Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Love is Everything

HOPE relentlessly.
FORGIVE generously.
Choose KINDNESS continually.
LIVE fearlessly.
LOVE passionately.

...And be kind to each other, everyone.
LOVE with no holding back.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Forgiveness...and a Father's Heart

Father’s Day 2012

I forgave my father a long time ago.
He never apologized. He never asked for forgiveness.
But there came a time in my life where I realized I had to dig deep in my heart and forgive him.
I realized forgiving my father was what I had to do in order to move on with my life.
I realized forgiving my father was the only way I could try to have a future and let go of the hurts of the past.
It took me awhile to understand that forgiveness does not excuse someone for hurting you or the people you love, and forgiveness does not mean you have to subject yourself to any more of that hurt.
Sometimes you have to make the toughest choice to let go in order to live.
For me, forgiving my earthly father was the only way for my heart to heal and really know and understand the love of God as my Father.

Like many people, I spent years never being able to fully relate to all the messages about God as a loving Father who accepts us no matter what, who wants to be with us, who believes in us, who loves us unconditionally, who is strong and honest and peaceful and merciful and kind, who would never harm us.

And it bothered me.
It especially bothered me because I knew I was not alone.
I knew too many children and adults who did not have a loving, accepting father in their lives. I knew too many people whose image of a father was someone uncaring or abusive or absent or violent. I knew too many people who never heard the words, “I’m proud of you.” I knew too many people who longed to have a great father cheering them on in life.
At the same time, my friends and people I knew who had wonderful fathers who believed in them and wanted to spend time with them and loved them and protected them and kept them safe could not relate to why it was so hard for others to trust God as a loving Father.

When you feel like you had to take care of yourself most of your life, it’s not easy to let go and trust that God will really be there for you when you need Him.
When your image of a father is someone to fear, it’s nearly impossible to really believe that your heart is safe with God and that there is no fear in real love.

But a funny thing happened when I finally found the strength to forgive my father.
I finally began to find the freedom to open my heart.
I finally began to learn about real love.
I finally began to learn to trust God more, to slowly believe He really loved me and wanted the best for me.
I finally began to see that God really did have good intentions toward me.
I held onto that hope with all my heart. I still do.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Another version of that verse promises us that God has “plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (MSG)

As I began to look around, I finally realized that God had placed wonderful people in my life to love me and look out for me and remind me of His goodness. He has given me people who have my back, no matter what---people who would never harm me or let me be harmed.
God brought people into my life to show me by example how He intends a healthy, loving family to live.
One of my friends, who is raising his child alone, is one of the best examples I’ve ever met of someone who truly has a father’s heart of unconditional love. He is kind and selfless and compassionate and forgiving and a strong man of God. He accepts his responsibility as a father completely and wholeheartedly and without question.
I have great friends who love their wives and kids with a strong and faithful love that is inspiring. They give their families what they need most: time and love and acceptance and encouragement and support and strength and security. They have fun together as a family and they help each other through the hard times.
Other friends have shared their stories with me about what wonderful fathers or stepfathers they had. Hearing their stories always makes me feel hopeful.
Through all their examples, I have learned so much about the true Father heart of God.
And I have learned to believe in real love.

If your heart is hurting this Father’s Day or you’re missing what you didn’t have with an earthly father, God can do the same for you. He promised. And my life is proof it’s true.

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows; this is God. God places the lonely in families…”~Psalm 68:5-6a

Even though there were times I wished I knew what it would have been like to grow up in a healthy, happy family, I don’t feel sorry for myself. Self-pity and regret take too much away from living. I don’t have time for that.
I have too much life left to live. I have too much love still to give --- and receive.

I continue to pray that my own father will someday fully understand and receive God’s unconditional, forgiving love for him, too.

If you cannot relate to the idea of a great father to celebrate on Father’s Day or you did not even have a father in your life, take heart. There is hope.

If you let Him, I know God can be for you everything your own father chose not to be or maybe could not be.

God will never abandon you.
God will never neglect you.
God will never abuse you.
God will never forget about you.
God will never threaten you.
God will never use violence against you.
God will never lie to you.
God will never, ever leave you alone. Never.

God is loving and kind and forgiving.
God is supportive and accepting and caring.
God is selfless, self-sacrificing and compassionate.
God is truthful and faithful and responsible.
God’s heart toward you is calm and peaceful.
God is strong and persevering and full of hope.
God believes in you.
God wants the very best for you.
God wants to give you a future and a hope, no matter what kind of past you’ve had.
God values you. He treasures you. He cherishes you.
God loves you unconditionally and He accepts you no matter what.
God’s arms will always be open wide with love for you, the way a good and loving father’s arms are always open wide with love for his children.

We can feel safe with God and His Father heart of unconditional love toward us.
That’s the very best Father’s Day news of all.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Finding Faith in Hard Places

*(The following is a reprint of a column I wrote Feb. 18, 2010. I share it here again because it's as true now as it was then. I pray it encourages you to never give up and hold onto hope no matter how hard life gets. ~jl)*
I hate the hard places in life. Completely hate them. Can’t stand them. Cry over them. Stamp my feet and throw my arms in the air and holler into the night at them. Rage with angry tears streaming down my face at the hard places in life, the ones where life is completely unfair and injustice continues unchecked.

The times when a child dies. The times when anyone dies “too young” whether they are 2 or 40 or 75.

The times when someone takes advantage of another human being ~~ and gets away with it.

The times when someone hurts another person ~~ physically, verbally, emotionally and/or spiritually.

The times when anyone abuses another person, child or adult, or a defenseless animal.

