Agape Love

Agape is a Greek term for one of the highest forms of love in the Bible. This kind of love is rare and is modeled by Jesus when He died on the cross for us. It is a sacrificial, selfless, and unconditional.

Phileo, also a Greek term, is like brotherly love, but also one that shows strong affection, not expecting anything in return.

We see in John 13: 34-35, Jesus tells his disciples about a new commandment; to love one another as God loved them. In verse 38, He goes on to tell Peter that he will deny Him three times before the rooster crows. Peter is distraught, he insists that this will never happen. Yet, we read that it does.

In John 21:15-17, Jesus gives Peter a second chance. He restores him by asking him three times if he loves Him; the same number of times that Peter denied Jesus, he was given the opportunity to be redeemed to Jesus and respond to Him in love. I heard a minister speak about this once and say that the first two times Jesus asked Peter if he agape Him; and Peter answered both times that he phileo Him. But the third time Jesus met Peter where he was and asked if he phileo Him. Peter answered yes.

As I reflect on this, I believe if Jesus indeed asked Peter the first two times if he agape Him and then the third time if he phileo Him; Possibly Jesus knew He was asking a lot of Peter. This was the man who had just denied even knowing Jesus, when the going got rough. This kind of love, the highest form of love, may have been hard for Peter to claim in his shame and regret.  A kind of love only Jesus had shown us; but Jesus kept on asking and changed to the level Peter could relate to so he could accept forgiveness.

For us, the closest we may come to knowing this kind of agape love is for a child. The other night, I dreamed that my son was about three years old and we were in a foreign land. I wanted to go explore and take photos of a beautiful waterfall I could see in the distance, but every time I turned around, he had taken off and I had to go find him. The third time, I was not able to find him anywhere. I was scared that I wouldn’t or that something terrible happened to him. I looked around and saw him coming towards me through a marsh, up to his waist in muck. I ran out to meet him and grabbed him in my arms, whispering in his ear how scared I was, and I asked him to please not run off again.

I see this as how God comes after us when we are lost. We are in a foreign land, but we can see glimpses of the beauty and glory to come. God picks us up out of the muck, comforts us and gently asks us not to leave again, whispers of love. He loves us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us. The crucifixion and resurrection prove Jesus’ love and the love of the Father. Agape love.

If you have a friend who is kind and loving and you consider to be your best friend, don’t you want to introduce them to everyone you meet? In the same way, I want to introduce my Friend, Jesus to everyone I meet. He rewrote my story. He redeemed all the miserable years and all my tears. I hope to show others who He is by the way I live and conduct myself. I pray to always be humble and kind, with a tender heart. Yes, He is the Leader of the world, Creator of all things, Master of the universe, but also a caring, kind, gentle, friend who wants the best for us, always. He restores and redeems. I know my story isn’t over. God is still writing it. He amazes me every day! I hope to soak it all up and enjoy every moment

God’s Echo

Raven Run

It was nearing the end of the year and I was still praying for my word. Many times, God told me to ‘be brave’. Knowing I would need to be brave for what He was calling me to do in the upcoming year, I quickly adopted ‘brave’ as my word for 2020.

One of the things I felt God was calling me to do this year was start a support group for women. Still learning and healing from my own past abuse, I knew I had a story to share and could help others walk through their stories as well as teach the red flags of abuse. But I had never led a support group before. I prayed for God to help me as I attempted to help other women.

I basically feel, like most of my assignments, I just need to be willing and show up. God will handle the rest. As many times before, when I show up, He shows out. So, I know I can trust Him with the outcome. I just have to take the next step.  I registered my group and continued praying for guidance and help.

A couple of weeks into the new year, sitting in my quiet time, I was given the word, ‘echo’ in a very distinct manner. God knowing me like He does, I went to search the spiritual meaning of the word. As I am surfing the internet, letting the Spirit lead me, I found a women’s ministry and a blog post entitled, “To Be God’s Echo”. I read the article and found a beautiful story and explanation that the opportunity to tell people again what God had already said was to be an echo of the Almighty. It went on to say we must first listen to what He has said.

