So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed!

Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”

But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts.” And though Naaman urged him to take the gift, Elisha refused.” 

Naaman’s pride said, “That’s it??? There must be more than simply bathing in a dirty river?  This can’t be right.  Shouldn’t there be some sort of ritual or cost involved.”  But there wasn’t.  God simply required Naaman to believe, then He healed him.  Naaman was the leader of the army that had just defeated his people in battle.  Yet still God loved him.  Yet God healed him without expecting anything in return.  That’s the goodness and giving nature of God.

This just blows my mind.

On the Potter’s Wheel

Unending love + Unlimited patience = God not giving up on you! Your failures, mistakes, and brokenness do not disqualify you from a good future. He will continue to stand by you until you are whole, see your value, and find your place.

“So I went down to the potter’s house & I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” Jeremiah 18:3-4 NIV

Like Pigs in the Mud

“Beloved, if our heart does nor condemn us we have confidence toward God.” I John 3:21 NKJV

God loves me, this I know. We say it & sing about it. But we don’t always believe it & can’t always receive it. Why? Our own heart tells us we’re unworthy. We hide out like a hermit & beat ourselves up. We wallow around in guilt and shame like pigs in the mud. We dislike ourselves immensely. We indulge in self-destructive behaviors.

That’s the opposite of what God desires! God wants us to come to Him freely & boldly without reservation or doubt. To be confident in the fact that we cannot be separated from His love.

So stop dwelling on your mistakes and behavior, whether they happened 5 minutes ago or 5 years ago. Instead direct your thoughts & focus your energy on how much you are loved. Embrace what God says about you! You are forgiven, redeemed, a new creation, accepted, beloved, beautiful and His.