Prayer Paves the way for Love

  
Has God ever called you to love someone, that in all honesty you just didn’t want to love? He is audacious enough to do that! In fact, it’s not a once in a while request, it’s an all the time mandate. Jesus commanded us to love one another. In Matthew 5:46, he said, “if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”

God calls us higher. He calls us to more. He calls us to love differently than the world loves. He says we can have extravagant God given gifts, but without love they mean nothing. He calls us to love, as he loves us – with forgiveness, compassion, mercy and with out condition.

Yes, there’s wisdom in healthy boundaries. But there’s no wavering in His call to love.

Today, if you are struggling to love the difficult, the undeserving, the marginalized, the lost, the broken, your frenemies, or your enemies –may I encourage you to pave the way through prayer? Commit to praying for everyone this post has brought to your mind, daily. Pray blessings, health, favor and prosperity over them. And as you do, you will find your heart soften toward them, preparing the way for love.

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The Languages of Love

5-love-languagesHave you ever said something encouraging or uplifting to someone and noticed it totally lit them up? A few weeks back I bragged on a co-worker in front of his parents. I said, “He is the closest thing to Spielberg we have on staff.” I’m not certain, but when I walked away I think he might have backed into the wall. I literally knocked him off his feet. It wasn’t my goal. I was just paying a sincere compliment. As I filled his wife in later on our conversation, his reaction suddenly made sense. She said, “You know words of affirmation is his love language. You probably totally made his day!”

Her response took me back to one of my all time favorite books, The Five Love Languages. Obviously my friend was familiar with it. One of my aunts bought that book for David and I when we got married. As newlyweds we read it together at night. Well, I read it out loud and David listened, is more accurate. That is our pattern. I like to read, he doesn’t. So we found a solution to experiencing it together and dug in. Each page opened our eyes to the different ways people receive love. I can’t think of any better way to start our marriage off than learning to love one another in ways that truly soak in and fill up the other’s love tank.

If you haven’t read the book, here’s a quick recap of the love languages. They are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

They are pretty self-explanatory, however I encourage you to read the book for a greater understanding of the importance of learning to speak one another’s love languages and to find out more about each one.

David’s love language is physical touch. Mine are words of affirmation and acts of service. Quality time is a close third. At the end of my list is gifts. However, I have dear friends and one child, and another I am beginning to suspect, that have receiving gifts as their primary love language. That means I have to be intentional about loving them in the way that comes least naturally for me.

As I talked with my friend at work, it hit me that I wanted to learn more of the love languages of the people around me everywhere, not just in my home. Every person in my world is someone God brought across my path to love on and pour into and the best way to do that is the way they best receive love. I made a mental note that day to be more tuned in to people’s responses when I give them a hug, or a high-five – does it seem to make them stand a little taller? Or when I give a gift does someone seem a little lighter on their feet? If I meet someone for coffee, does it speak volumes about how much I value them? For sure, what I don’t want to do, is love on people around me the way I receive love all the time and then totally miss that I’m not speaking their language!

I hope you feel inspired as you read this to think of how those in your world respond to your kind acts of love. Does it make their day? Does it seem to just roll off their backs leaving them unfazed. Being tuned in is the best way to discern how we are doing at this! And when we see we have knocked someone off their feet by filling their love tank up in just the right way, let’s make a mental note, so we can do it again, and again.

For some, how we love them in our moments of interaction, may be the only love they receive all day.

Verse for reflection: 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.”

Let’s pray – Father God, Fill me up with your love. Give me a greater awareness of how special I am to you. Consume my heart with your love. Captivate me with it! And help me to be in tune to those around me and how I can best express your love to them. Use me to bless others. Use me to speak your love to your precious children in ways they can truly receive it. Give me eyes to see those desperately in need of a love touch from you. Give me eyes to see those who feel unloved and are crying out for someone to care. And give me creative ideas to love others well. Help me to speak their language. Open their hearts to receive it. In Jesus name, amen.

Beloved, Beautiful, Loved Daughter

Beloved Beautiful Loved DaughterI wrote this post several years ago and just found it sitting in my drafts. I am posting it for you to read and hope you enjoy it and it speaks to your heart!–Amy

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Typically, my time with God each morning ends with me writing out my prayers in my journal. However, a few days ago, I felt lead to spend my prayer time a little differently. On this particular morning, instead of me pouring out my words to Him, I put on my worship music and asked God to speak His words to my heart. As I sat there, pen in hand and journal waiting, His words to me began to flow. As I wrote one word down, another would come, and another, until the words stopped and then a sweet message poured out – a love poem from the Father to His Daughter.