I love that! It spoke directly to my heart for serving women through Faith Walk Ministries and the Sister’s Circle support group. The author went on to say as she is ministering to women, she focuses on three words: encourage, embrace and echo. I can relate to all three of these words as one of my Spiritual gifts is to encourage others, I pray often that I will never hurt others with my words but lift them up and encourage them. In anticipation of the group, I designed a logo for the Sister’s Circle which is two women embracing each other in a hug. (Ya’ll know I am fond of hugs) And now to have a word that completes it, to be an echo in the lives of others, to breathe God’s truth and love by being an echo to His heart. I know God is still calling me to be brave but my new word for 2020 has been given to me from the purest of hearts…ECHO. I am amazed every day and look forward to echoing His truth not only throughout the coming year but continue throughout my ministry wherever He leads me.

Marathon

Since becoming a runner about nine years ago, it has never been my goal to run a marathon. The longest race I completed was a 10K (6.2 mi.) and the longest run on my own has been 7 miles.  These days I do about 3 miles each day or sometimes 4 if I have time and am feeling good. I have learned to listen to my body and take a break when it needs to rest. This allows me to be stronger when I do go back out.

My main goal is to run for my health not to damage it. For me, that is what I would be doing if I trained for a marathon. Finding out I have the first stages of osteoporosis and that running is good for my bones only added to the many beneficial reasons for continuing this sport. I enjoy running and spending that time with God. I don’t want to turn it into something I dread. Besides, this is where a lot of these messages come from…my time with God in nature. I have the time to process, pray and receive. God teaches me a lot, but I realize it isn’t just for me, so I share it with others in hopes it blesses them as well.

However, when I think about the things God is preparing us for it reminds me that the opposite is true. It is in God’s timing. Most of the time He reminds us that it is a marathon, not a sprint. We can celebrate the milestones along the way, remember to take breaks, rest, and enjoy the beauty of the journey. We may not know the end goal of our trainings, but God does. We can slow our pace and take one day at a time.

Our experiences and lessons along the way can be used to help others. Sometimes, we think we know where we are headed only to be shifted in a completely new direction and focus. If we are staying our course, with God as the leader, we can rest assured we will get wherever we are going at just the right time. We shouldn’t settle on anything less. It may take a little longer but that is the nature of the marathon. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

I Believe!

Mt. Rainier

Do you believe God parted the Red Sea as though it were dry ground? Do you believe the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down? Do you believe God shut the mouths of lions, quenched flames of fire and placed Jonah in the belly of a whale? Do you believe Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood? I could go on and on through scripture how God saved His people, preformed miracles and changed lives through the faith of His people.

I believe because I have seen first hand in my own life how God spared my life from a tragic car accident, saved me from an abusive relationship, brought good out of my mistakes and bad decisions, and I could on and on about that as well.

We all have our blanks? How do you fill in the blank? What have you seen God do in your life that causes you to believe?

I believe because God saved me from________________________________________.

How has God changed your life so much that you know it could only be Him?

So why not trust Him with this?

Whatever your ‘this’ is right now. That daunting thing that looks overwhelming, but you know God brought you to it. It reminds me of the song lyrics, ‘I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains, and I believe I will see You do it again.’ Friend, when we’ve seen God work in our lives before, we can believe He will do it again. If we believe we can receive everything He has for us, in full measure and abundance. If we believe we will receive. Hold tight to that confidence- not in ourselves but in what God can do in and through us when we believe, have faith and trust Him with the results.

This also comes with a warning; it probably won’t look like what we thought, but we can trust God with the outcome and believe where He is leading us will be even better than we ever imagined for ourselves.

