It’s time to remove the obstacles and LOVE back…

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I had always thought of myself as a good neighbor.

Early in our marriage, when life was fresh, fairly untainted and for the most part distraction-free, and I made pies in my spare time. Lots of pies. Oh, I wasn’t great at it at first, but I can distinctly remember feeling determined to master such a homemaking skill as a new wife, and so I rolled and formed dough over and over until I got it just right.

I’ll never forget the first time I gave one of my pies away. I walked timidly up to the door where a wife had just lost her husband; a room full of children, their father, well before this world says it’s time. Heavy grief consumed their home that day, and I didn’t have the right words to say. So I tapped gently on the door, handed over the pie, and prayed that the contents of that plate would somehow convey the depth of love and sympathy in my heart.

As time went on, my pies made their way into the hands of several others close to me – sometimes in celebration over happy things like birthdays and babies, and other times in an effort to encourage due to sickness or grief. My husband would every so often joke that all of the world’s problems couldn’t be solved with a pie, and I would jest back and say that I thought it was a pretty good place to start.

I had always thought of myself as a good neighbor, until my neighbor thought I wasn’t.

We had moved into our very first home earlier that year. That spare time that was once filled with carefree stuff like pie-making was gradually overtaken by demanding jobs, bills and increasing responsibilities. The years that we had dreamed about were upon us, yet somehow now they didn’t seem quite so dreamy as the weight of the world slowly crept in and began piling on top of us.

Enter one summer weekend, one feverish husband, and a father-in-law who graciously wanted to serve us well by mowing our overgrown lawn. Except for the grass wasn’t blown in the right direction at the property line on this one occasion, and the stakes went up.

Literally.

Green metal fence stakes, hammered angrily into the ground right in the middle of the tiny pathway that connected our neighbor’s lawn to ours. Oh, our neighbor didn’t have to say a word. The stakes communicated the message loud and clear that day all on their own: disapproval, with the intention to divide and keep our mower – and our lives – from crossing paths in the future. Nevermind the high fever or the good intentions or the well-meaning father-in-law. It seemed it was too late to explain all of that. The obstacles had already been placed.

Everything in us wanted to fight back. To explain our case. To point out his ridiculous anger and lack of compassion. To remind him that life is short and this was just grass for crying out loud.

But instead we made a choice to love.

My husband wrote a beautiful letter of apology, recognizing our neighbor’s impeccable lawn and complementing his gardening skills. He admired his work ethic and the pride that he took in his home, evidenced in the excellent care it received. Tyler’s words were filled with humility, gentleness, and a desire to make things right, whatever it took.

And I made a pie. Heh. I realize that pies don’t solve all of the world’s problems, but they’re not a bad place to start…

Our apology was welcomed with tears and embarrassment by the wife next door. Our delivery opened the door for her to share some hurts that she had been experiencing, and it opened the door for us to love like Jesus. And while the husband never did speak of the disagreement directly, soon after, the stakes came down. The obstacles were removed, and the relationship started on the path of restoration.

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Over two thousand years ago, the obstacle was our sin. Man created a division in the Garden so devastating that it separated us from God. The fruit was eaten. The sin obstacle was placed. And God made it clear: Heaven’s holiness couldn’t be tainted by our broken state. He could have punished us forever. Drawn the line in the sand. Set the stakes in place.

But instead He made a choice to love.

Oh, it meant sacrifice. It meant crossing the line and bridging the gap and taking the blame. But Jesus took on the cross with humility and grace, initiating the first step, because of obedience to the Father and because of His love for you and for me. And when we accept the gift of grace extended to us, the obstacles are removed, and He has the power to reconcile us to a right relationship with God.

Beautiful, matchless grace, all because of God’s pursuing, redeeming, everlasting love.

God’s love changes everything. It changes the critical fate of our eternity, all the way down to how we love our neighbors on the most inconvenient, unfair days. It has the power to change me and to change you, if we’ll let it.

Love is the foundation for redeeming the world back to our precious Father. But God chose normal human beings to be the ones who would make His love known. He loved us, and we are blessed and redeemed by that healing, comforting, always present love. And then, out of gratitude, we choose to be that kind of love to the world in which we are living. ~ Sally Clarkson – You Are Loved, pg. 127

We don’t have to have it all figured out, and all of the world’s problems won’t immediately disappear. But God’s love is the foundation on which we start. Life is short. Will we choose to love God and love people with all that we have, before it’s too late?

{You Are Loved}.

Now it’s time to remove the obstacles and LOVE back.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of these is love.”

~ 1 Corinthians 13:13

At His feet,

*LET’S TALK: Do you struggle with accepting God’s love for you, with loving God or loving the people God has placed in your life? What obstacles stand in your way? Comment below… we’d be honored to pray for those obstacles today.

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GMG Mentoring Applications Now Open! If you have been considering leading a group through Good Morning Girls, you may be interested in Leadership Mentoring. If you are a current leader but are needing encouragement and ideas, you may find that Leadership Mentoring helps you re-focus. To find out more information about our Leadership Mentoring Program, click here.

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Sad that our {You Are Loved} study has come to an end? Don’t be! We’ll be taking a couple of weeks away from the blog, but we are excited to announce that we’ll be spending this time praying, studying and preparing incredible resources with you in mind as we plan for our upcoming ESTHER study this Fall!!! Meet us back on the blog in TWO WEEKS, when we’ll share more details with you! For now, we’d be honored if you’d save the dates:

Fall 2014 Session
Rest: July 27th-August 1st
Mentoring: August 4th-15th
Leaders Group Preparations: August 4th-15th
Enrollment: August 18th-29th

Dates: September 1st-October 24th
Study: Esther Study

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Because He extends love and grace…

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“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

As a little girl, I remember learning the above verse and being told to put my name in where the word “love” is listed instead. For example:

“Angela is patient, Angela is kind. She does not envy, she does not boast, she is not proud…” Yeah, applying scripture like that and making it personal can well…make one a little uncomfortable. Am I all those things? Do I love like that? Sadly, the answer is “no.” I’m not always patient…especially when I’m running late and trying to get my 3 girls out the door in time. How about the “keeping no record of wrongs?” Yeah….just ask my husband…I struggle in that area too.

Sally and I end our book: You Are Loved with a challenge…now go and do likewise! Love others like God loves you.

“God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud…”

Now that we have a deeper understanding of how dearly loved we are by God, He challenges us to live lives that are stained with His love for others to see. God’s love should change us, transform us and make us stand out from the world. We are called to love differently. We love when it hurts. We choose to keep no record of wrongs even though our mind makes it hard to forget. We choose to be kind even though the person hasn’t been kind back. We choose to trust, have hope and persevere even when it’s hard and we’d rather throw in the towel and give up. We choose love instead.

God’s love is what colors our life differently. People see it in the way we smile at them. In how we choose to respond to criticism and how we trust God in all things. They see it in the hope that we have at the doctor’s office despite the report, or when we choose to hold our tongue even though we have a great comeback ready to launch at a moments notice. They see it in the patience we extend to our children, husband and friends even though we are feeling anything but patient at the time. We realize we are not perfect, we have our flaws, our short comings…yet despite all of that, God still chooses to love us.

We extend love and grace because love and grace have been extended to us.

“How you live your life today in choosing to love others will determine the way your children, non-Christians, your family, and friends learn what God’s love is like. To leave a legacy of love is to leave a fragrance of His love wherever you go.”- Sally Clarkson

Sweet friends, may the beautiful fragrance of your love fill your homes, hearts and lives today! Who do you need to reach out to with the love of God?

“…the more I humble myself to love others no matter what, the more my love and worship of God has grown because I realize how much it cost Him to be humble and give to a totally rebellious and ungrateful world. Practicing love increases your love for God.”- Sally Clarkson

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Sweet friends, thank YOU so much for joining us this summer as we read You Are Loved! I pray God spoke directly to your heart as you read the book and assigned daily verses. May His love transform you from the inside out! You are truly LOVED!

Love God Greatly!
-Angela

{Week 8} Loving As a Way of Life! The fathers love always pursues

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“So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

-Jesus (Luke 15:20)

I am so happy to be able to share my son, Nathan, with you today, since the last story in the last chapter was about him. Nathan has grown so much in his compassion for those who are lost, separated from the love of God, that he wrote a script, produced a movie and now has a message of the love of our heavenly Father that I know will reach many all over the world.

As we come to the end of our study, You Are Loved, I know that each of us has been confronted, once again, with the amazing, powerful, faithful love of God. God’s whole story is a picture of a Father providing, loving, comforting, helping, and redeeming His precious children. And then to think, He is preparing a new heaven and earth that will be even more beautiful and wants us to celebrate our homecoming with a wedding feast as the end of time. If we allow our hearts to be touched by His amazing love, it will leave us changed.

But each of us has a choice to make.

Will we come to Him and allow His love to humble us, stretch us so that we can take His love back into our worlds for others who need to know Him? Or, will we hide in our insecurity, our excuses, the places where we are uncomfortable. The world will give you permission to compromise the love that Jesus teaches. However, if you choose to follow God in seeking to love others actively, even if it is just taking baby steps, His love will grow and swell in your heart and your walk with Him will be more wonderful each season of life.

Nathan’s living story modeled so much to me. He did not run away from the people God placed in his life. He chased after God, and then shared His God with those in His life who needed to know Him and had never clearly heard about His love.

As we all well know, any relationship in our lives, over time, will experience stress because it involves 2 sinful, limited people—me, the first sinner and fallible person, and whoever else is my friend, child or spouse–or in relationship with me! Consequently, every relationship will be tested. Am I going to demand that my friend be perfect, even if I cannot be perfect? Or am I going to allow God’s precious love to wash my heart clean and allow me to be a model of Him to everyone I meet.

Love is messy at times, and we cannot always control the behavior of others. But we can choose to love, forgive, pray for those with whom we have experienced. And we can release our mysterious relationships into God’s hands and ask Him to work. He is faithful to work and will bring grace, wisdom, healing and understanding in His time. And no matter what, when we choose love and prayer and forgiveness in our own hearts, we find healing and peace-even if though we cannot control the reactions and choices of others.

As Nathan shared in the video, God has been expanding his own desire to reach out to others by producing a new movie called “Confessions of a Prodigal Son,” which showcases the profound love of God through a very personal story. God is always the shepherd going after the one sheep who is lost while the other 99 are in the fold. He wants to love through us, reach out through us, extend His healing and amazing love through our lives.

All of us fail, but God is merciful and always looking for us to return to Him. He celebrates our return as we are so dear to His heart. As we come to an end of this study, how will you choose to respond to what you have learned? Will you walk in the light of His deep love for you and accept His love for you? Will you grow in the knowledge of His grace and learn to give His love to others?

As I wrote in my last chapter:

Love is a muscle that grows with use. The more we practice humbling ourselves and giving love out of obedience to God, the more loving we shall be.”

Each of you has been in Angela’s and my prayers throughout this study. We hope each of you will walk in the freshness and generosity of God’s amazing love—knowing that He forgives every part of your past, that He loves you in spite of your flaws, that He is for you every day and ready to bless and that He wants to use you to spread this love to others. May you ever be blessed as you live into these truths.

Sweet Lord, I thank you for each person who has been bathing themselves in the amazing truth of your love through this study. Help each one to know how very special they are to you, as you crafted them from your own hands—they belong to you! Let them know that you see them every day, that you are like the Father in the prodigal son story, always looking for us to return to your open arms. Help us to have wisdom in knowing how to live, through our lifetimes, growing in the knowledge of how to live a life of loving wisely, generously and trusting you through each relationship, each season of life. You are the Lord who redeems and restores. We give ourselves wholeheartedly into your hands and we come to you in the precious name of Jesus.