I am normally very private with my quiet time moments with God, but this message and these words spoken to me represent what I believe is his heart for each of his girls. He is so faithful to redeem and restore our lives, our hurts, and our broken dreams – to love us back to a place of wholeness in Him.  And so today, I would like to share these sweet words with you, and I hope they will minister to your heart in ways that only God’s love can…..

God first whispered these words to me, “I love you. My Daughter. Princess. Queen. Redeemed. Restored. Full of Hope. Springs of Peace. Righteous. Whole. Pure. Devoted. Loved Beyond Measure. Breath of Fresh Air. Wellsprings of Life. Restorer of Order. Shield. Called. Passionate. I am yours. You are mine.”

Then He poured out this sweet poem:

Beloved,

Beautiful,

Loved Daughter.

I am sorry for your hurts.

I am sorry for your pain.

I was there

In your midst;

Holding You,

Rocking You,

Cradling You,

Whispering to You,

Devoted Daughter.

In your sorrow,

I brought joy.

In your anguish,

I brought strength.

In your despair,

I called your name.

I am Yours;

You are mine.

Beloved,

Beautiful,

Loved Daughter.

I pray these words will minister to your heart today and remind you, you are loved.

Amy O’Donnell

Courageous Conversations, Guest Post by Ruth Caporello

 Courageous Conversations  Have you ever had the feeling that something needed to be said? You know, that feeling that starts as a ball of discomfort in the pit of your stomach and crawls up into your throat, making your fingers tingle and your temperature rise? If you are above the age of 3 and are in relationship with any other human being, you have most likely experienced the urge to express an alternative viewpoint, to point out a conflictual dilemma, to challenge an argument.

In many cultures across the globe, we are taught to “not rock the boat” and to “keep the peace at all costs.” Yes, our words do have great power (Proverbs 18:21) and peacemakers are called the very “children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Still, I wonder how different our cultures, how enriched our relationships, how vibrant our communication would be…if we were brave enough to have more “courageous conversations.”

Uncomfortable, but worth it!

I recently attended a training around cultural competency and conversation regarding ethnicity, diversity and race. The trainers aimed to create a “safe” environment in which the group of participants from a diverse spectrum of ages, backgrounds and cultures could divulge on issues that are often quite “touchy” in mainstream society. At the beginning of the training, we agreed to be honest with and respectful of one another. Throughout the training, we asked questions and shared personal experiences, stereotypes and fears. We learned from and extended grace to ourselves and to each other. At times, certain topics and exercises made us feel uncomfortable, but we were willing to address those areas in order to grow in knowledge, understanding and relationship. Each of the participants agreed that it was worth stepping out of one’s comfort zone for!

It can save lives!

I am reminded of a valiant young woman who risked her own life in order to have a courageous conversation. In the book of Esther, the Bible tells the story of how the simple Jewish girl was summoned to the king’s palace and groomed to become his bride. A noble advisor to the king, Haman became jealous of Esther’s cousin and plotted to destroy all Jews in the kingdom (which included the newly-Queen Esther, herself). Esther heard of this evil plan and made the difficult decision to ask the king to spare her people. The very act of calling upon the king without his prior consent was not custom and endangered her life. At a dinner she hosted for the king, she made her request, …”If I have found favor with the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my request, I ask that my life and the lives of my people will be spared. For my people and I have been sold to those who would kill, slaughter, and annihilate us. If we had merely been sold as slaves, I could remain quiet, for that would be too trivial a matter to warrant disturbing the king!” (Esther 7:3-4 NIV) Esther looked fear in the face and made a bold plee, saving her life and the lives of her people that day. Now, that’s a courageous conversation, if you ask me!

Cultivating Courageous Conversations

Here are some valuable tools to remember when starting courageous conversations:

  1. Ask yourself, “What am I committed to in this conversation?” In other words, choose one or two words that describe the “filter” you want to communicate through. For an example, if you are committed to “love” and “acceptance,” then you would run what you say, how you respond and your body language through the filters of “love” and “acceptance.” If you are committed to “honesty” and “forgiveness,” then you would project your conversation through the filters of “honesty” and “forgiveness.” These words you choose will reflect and focus your motives and will describe the kind of experience you want your listener(s) to have in that conversation.

  2. Write it down! In the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to remember the important thoughts you wanted to share. By taking a “breather, writing down and reviewing the key points you want to share, you are more likely to articulate effectively.

  3. LISTEN. It can feel wonderful to speak “our truth” and expose the realities that appear as clear as day to us. However, it is equally important to listen to the other parties in the conversation. “The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.” (Rachel Naomi Remen) When listened to, your confidant may feel more respected and be more willing to listen to your perspective – and you may learn things about him/her that you didn’t know before.