When you get a chance, read through Hebrews chapter 11. Refresh yourself in one chapter with what all God has achieved through those who believed.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Innocence

I love God’s heart. For a lot of us our childhood memories come with a sense of innocence. I had a ton of great memories on our front porch. It brings back so many images to my mind. A place of firsts. Firsts certainly contain a load of innocence. First memory, first word, first step, laughter, singing, loss, tears, family and friends, music out the bedroom window, swinging, pets, long conversations, sleepy eyes, fireflies, hellos, and goodbyes.

First bike, first car, first crush, wedding day jitters, first house, first job, first baby, singing lullabies. I could go on and on. Even though our front porch saw a lot of these firsts, for me, it also was the place I first lost some of my innocence. But that one memory does not have to taint all the others. I was reminded that God restores our innocence. Through all the things we have done since our more innocent days of childhood; We can rest assured God has redeemed it all through His Son, Jesus.

Not only to our level of childlike memories, but to His superlative standards of innocence. That brings a new level of renewed hope and joy, as we travel the high road, looking to the Rock for our comfort and protection. God loves us that much. His heart is so full of love for us that He chose to save us and restore our innocence so we can be free.

From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

I look up to the mountains- does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! Psalm 121:1-2

He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:6

Never Alone

I have learned to distinguish a cardinal from other birds by their call. Even when I can’t see them, I know there is one close by because I hear it.

We have been watching the Masked Singer lately- this is where a group of celebrities in costume compete against each other in a singing competition while a celebrity panel of judges tries to guess who they are. As they are eliminated in the competition, they are unmasked. Most of the time it is a total surprise who they are. But the last show we watched was different; one of the panelists recognized the voice of the singer- they were friends, so she had no doubt who it was. A friend recognizes the voice of a friend. She wasn’t wrong.

We can also learn how to recognize God’s voice and train our ear to listen for it; even when we cannot see Him. We can know He is near- He never leaves us or forsakes us. Sometimes we feel distant because of our sin or simply because we do not take the time to be still, learn His voice and pay attention.

God is the One person we do not have to social distance from during this time of quarantine. Quite the opposite, now is the perfect opportunity, as we have more time at home, to rekindle our relationship with the Father. If you have not experienced a close relationship with Him before, it is a great time to start one through the reading of His word, sitting in quiet time with the Spirit and asking for discernment to understand His voice.

It is also a great opportunity to pray for God’s people all over the world- as we are experiencing the same trials- (I Peter 5:9) We are not alone in our suffering. Not only are there others going through the same things; but God is always with us. He never leaves us alone or forsakes us. These song lyrics have been on my mind for several days: “I’ve seen the lightning flashing and heard the thunder roll…. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.” You have a friend that is closer than a brother that you can talk to anytime. His door is always open. He is always listening and waiting for you to come to Him. He knows exactly what you are going through right now.

God’s faithfulness is everlasting. Draw near and abide in Him. His promises stand true. Trust Him to be your constant companion- even though you may not see Him. You can know that He is there. It is in the knowing and trusting that brings a peace and comfort like no other.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. John 15:4

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

Reflection

At 54, I am happy where I am today and what God is doing at this age, that I could never have imagined for myself, at any time in my life. When my mom was 54, I was only 18. In that year, I graduated high school, got in a marriage that would last 22 years, started my first job that lasted 17 of those years. Wow, I thought I knew it all. I would not change any of it because it brought me where I am today- but I would not want to go back either.

I have been reading about Paul’s life recently and see how God changed his life in a new light. In the beginning, his name was Saul and when God chose to change him, he blinded him. (Acts 9:8-19) I believe God blinded Saul so he could see clearly for the first time. He filled him with the Holy Spirit and then was able to use him for spreading the gospel. God not only changed his name, he changed his heart, his life, and his character. I can relate to Paul in so many ways.