The times when someone violates someone else’s trust in any way.

The times when someone uses the power of their words to hurt someone else, especially behind their back.

The times when guilt or shame or fear threatens to shut you down. Or someone you love.

The times when a friend or loved one is hurting very badly but there’s absolutely nothing you can do but love them.

The times when your heart hurts so badly you can’t breathe.

The times when someone has to wait and wait and wait for test results that could change a life one way or another.

The times when you do everything you know to do and life still throws you a tragic curve.

The times when you don’t get to tell someone you love how you feel. Or even tell them goodbye.

The times when you lose someone so dear that you have to try to remind yourself to breathe.

I absolutely HATE those times in life.

I do NOT, at those moments, listen to or say the horrible words, “Well, this must be God’s will.” How harmful that lie is!! God’s will is NEVER EVER to harm His children. NEVER EVER. God’s heart breaks even more than ours at life’s tragedies.

I do NOT, at those moments, smile sweetly and count my blessings and say, “Well this must all be for the best.” Are you KIDDING me?

If anyone around you ever utters those lies or misrepresentations, run as fast as you can. Especially if you hear anyone ever tell you, “Don’t ever question God.”

Are you KIDDING me?

God made me who I am. He is not going to fall off His throne because I am hurting and ask him questions. He knows me and loves me.

The God I know and love wants, more than anything, for me to be real with Him. To be honest and truthful with Him.

God knows what I’m feeling anyway. Why would I lie to myself or Him and pretend otherwise?

I’m in good company. Some of the people who loved God most asked Him the most questions.

News Flash: I’m human. All too human.

That’s why one of my heroes of the Bible is David.

David screwed up over and over and over again. He lost his temper. He raged. He sinned. He ~~gasp!!!~~ questioned God.

Just like I do. Just like you all do, if you’re honest with yourselves.

Yet time and time again, even ~~ and actually, especially ~~ when he had absolutely no satisfactory answers to any of his questions to God, David still ended up each and every time declaring his unyielding trust in God. It’s there in every Psalm.

And in the end, despite his many flaws, David was called by God himself “a man after God’s own heart.”

In return, even though David didn’t have the answers, he worshipped God with love and passion and reckless abandon and a stubborn faith that seemed absolutely crazy to everyone around him.

The Divine and ultimate paradox. One I know too well.

A loving God does not expect us to see injustice or experience tragedy and blindly accept it. He certainly does not expect us to never ask questions.

All He asks is that we trust Him in the end. All He asks is that we have faith.

Faith to believe He loves us.

Faith to hold on no matter what.

Faith to struggle and still believe.

Faith even if we can’t see anything happening.

Faith to wait with expectant hope.

It’s hard as hell. But I’m trying to learn.

I hate waiting. Really hate it.

I’m holding onto hope with everything in me.

Because sometimes, more often than not, it takes everything in me, simply to hold onto hope.

Yet I still believe.

David may have said it in more flowery poetic phrases.

Here’s my modern-day version, as real as it gets:

Some days, life just kicks the crap out of you. But you go on anyway. That’s faith.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way sometimes.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Making Your Life Matter

Making Your Life Matter
By Janet Lyn
Copyright May 2012

We all want to know we matter, that what we do and who we are makes a difference in this world.
I believe one of the greatest ways we can give our lives significance is by encouraging someone else and sharing hope.
With all of life’s joys and sorrows and ups and downs, we all need to know we are not alone.
We all need to hear someone else reassure us that we’re going to make it through a tough situation.
We all could use a cheering section sometimes, that realization that someone else cares about us and wants us to make it.
Sometimes it’s as simple as telling someone, “I’m proud of you” --- and really meaning it.
Most people don’t hear those powerful words often enough --- and the result can be profound.
As a teacher, I try to tell my students I’m proud of them as much as I can. Whether my students are elementary school children or university students, they never seem to tire of hearing that I believe in them and care about them.
At the same time, I try to challenge them to use their gifts and talents to help other people and make this world a better place.
Sometimes encouraging someone can be as simple and meaningful as spending time together and really listening to what someone has to say and what’s in their heart.
Sometimes what someone needs most is a heartfelt hug or a hand to hold or someone to walk beside them.
Sometimes the most powerful way we can make a difference in someone’s life is with the power of our words.
Our words --- spoken or written --- have the power to communicate encouragement, compassion, hope and unconditional love.
Yet too often, we hold back those encouraging words --- maybe because we’re afraid they’re not enough, maybe because we’re caught up in our own world, maybe because we’re not sure exactly what to say.
But if you think about it, most people hear so many discouraging words from the world around them, so many unkind or thoughtless words that leave a mark in the heart and soul.
That’s why the power of encouraging words can make such a difference.
That’s why the power of kindness is so strong.
Sometimes the difference between someone finding the inner strength and courage to go on in the face of difficulty or tragedy is as simple as knowing that even one other person is in their corner, committed to be there for them.
We all have to endure challenges and even tragedies at some point in our lives.
Those are the times we have to make a choice. We can choose to give up and feel sorry for ourselves. Or we can choose to endure and persevere and refuse to give up.
And then, when we are able, we can choose to use what we have been through to encourage someone else who’s going through a tough time to keep the faith and hold onto hope.
We were created to connect with each other, to need one another.
When we reach out to someone else with encouragement and compassion and love, we make a difference in the world wherever we are.
Our lives matter when we use our lives to make a real difference in someone else’s life.

***How are you making your life matter by making a difference in the lives of others? What has someone else done to encourage you? Did the power of someone's words or kindness make a difference in your life? Share your thoughts and ideas.***