  4. You can only control your actions. As hard as it is to accept, we may not always get the results we want. We only answer for our own actions, our own initiatives, our own motives. It may be risky to express a viewpoint that is not popular or that has been pushed deep down for many years – only to have the other parties uninterested or even defensive. Don’t give up – you may be “planting seeds” of truth, reconciliation and authenticity. It may take some time for the other to come around.

  5. Give yourself grace. Each of us has allowed words to slip that we regretted after the fact or just plain didn’t help the situation! Give yourself grace and don’t be afraid to courageously ask for forgiveness – and also forgive yourself.

The greatest things in life typically cost us something. It is not fun to speak the truth with the risk of unpopularity, disagreement or adversity. I believe the most powerful filter and motive is LOVE. Love will inspire us to speak up and to bite our tongues. Love will touch the deepest wounds and coldest hearts, in time. When expressed in love, even the most difficult conversations can spark a catalyst for change, healing, reconciliation, progress, (and the list goes on!) So, write it down. Meditate and pray about it. Get wise counsel. And speak the truth in love! I propose a toast – to more courageous conversations! *clink*

Ruth Capr

Bio: A globally-minded Texan, Ruth Caporello is passionate about inspiring others to cultivate and embrace the purpose and passion within them. A recent newlywed, Ruth loves to laugh, cook, travel, play scrabble with her hubby and advocate for children and families in need.

My Issue with Valentines

BeMyValentine_TAF-421We are in a series in Sisterhood right now on our issues. We call it ‘The Dirty-Dirty’. It’s a great theme that gives us a chance to be real about the hurts, habits and hang-ups that can hold us back or have held us back in life. Last night, I had a chance to share in the two-minute pre-segment we call ‘Take Two’.

In light of the theme, and Valentines week, I thought it’d be fitting to talk about my issue with Valentines Day. Surprisingly, when I mentioned I had had an issue with the infamous day of love, many other girls raised their hands in agreement. I thought I’d be in the minority, but found that at least half the room did currently, or had at some point, agree with me.

Our reasons behind our issue with the day probably vary as much as all of us. For me, mine wasn’t so much with the holiday, but what it represented…. LOVE. I grew up in a home where love wasn’t really celebrated, and I didn’t really feel celebrated. On top of that, I experienced a lot of inconsistency, instability, un-availability, abuse, and other issues from those around me in my formative years. Those who should have loved me well, really weren’t able to in that season. And so, I grew up walled off from love. It didn’t have a high value to me, and I didn’t cognitively realize or think about it how much I needed it or how dysfunctional I was in it. I set out in college to conquer the world, with little thought on family, or warm fuzzy friendships… I thought I was good with my goals and all I could do.

My junior year, the most amazing men swept me off my feet and arrested my heart; my husband David, and Jesus. I wish I could say change happened completely over night. I did experience a sudden transformation, but heart healing takes time. So as David and I set out dating and then after we were married, I trained him not to celebrate me on Valentines Day. As soon as it would roll around, I’d be on my soapbox calling it a racket. I’d say it was just a holiday invented by Hallmark and Florists to make money off the people.

Fast forward about ten years later – the love of my husband, who loves me like Jesus, and the love of Jesus and His people in my most amazing church, really changed me. I began to love, LOVE. I got good at celebrating it, and when Valentines Day rolled around, I wanted to be celebrated. Poor David, he had to play catch up… He was pretty OK not making a big deal out of it, and then had to feel out, how big of a deal does Amy want me to make of it. 🙂 The things we put our men through! LOL!

In light of that, and in having an opportunity to share last night at Sisterhood, I decided to set the tone this year by writing David a Dirty-Dirty (w/ some of our issues) Valentines poem to read aloud to him in front of the girls… It was a hit! He loved it. It’s not often I render him speechless. I am not really a poet, but thought I’d share it here as well, just for fun in celebrating today.

David,

You are the yin to my yang;

The bread to my butter.

I am thankful we didn’t come from the same mother…

Well, because that would make you, my brother.

You are the salt to my pepper;

the cookie to my cream.

You are neat and tidy, And I am not so clean…

Thanks for the grace for our home not having to be pristeen.

You are the light to my darkness;

The rhythm to my song.

We get along well except when we fight, for…

I am always right and you are never wrong.

You are the milk to my cereal;

The icing on my cake.

Speaking of food – I love you…

Despite the eating sounds you make.. scrape, scrape, scrape.

In the famous words of Jerry Maguire;

Next to Jesus, You complete me.

Thanks for loving me despite myself…

And buying me things on Valentines Day now, ever so freely.

Love big today! It’s worth it. Praying you feel celebrated in every way. And remember, the God of the Universe is head over heals in love with you. He is your forever Valentine! xo Amy

Playgrounds and Pink Ladies…

pinkladies

Remember the clubs of your childhood years – on play grounds, at slumber parties… clubs like the pink ladies of the famed movie, Grease? Most of us probably remember being in or around cliques and clubs growing up, sometimes enjoying them, and at other times getting our heart-broken as we were kicked out or no longer welcome.