Confessions of a Prodigal Son:
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Nathan Clarkson:
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Thank you so much for joining me these last 8 weeks! It has been such a joy to go through You Are Loved with you this summer!

sally

 

 

 

 

 

{Week 8} Reading Plan
Week-8

 

 

{Week 8} Memory Verse
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{Week 8} Challenge
Challenge 8

 

Previous Posts:
My Year Long Surprise
#YouAreLoved Book Release Day & {Giveaway}
Making of Disciples of ALL Nations
The Launching of a Dream
Because Sometimes You Need Reminded that You are Loved…

Special Video From Angela & Sally
#You Are Loved- Available for FREE in 7 translations!

Week 1- He Calls Us Belovedyou-are-loved-spine copy
Monday- Let’s Get Started
Wednesday- You Are Not Alone
Friday-We Are Loved!

Week 2- Knowing God
Monday- Chapter 2: Knowing God
Wednesday- He Gives Us a Heart to Know Him
Friday-Knowing God: When Doubt Comes…

Week 3-The Rival
Monday- Chapter 3: The Rival
Tuesday- A Personal Message From the You Are Loved Contributors
Wednesday-No Condemnation…
Friday- The Great Deceiver

Week 4- God Loves You
Monday- Chapter 4: God Loves You
Wednesday- Modeling God’s Love for Ourselves Changes Lives…
Friday- The Good About Not Having It All Together…

Week 5- You Can Trust Him
Monday-Chapter 5: You Can Trust Him
Wednesday- Strength and Beauty Come from Learning to Trust God
Friday- Our Faithful God

Week 6- You’re Invited
Monday- Chapter 6: You’re Invited
Wednesday- Living Strong- It all starts with your view of God
Friday- Kingdom Work

Week 7- Loving is our Kingdom work
Monday- Own Your Authority! Live into a great story!
Wednesday- We Are Known By How We Love…
Friday- Five Minutes to Make a Difference…

Want to join our study? You still can! Purchase a book and jump on in! You can go at your own pace! You can purchase You Are Loved on Amazon here.

Five minutes to make a difference…

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There was mud stuck to my face. Lots of it. An attractive mixture of sweat and dirt that had somehow – smeared like war paint - found it’s way to my forehead while I was weeding my grossly neglected flower beds in ninety degree heat.

Let’s be honest, these are the days that I hope no one stops by unannounced. Heh.

There were still yard tools to clean up and hungry children to feed and I may have just spotted last night’s dishes piled high in the sink, for crying out loud.

Neighbors walked by, and I pretended not to notice while I finished up my work. There’s only so much daylight left, I justify, and responsible mamas must get on with it and feed their children sooner than later. And just like that, I let another conversation, another smile, another chance to encourage walk right past my house before my very eyes. Five minutes to make a difference, just lost.

And then the fire happened, and in less than five minutes, everything changed.

We sat straight up in bed after we heard it – the sound so stunning that even in our sleepy states, we knew it was out-of-character significant.  A violent storm was wrecking havoc in our quiet neighborhood, and the loud crack of lightning shook us to our cores. We peeked in on our kids, confirmed that all was well in each room, then with a sigh of relief stumbled back into bed, dozing off as we prayed for the storm to pass. It wasn’t until the next morning that we would learn of the devastation. Just a few houses down, our neighbors had lost everything.

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We had always been a friendly neighborhood, to be sure. It wasn’t uncommon to hear children giggling or see owners taking their dogs on evening walks. But people more often than not seemed in a hurry to get to the next thing: meaningful conversations were replaced with quick hellos and I need to be on my way. Sweaty, dirty faces looked away, waiting for a day that was more convenient; more – I don’t know – presentable. Like five minutes and a little pride was too much to spare.

But after the fire, a beautiful thing happened. After all, it’s often through hardship that love shines through and beautiful stories of unity are written.

Neighbors gathered in the street, offering their homes, shoes, and whatever cash was in their pockets. People stopped and engaged with acquaintances to brainstorm ways they could help. Donations were collected. Notes of encouragement were written. Dog walkers stopped to visit, and busy businessmen walked across the street to shake hands and introduce themselves by name. Emotions were openly shared; humanness was exposed. And dirty faces never looked more beautiful as generous hands helped sort through the rubble.

