I Love You More Than…

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I picked up this sign at our grocery store around Valentine’s Day. It says: I love you more than… I thought it was cute and would be a different way to send positive messages to my family.

Part of the reason I picked this up was to remind me why I love my family. That sounds bad, doesn’t it?  But you know, there are those days that the attitudes, the sheer noise level and the irritating habits just make me want to jump off the cliff. I’m not the only one right?

So I put it out and wrote on it, I love you more than…pizza. Because I love pizza. Like I could eat it every day for weeks without getting sick of it.

Since then, every once in a while, someone else changes the message. I thought I would have to do it all the time, but it’s caught on.

Once it was: I love you more than…the Denver Broncos. Mmm wonder who put that there? Then it was I love you more than…the weekend. I love you more than…school. (We have one person here who really does LOVE school.) Last week it was I love you more than…March Break.

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It sounds silly but these are all things that people in my house love. Putting together the message with the author, it starts to make sense because they really do adore these things but what they are telling the rest of us, is that we mean more.

Today I was looking at the sign and I was thinking about the message it sends every time it is read. How we love things but in the end, we love our people more.

As it’s Holy Week, the week before Easter, I thought about the message God would write on that board. I love you more than…! How would you fill that in? How would I?

I love you more than…all the stuff you’ve done right.

I love you more than…your worst sin/nightmare/fear.

I love you more than…all your successes.

I love you more than…_____________.

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Then I had a thought.  (It occasionally happens!)  God did kinda write a sign like that for us. It’s John 3:16.  It’s so familiar to us that I think we lose some of the wonder and awe of those words and what they mean, so I’ve put it here in a couple of different translations which hopefully will wake us up out of our spiritual lethargy.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  New Living Translation

For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.  The Voice

Here’s another one. I love you more than…

Psalm 103:11-12  The Voice
Measure how high heaven is above the earth;
    God’s wide, loving, kind heart is greater for those who revere Him.
You see, God takes all our crimes—our seemingly inexhaustible sins—and removes them.
    As far as east is from the west, He removes them from us.

The bible is full of declarations and examples of how much we are loved.  God never holds back!

I hope this Easter, if you are a Jesus follower, you will feel His passionate, everlasting and faithful love and be able to receive it with an open heart.

If you don’t follow Jesus, I hope this Easter you are wooed by that love, to investigate a little deeper how precious and loved you are by God and His Son.

Happy Easter!

Jen

TURN:Why I’m Regretting This Word

I am regretting my one word for the year. Not that it was really my choice. It was the word I felt God gave me for 2016. I know why. It’s hard. I am really bad at TURNING. Bad at TURNING TO in fact. I’m actually very good at TURNING FROM or TURNING AWAY FROM. My back is probably my most well known feature.

The problem is most of the time, I don’t want to TURN TO much. It’s wrapped up in obedience, being open and trusting. Can you relate?

But the thing I realized this past week, is that if I don’t start TURNING TO rather than TURNING AWAY, life isn’t going to change much. It’s fact. The choice is up to me.
The talk is easy. The action, not so much.

There’s been a lot of death around me lately. From my observations, mostly from afar, these people turned to life, to living until it was time. Their families turned to life and living until it was time. And then they turned to death because it isn’t the end. It is a beginning. They turned to the mystery of the unknown. They turned to the Known in the unknown. They have turned to, even though it is hard. That’s what I’ve observed but I don’t know the whole story.

What I see is inspiring though.

It’s made me take stock of what I do with my time and how I interact or don’t, with the people around me. I fritter away the valuables in life. Like tossing out the garbage without a second thought. Although time is important it isn’t everything.

I realize I’ve been doing it all wrong. I have been measuring life by time instead I should have been measuring it by people.

I had mixed feelings about doing something because it was going to take a day to get it done. I didn’t think I could lose a day from a few projects I have due in a few weeks. Then I thought about what it would mean to the people and to me if I did it. It changed my perspective totally. It wasn’t about the time lost. It was about the investment in the people and in myself. By the time it was over, I didn’t even notice the lost time. Because it wasn’t really lost. I had invested well.