Upon much reflection, I realize; I have seen more, with my eyes closed, in a few short years, with the Holy Spirit, than a lifetime with them seemingly open. My life, my perspective, my heart, and my character have been forever changed, when God filled me with the Holy Spirit. He wrote my new name on a white stone and called me a victor in Christ. Today, I celebrate where I am, with Christ, chosen by God, led by the Holy Spirit for a mission that is still unfolding before my eyes.

I am no longer hiding or running- I have faced my truth head on and lived to tell about it. It is a privilege and an honor to accept God’s mission to share my story with others. I am still learning every day- but as I learn, in turn, I hope to teach others and share the gospel with those He places in my path.

Ears to hear and eyes to see- both are gifts from the Lord. Proverbs 20:12

“…I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” Rev.2:17

Remembering Mom

If Mom were still with us she would have been 90 today! In some way, it is a blessing that she isn’t and that she went when she did. Because unlike circumstances now, we wouldn’t have had the chance to rally around her as a family in her last few days; to sing, laugh, worship, pray and celebrate her life and the sense of humor she had. For that I am forever grateful. I certainly sympathize with those who lost love ones to the virus and didn’t get a chance to say their goodbyes.

In reflection this morning, I was trying to remember what her favorite dessert was. She was fond of all of them so it is hard to pinpoint only one that I would call her favorite. But, the rest of us, we all had our favorites, and what I do remember is her always making them for our special day. For Dad- I believe it was red velvet cake, Barbara would have been the cherry pudding (which was a sweet bread type loaf cake with a homemade cherry sauce); for Butch it was a lemon layer cake with rich lemony goodness between the layers; for David I am pretty sure it was always a simple chocolate cake; Donna would be strawberry shortcake or in later years cotton pickin’ cake; and for me as a child it was carrot cake and later I loved her strawberry/rhubarb cobbler. Speaking of desserts, I sure do miss her green apple dumplings. Nobody made them like hers.

As a child, every year I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and every year she always said the same thing. My gift to her was an ironing board cover- what a lame birthday present. But, hers would always be worn out by the time her birthday came around and she could said she needed it- I don’t seem to have that problem. But, this just re-enforces who she was as a mom, wife and person. Always taking care of others.

Dad, on the other hand, I knew what to get him. At four years old, I gave him a really nice blue, bouncy ball. Every dad needs one of those, right? So he can play with his little girl. What sweet memories. Today, I celebrate with both of them and the peace they now have, together in heaven. Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you! These flowers are for you….

Migration

Elephants have always been very prominent in my life. Even as a child I loved them. Not that I had one for pet or anything. I just thought they were fascinating. I am not completely sure why I was drawn to them, but I was. I let them go for a little while and now they have marched back into my life with exponential meaning.

I sought out some interesting facts about them after I noticed them more often. Did you know the male and female herds do not stay together, for the most part? The female herd is led by the matriarch until she dies. Then her oldest daughter or a sister takes her place at the front of the line.

The older females are known to be full of wisdom and great at leading herds away from potential dangers. In other words, they are mature female leaders of the pack with abundant knowledge on helping the younger elephants survive in the wild.

Their large ears aid them in hearing the call of another elephant from their herd. In fact, they can hear the distress call from over five miles away, as well as any predators that could threaten their young ones.

Aren’t we supposed to do the same thing as mature adult women of Christ? We can lead other women to the truths of God’s word, share our wisdom, experiences and lead our friends, family, and young girls away from potential dangers of this world.

If we could use our own keen sense of hearing on God’s voice and be obedient to His call, we can show up when others need our help and support them through Christian love. The best leaders are those who are servants first, to Christ and then to others by putting their knowledge into action and setting good examples as role models.

I wrote this some time ago, but recently watched the new Disney Nature series on Elephants- I highly recommend it. God’s design and attention to detail is fascinating. In fact, as we search for wholesome things to watch, this Disney series has been a go-to recently; we also watched the series on dolphins and bears.

One common theme I noticed, is that all of them have a migration period. Even butterflies and birds of all kinds, including geese, migrate as well, although I have not watched any documentaries on those yet. Whether it is to find food, warmer temps, safer living quarters…etc. It is in their nature to migrate. They all take their young ones along, teaching them and protecting them along the way. The journey is not always easy. They incur battles and trek through all kinds of treacherous territory on their way to a better place.

Aren’t we also migrating? We are seeking a better place as we migrate towards Heaven. Sometimes our path is treacherous, and we have battles to fight along the way. We teach and protect our young on the journey of life. We have mountains to climb and valleys to go through but there are many meadows, places of rest, playful times as well. We can enjoy the journey knowing where we are headed.

Some of the animals have made the trek before but others trust and follow their leaders. I hope I can lead others on the journey towards Christ…towards something better. This life is temporary- it is not our true home. Let us migrate and enjoy the journey as we all trust and follow the ultimate leader.

“Wherever you go, I will go; where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” Ruth 1:16

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously and He will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33

References sited: Thoughtco

https://www.thoughtco.com/10-facts-about-elephants-4134152

Pink Unicorns

It may seem odd that I am writing something called ‘Pink Unicorns’ or that God can use something like that to send me a message, but I am here to tell you that He did and He can use anything that He feels will resonate with the person He is trying to reach.

At a time in my life when I was in a dark place and an abusive relationship, I had a dream that me and the guy I was with at the time were sitting on top of bleachers in an open field. I looked up and, in the distance, I saw three old planes coming into view and they flew over our heads. Next, I saw 3 newer fighter jets and they also flew over us. Then I saw black hawk helicopters and they flew on past.

Last, I saw something white flying towards us, as they got closer, I could see that it was several solid white horses, but they didn’t fly on past. As they begin to land in the distance, I could see the last few were pastel colors; blue, pink and purple. They started to head my direction and as they approached, I saw they were unicorns. They were so beautiful! They came straight up to me. I held out my hand and just as the first one got close enough to touch my hand, I woke up.

At the time it was a beautiful sight, but I didn’t know what it meant. I was in a controlling relationship where I gave in to every command. Now if your abuser/controller has that kind of manipulating power over you, where he is getting everything he desires, do you really think he is going to make you move out? That is exactly what happened to me. At the time it caused pain, heartbreak and confusion. But now, I can see it was God working in my life and causing this person to be so unhappy with the situation that he threw me out; (By the way, that is something I now thank God for every day!)

I had a tendency as a people-pleaser to stay in a bad situation much longer than I should. I was trying everything in my power to make this relationship work. Problem was just that…everything in “my” power.  At the time, I did not have Jesus in my life.

I was sitting in quiet time with the Spirit, reflecting on some dreams. He brought this dream back to the forefront of my memory with an explanation and I saw the image of a pink unicorn.

“Human armies couldn’t have gotten you to leave him. Some will pass you by and not even stop to save you. But I will send My army of white horses for you. They will come in a form you won’t expect or understand at first, but it will be unique and beautiful.”

He was so right about that. I can see now in hindsight how He was working in my life to get me away from this situation. All of this happened just a few short months before my life-changing year.

Funny thing, I started seeing pink unicorns everywhere I went. I thought about my dream and how God saved me. But I didn’t think of writing about it at the time. A few weeks later, I began to see even more pink unicorns and one day I lost count I saw so many. (Not actual live ones…but you know- images in stores on everything. Ha!)

The next morning, during a run I was processing how many I saw the day before and I asked him to reveal to me if there was another message, I needed to receive from them. That is when He gave me this message to write. In my experience, when I don’t get His intention at first, He puts it in front of me again and again until I get the message.

If we pay attention to the things God is trying to tell us, there is always a prominent message in it, and it can bring the type of change that we don’t know we need. We can rely on His promises and know that He will come for us with an army of warriors to bring us home.

How have you seen God work in your life?