Well, my daughter has officially graduated to club age. She came home from school a few weeks ago, very distraught, because her friends had started a club, and then invited her to join; which made her ecstatic. That is, until one of her “good friends” invited more of Kylie’s friends, and then let her know that club had grown so much that she was no longer allowed in it. She was told there was no room for her.

As she shared her friend woes with me, her heart was broken and my heart sank for her. Momma bear rose up for a minute and I visualized myself marching onto that playground and giving those girls a piece of my mind. Then, as I pondered all the scenarios on how best to handle this first experience with cliques and the heart ache that goes along with not feeling a sense of belonging, it dawned on me what a great teaching moment this was for Kylie.

I took a minute to gather my thoughts, responded sympathetically and with lots of TLC, and then I gave her two great nuggets of info I wish I had learned at her age. The first – we should never give people so much power over our emotions. Their approval, or lack of it, is not our problem. The second, we choose our friends, and how they treat us lets us know how good of a friend they really are. She listened wide-eyed, and I said, “Good friends will never make you feel unvalued or like you don’t belong. Good friends will stand up for you and include you. You have a choice in this – do you want friends who make you feel left out?” I helped her take responsibility for her self, her choice of friends, and the vision she has for her life.

Much of our talk was meant to be between us, but true to 7-year-old nature, she went to school the next day and had a chat with her friend. She said, “My mom said that if you were really my friend, you wouldn’t treat me this way. That you would be nicer to me, and that I deserve friends who want to have me around. And since you don’t, I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to be friends anymore.” Wow! Where was the filter! I asked her how her friend responded, and she said, “Oh that… I am back in the club.” All it took was her valuing herself enough to set healthy boundaries and decide how she should be treated, and to let another friend learn a valuable lesson… What’s done in a moment could have lasting consequences. I am so happy that in this case, it all worked out well.

Don’t you just love those moments when life provides the opportunity to train up a child? For when she is older, she will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

Say What?!

We have a young man who has come to church with us off and on for the last few years – mainly just on Wednesdays. He has probably only attended on Sundays with us a handful of times, if that; and we enjoy bringing him when we can. Through out the years, he really has become like one of our own. When he started coming with us, he was just in second grade. Now in 7th, he is much larger, but still the same sweet young man. He has had a rough life… I don’t know all the details, but I know he clams up if I ask too many questions. And so, we just love him while we have him and pour into him when we can.

Imagine my surprise this morning, when we got an early knock on our door. My daughter came to tell me it was this young man and that he had ridden his bike over to our house and wanted to come to church with us. I said, “Absolutely, of course he can, tell him to come on in.”

On the way to church he was sweetly sitting in the front passenger seat, talking to me like one of my own. He told me that he had just prayed the night before, that at church he would find the phone he lost there on Wednesday. I thought, “How sweet to hear him tell me about his prayers! He has grown so much in these last few years!”

When we got to the church, he and my other kids and I all went our separate ways as we do each week. They have grown up at our church; it’s like their second home. They know where to go and what to do, and they like to go walk around and connect with their friends before they go to class.

We attend both services, and in between I was walking down the hall past the youth hang out room, and the doors to it were open. Suddenly, I heard a very loud F bomb float out the doors in what sounded like slow motion; said loudly and stretched out as if for emphasis. All the adults in the hall way looked up like they had just heard gun fire. I looked up too, probably faster and with a bit more response, because I knew this was one of mine who had just let that expletive rip. Well… not biologically, but we consider him a part of our family.

My first thought was, “Wow, that wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t here.” Then an even faster thought quickly overshadowed that one. That thought was, “I’d rather have him here and hear an occasional bomb like that drop, than not have him here at all. At least here he is in a place of love, where he can get poured into and grow in his walk with God, even while he is imperfect… after all, aren’t we all?”

Isn’t it funny how quickly we can forget our own imperfections and need for a savior? The Bible says, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). None of us are perfect, and all of us need a place where we can be imperfect while God works on our hearts, all the while finding acceptance, grace and love from the people around us. Church should be that place. I was reminded of that today.

I also was reminded that God gives us one another to bring accountability and a gentle, loving prod in the right direction when needed, especially in the role of raising up the next generation. I was thankful that I walked by in that moment, because it gave me a chance to show him what another kind of love looks like, and that’s the love of a parent figure giving gentle correction where needed. In this situation, I just leaned in, looked him in the eyes and said for all in the room to hear, “Let’s watch our language please.” And that was enough.

Copyright © 2012 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved