Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Learning to Love

I found this sign on my fridge a few days ago:

Sometimes my kids place their own artwork on the refrigerator, which is pretty funny to me. Obviously with this one, my daughter had slightly confused the words from Galatians 5:14, which says "Love your neighbor as yourself."

But sometimes a mistake in wording, like this one, can make me stop and think. And as I considered this drawing on my fridge, I realized that it is often much harder to love your "family" as yourself than to love your "neighbor" as yourself.

I mean, think about it. Loving my neighbor usually involves simple things like smiling and waving, making small talk, and maybe inviting their kids over to play in the yard for a few hours. Sometimes we get one another's mail or check on their house when they're out of town. We may help them with a small yard or house project and take them a meal or dessert every now and then. But really, these things are often scheduled or planned. There is usually a set beginning and end time and its usually done at our convenience.

But loving your family is a constant responsibility. It doesn't matter if you're tired, sick, hungry or stressed. It doesn't matter if its early in the morning or the middle of the night. They want three meals a day, every day, and usually a snack in between. When your kids are done playing in the yard, your creative activity responsibilities don't end. In fact, mine usually come inside and want to know "what's next?"

Loving my family as myself is hard. It requires round the clock sacrifice. It requires a continual servant's heart. It requires that I remain close to the Lord, guided by His grace, love and care.

But, as I think about all this, I realize that that kind of sacrifice is likely what God actually meant when He said to love my neighbor as myself. Perhaps there's much more to it than just waving hello and bringing their trash to the curb every now and then. Maybe my love for my neighbor should involve a continual, sacrificial care just like my family expects.

I admit there's no way I can do this on my own. The very thought of pouring out more time, more energy, more sacrifice is completely exhausting and overwhelming to me right now. But, I could at least be open to letting God fill me and strengthen me and pour me out in whatever way He wants.

In fact, I've seen this done well. I've experienced this first-hand. We have a neighbor who has loved us so completely, so sacrificially, and so generously that our kids call them their "in-town" grandparents.

As I thank God for these great neighbors, I am reminded that "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required" (Luke 12:48). I know what God's Word says. I've seen it modeled before me. Now the question becomes "will I live it out?"

I can't be a "super neighbor" on my own. But I can make an effort to ask God "who do YOU want me to love today?" And then obey Him and trust Him to help me live it out; to truly love my family, my neighbor, others in my community and anyone the Lord brings into my life. To love know, like myself.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Plans with Eternal Purpose

We have survived the whirlwind month of May! Here's a brief recap:

We watched swim meets,

enjoyed puppet show school projects, 

participated in church programs,

enjoyed some sweet time with Jon's family at the beach,

attended tea party birthday parties,

ballet recitals, 

end of the year choir performances,

field day,

class awards ceremonies,

and spent some sweet time with my family as well.

This fun picture includes the most senior (88 year young grandma) and most junior (7 month old nephew) members of my family!

Here we are partying on the last day of school:

and our temporary yard pet...

We also celebrated graduations with lots of our seniors throughout the month.

And now, needless to say, we are ready for SUMMER!

I've signed the kids up for various camps and activities. I've looked up the summer reading activities at the library. I've made travel plans to see family. I've checked the free summer movie schedule (not great options as it turns out). I've reserved several audio books for long car trips. I've made plans for day trips to the beach. I've picked up the pool schedule.

We are ready. Except for one important thing. As I was thinking through our summer plans I realized I failed to plan for one crucial thing: spiritual growth. Several years ago I went through a study on the life of Paul with the kids. Every day after lunch we sat down to talk about the Book of Acts. Paul is a very exciting Bible character for kids...especially if you tell the stories with excitement and enthusiasm! Blinding lights, supernatural miracles, dangerous journeys, near-death experiences, shipwrecks, snake bites, and a life-changing message. Don't tell me the Bible's not an exciting read. The kids were really into it. Well, one was napping of course, but the other two were fully engaged! They would even remind me if I forgot to do the Bible lesson on a particular day. Because we were studying the missionary Paul we also talked about and prayed for several modern-day missionaries (some who we even knew personally). We had a big map of the world and learned how to find the different countries of the missionary families we were praying for.

So, what happened this summer? How did I forget to plan for such an important thing? Why is the beach, pool and library on my calendar, but not the study of God's Word? Why have we planned and prepared for all sorts of growth experiences except spiritual?

Yikes! Praise the Lord that His Holy Spirit reveals to us our faults and weaknesses. Praise the Lord I realized this oversight on June 1st and not August 15!

My weekend plans? Pray for wisdom and make a plan for the daily spiritual training of my children over the next few months. Lord, please help us use this extra time in summer for eternal purposes and not just selfish pursuits!