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I think if we want to get more comfortable with TURNING TO, we need to use a different filter. We need to drop the lens of time and of productivity. We need to look at people and see the value in them. That productivity isn’t about a task completed but maybe more about seeing relationships deepened or formed. An investment of time and love in a future leader. Making the later, lonelier years more enjoyable for a senior. That’s all productivity on a relational scale. Time well spent. The satisfaction more eternal and deep than checking off a DO TO list. Some of you know this and do it so well. For others of us, it’s a challenge.

Don’t get me wrong; both To Do Lists and investing in people and ourselves are good. They have their place. But I know I’m a little off balance. Maybe I need to even it up a bit and TURN TO life and living, to people and not just tasks and time management.

“We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.” ― Andy Stanley

What about that Book?

We are a house of readers. Three of us read voraciously. The fourth likes to read but it’s hit and miss. He loves to start a book or series, it’s another thing to finish it. On occasion, he’ll find a book that once he starts reading he just can’t put down.

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This is what happened this past weekend. A friend loaned him book one of a series. The boy read it in less than twenty-four hours. However book two was not to be found. He knew it was in the school library but he didn’t want to wait until Monday to get it. We tried online. We tried the public library. Then we went to the bookstore. No luck. The shelves were empty.

I suggested he try the church library when we were at church the next day. I thought I had seen it there before. Regardless, he was in a holding pattern until he could get that book.

Sunday dawned, and as I waited at the car for the boys after service, my son came blazing through the parking lot. In his hand, was the the holy grail. Book Two. The library had it! He was just about jumping out of his skin.

I was so happy for him. Not just because he got to read the second book right away but because it was a solid demonstration of how much God loves him. That the God who created us, loves us and cares about the little details of our ordinary lives. It was a building block of faith that frankly, we both needed.

Probably some are thinking that this is a very trifling thing. That the book being there in the library had nothing to do with God. Or it is too petty for God to care about. I would have to say I disagree. At one time, I would have been in that camp of thinking. I’ve changed my mind and I believe it has everything to do with God. That His handprints are all over this book.

I recently read a novel that had one of the key characters, an inventor, saying over and over again, “Little first, big next.” (The Dark Unwinding, by Sharon Cameron) Little things turn into big things. It’s true in life and it’s true with God. At times it’s the smallest incident or line read, or sung, a person met or chatted with, that in turn opens the door to something much larger. That sets the mind to thinking, analyzing and dreaming. Little things turn into big things.

It’s important to God that a boy needs a book. Why? Little seeds of faith planted can turn into big seeds of faith. It’s not about the book so much as it is about the Giver. Hopefully my son will remember this, at a time when he has to trust God. Not because the outcome is guaranteed but because the One he’s asking is trustworthy to do the right thing for Him because He loves him.

We all need to have a few small (or big) series of Yeses to be able to deal with a large No or series of No. I’ve learned through other parents and a course, Road to Hope, that if all a child hears is no, then the child is not going to expect much. They’ll stop asking eventually. Do you think the child will have a great relationship with the person saying no all the time? What about self-esteem?

I’m not talking about gaining stuff, feeding our greed, our narcissism. It’s about relationship. Getting to know God and who He is. Is He trustworthy? What does His love look like to me? We have to learn that. A much desired book in a library is a building block in the relationship. God knows what we need all the time. He acts accordingly.

We focus a lot on learning to accept the no’s. With grace. With humility. With anger. Etc.

We forget that we need the Yes too. Sometimes I just pray, “God we need a win here in this situation.” I may or may not get it, but I’ve learned that God will do what’s best because in my own relationship, there have been some “much desired books” show up that have built up that knowledge. He has shown himself true and trustworthy through those wins and losses. God knows we just need the win on occasion and he graciously gives it to us. I’m so grateful for those times. Life is hard. A wise and well placed win can turn small things into big things.

I see it happening every night, as my son thanks God for these books and for providing them for him to read. (Without my prompting!) It’s seem like nothing, but to a young boy just on the brink of starting a real relationship with God, it’s monumental. “Little first, big next!”

The book series was Andrew Klavan‘s The Homelanders Series in case you were wondering.  Four books read in less than a week!  Because all he’s wanted to do is TO READ!!!