Handfuls of five minute encounters were everywhere, impacting lives in astounding ways.

One of the most meaningful of these encounters I witnessed was a neighbor carefully tending to the outdoor hanging plants that had been singed in the fire. Most would have taken one look at those flowers and deemed them beyond repair. Too damaged by the extreme heat; too insignificant to spend any time bothering to rescue. But this sweet woman saw value in something that her grieving friends held dear to them: one of the only things that retained any resemblance of the beautiful home they had worked so hard to build. So she lovingly watered those baskets day after day, believing that with enough tender loving care, they would bounce back and do more than just survive against all odds. She believed they would thrive and bloom into something beautiful once again.

With tears in my eyes, I realized that how this woman dealt with those damaged flowers is how God loves us, and in turn how we should love others. We might appear so broken, damaged, often labeled too insignificant and beyond repair by the world, but God sees our value. He came down to meet us where we are, and offers grace and hope and life back into our suffocating, dying souls. And the Living Water that He lavishly pours out on us has the power to restore us to something even more beautiful than before.

Even as He is the one who pursues us, provides for us, encourages us, comforts us, speaks love over us, so we must understand that we are to pursue others in life-giving love. Because He is the source, the beginning and definition of generous, unconditional love, and He lives within us, we must be a picture of His initiating love to all who come into our lives. ~ Sally Clarkson {You Are Loved, pg. 108}

Oh sweet sisters, there are broken people all around us. The question is, are we willing to notice them, “cross the street,” and are we willing to see beauty in the broken? What if we committed to even just five minutes TODAY to show God’s love to someone and make a difference for the Kingdom?

“And this is his command:

to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,

and to love one another as he commanded us.”

~ 1 John 3:23

 

At His feet,

We Are Known By How We Love…

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We are known by how we love.

Love is more than warm, fuzzy feelings; it is an attitude that shows itself through our actions. I know that because daily I work on teaching my three daughters to love each other…even when they don’t feel like it…or should I say, especially when they don’t feel like it. Loving others well doesn’t come natural to us. It’s hard because by nature we are sinful and want life to happen our way, on our terms.

But that’s not how Jesus commands us to live our lives. He commands us to love one another the same way He loves us…with a sacrificial love. A love that is willing to go the extra mile and pay a higher price. A love that even though it hurts, does it anyway. A love that is not just words, but words that are wrapped in actions.

Love is an obedient choice. When you choose to love others, that is the moment you are most like Jesus.
love heals relationships
love is a salve to wounds
love is the beginning of friendship
love initiates
love inspires others
love comforts                                 -Sally Clarkson

So how can we love others as Jesus loves us and participate in the kingdom work to which we are called? By loving others when its hard, when it costs us something, when it’s not convenient. By choosing to be loving even when we are wronged, misunderstood and rejected.

This love we are to be known by can not come from our broken, sin-stained hearts, but rather from the One who has the power to heal and cleanse broken, sinful hearts and make them beat again for His glory. The love must come from the One who fills our heart with it. That is what separates us from the rest of the world when we choose to love despite our feelings, and allow God to supernaturally work through us. This is the love that will testify to God’s working in our lives.

Believe me, I know that loving others well is hard. I struggle with it in my own life as friends and family members have hurt me through the years. I think learning to love others well develops with time, age and realizing our own need for God’s love and grace because of our sin. One nugget of truth I’m recently learning is that loving the way Jesus calls us to can only be done when we seek Him first for that love. Jesus is the source of the love that fills our hearts and overflows into our family and friend’s lives.

Loving well is our Kingdom work. Its a work that is so powerful because it turns what is invisible and makes it tangible. When we love the way Jesus commands us to, it changes us from the inside out and helps others see God through us.

We are the gospel message many will read. Our acts of kindness and thoughtfulness will open hearts to His love because others will imagine a God who is good because they have seen His goodness expressed toward them through our own lives.- Sally Clarkson

Who in your life loves the way Jesus commands us to do? How have you seen them love with the love only God can give?

 

Love God Greatly!

Angela- Good Morning Girls

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