“Living and Lingering in Love”

My intention in starting this blog was to chronicle the places and times my eyes caught a glimpse of the Divine among the mundane. So where I have seen God this week?

In too many ways to count, actually!

Last Monday I led a devotional for a church ministry leadership team. We’ve been reading a book together and this phrase, “living and lingering with the Father who loves me,” grabbed hold of my heart. I could have treated the devo like one more thing on my To Do list and I could have led it as such, but instead I used it to provide an opportunity for us to linger in God’s love.

Instead of spending a lot of time discussing a chapter any of us could read I took us to Luke 8, the Parable of the Sower. The thing God impressed upon me from Luke 8 is that the primary difference between the fertile soil and the others is that the good soil not only receives God’s Word but clings to it. I hear a lot of God’s Word, but how do I cling to it? There’s the challenge. So this week I began writing about God’s Word, for myself, as a way of lingering with God in conversation about His Word. There are certainly other ways to cling to God’s Word, but this is working for me.

Tuesday I had the opportunity to host a lovely friend for lunch in my backyard. We talked about the challenges of a busy ministry schedule, and that while programs are well and good, Jesus fostered relationships. Relationships require time to ‘waste’ together. She told me some of the ways she has been intentional in relationships with her immediate neighbors and with those in her ‘neighborhood’ – coffee shop and friends of friends, mostly. I am encouraged to look for relational opportunities, to linger.

Wednesday the church staff had a great conversation about the need for water, and how new shoots grow from old plants in the right conditions, which led to a discussion about how we can tend to the new shoots who participated in our spring break Mexico house building trip. That afternoon I took Teen on a spontaneous coffee run and saw two teenage girls in the coffee shop, one meeting with an adult from our church and the other who told me she’d met with her team leader the day before. I hadn’t planned to be at that coffee shop at that time, but God allowed me a few extra minutes in order to show me that it doesn’t take a lot of program for relationships to develop – it just takes willing adults ready to foster relationships in His name.

Also Wednesday a friend told me about her amazing experience on a two-week trip to Ghana to work at a preschool. She’s well-rounded in mission experience but this trip grabbed her heart differently. How so? Her specific skill set is exactly what the Ghanaian school needs, and she saw just in two weeks the difference she’s already made and a vision for what else she can do. Joy overflowed in her stories. She can’t wait to go back, and those listening can’t wait to hear what happens next – isn’t that a great way to build a support team?

Friday Guy and I took a much-needed day to spend together. We went to Napa, just over an hour’s drive from our home, for a wine and chocolate tasting, a Christmas gift experience Guy arranged for me. We talked and laughed, we sipped and enjoyed. We made conversation with the winery employee who served us, and we joined the wine club to continue the experience – and potentially, the relationship with our new friend. We ate lunch outside at one of our favorite spots and we walked around the gourmet marketplace next door. After a stressful few months of too much work and a resulting strained relationship, the day was exactly what we needed.

Friday night we hosted friends new and old for a barbecue. Kids and adults, people who’ve known each other for years and others only for a few hours, mixed and mingled and felt welcome. It’s exactly what I want for our home: for people to know they are welcome, to relax and enjoy and be together.

Saturday was all about time with Tween and a baseball game where encouragement flew faster than the ball, and today I’ve set aside for Teen and his final rugby match of the season. We’ll have hours together in the car and then I’ll do the thing I do best as Mom, cheering him on from the sidelines.

Living and lingering in love – that’s what Jesus modeled, and that’s what I want to be about. Less busy-ness, more love. Yes!

Trust & Obey

Years ago as I left one of my favorite bookstores, a man greeted me just outside the door. “Do you know Jesus?” he asked.
I answered with a hearty, “Yes!”
“Are you sure?” he forced.
“Positive,” I assured him.
He followed me down the walkway, pressing literature onto my clenched fist. I kept walking.

Really? No “Praise Jesus, we’re siblings in Christ” but instead doubt that I knew my God. Bleh.

We’ve all seen bad evangelism: televangelists, health-and-wealth “gospel,” disheveled soap-boxers with “The End is Nigh” signs. Pastors more concerned with their wallets than spiritual health. As a result we’ve become jaded, even to those who would quietly share grace, who won’t push but long to share truth.

For those who follow Jesus, we have to ask ourselves: where do we fall on the faith-sharing spectrum? I know I’ve been guilty of being too forceful. And I know just as often, if not more so, I’ve neglected to speak truth out of my own insecurity; not wanting to ruffle relational feathers, I’ve failed to trust that God will do His work when I am faithful to listen and obey.

Over the last few years, God has nudged me into a new season of evangelism. Actually, even that term makes me slightly uncomfortable as it raises images both of cold-calling door knockers or filled stadiums, neither of which are my scene. I’ve always thought of myself as a discipler, someone who will walk in faith with those who express desire to grow in faith. Except that discipleship grows out of evangelism, and some who might be interested haven’t yet figured out the words to say or questions to ask.

And so I find myself – at the school, the park, the pool party – having conversations that suddenly (it sure feels sudden, each time) turn to matters of faith. And I have become bold in ways I never imagined, witnessing to the truth I have experienced. I don’t have all the answers. I never will. But I know that out of His great love for His creation God sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to live and die and rise from the dead in order to pay the price for our sin, to pave a way back to God, to heal our broken relationship with God, and ultimately, with one another.

I am not perfect. I am as broken as they come, as we all are. I need a loving Savior, and I live in the freedom that He does love me, that He forgives me, that He wants all to come to know Him. And I have the privilege of sharing that truth with others. It’s not always easy. There remains the risk of rejection.

But God is faithful. One of my favorite realizations about today’s passage from Acts 5 is that the apostles didn’t know how Gamaliel spoke on their behalf. God was at work in unexpected ways with an unexpected person who enabled unexpected ministry that changed the world. You do the work God puts before you, and trust the rest to Him.

Connect
Share a time from your past when you disobeyed someone in authority. What happened? 

Study
Read Acts 5:26-42. 
Based on this passage, describe the apostles’ faith. What stands out to you?
How does Peter summarize the gospel (vv. 30-32)? What can you learn about what’s important to tell people about Jesus?
Read 5:29, 32 and 41-42. What do these verses say about obedience as it relates to sharing the gospel, and why is that significant?

Live
Think of some current examples in your life or in the lives of those you know where the principle in verse 29 may come into play.
Sometimes Christians face opposition because the message of the gospel is offensive (see 1 Cor. 1:23). At other times, it is the Christian him- or herself who is offensive. Describe the difference.
Read 1 Peter 3:15-16. What would obedience to God’s Word in this passage look like in your life?
When have you been reluctant to share your faith when you knew you should? What might you do differently?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray for courage for one another to be obedient in sharing your faith with the people God has placed on your heart.
Pray for Christians in places like Syria and Iraq who are suffering right now for their faith in Jesus. Ask God to give them courage and perseverance in the face of suffering, and like the first disciples, to be able to rejoice that “they have been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

By the way, if you’re using and enjoying these Bible studies, I’d really love to hear from you!