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What love is

February 13, 2015

IMG_0252So…now that we’ve looked at the negative side of what love is not, what exactly should love look like? Is it wrong to care about ourselves or to want people to love us?

I think we have to be careful about this question. We are not wrong in wanting to be loved. God created us with a need to be loved. Some of us suppress that need out of fear. But everyone wants to know they are valued by someone else. If no one cares about us at all, then it can lead us into deep depression.

But sometimes I think we imagine that we are not loved because we don’t recognize it when it’s given. I’ll give you an example from my childhood. I craved physical affection from my earliest memory. I don’t know why, it’s just always been a need – more so when I was young. My dad was not a hugger, though he would never deny me one. He just didn’t come seeking them out. He also wasn’t one to say, “I love you,” very often. (That changed, by the way, when he got older and I grew up. He was affectionate and said some of the most loving things to me that I’ve ever heard.) But I digress.

Dad and Jill Jill's WeddingMy dad’s love language was not the same as mine. So for a short time in my childhood, I questioned his love. But I didn’t recognize the way he worked hard every day to provide for me. I didn’t see how much time he took off work whenever he could to be there for me at school functions, or when my mom had to work. His quiet presence didn’t always look like love to others–and it took maturity on my part to see it–but my dad’s love was far greater than I realized. You see, he believed these words:

Love is very patient and kind…(love) rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever.

And even three years after his homegoing, I still feel my dad’s love. Did that mean he never failed and grew impatient or got irritable or touchy or noticed when others didn’t act the way they should? Of course not. But the more he read his Bible, the more he became like these verses above.

Love is good. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, as another version puts it. Love never fails.

People may mistreat us or not act the way we want them to. And we shouldn’t allow them to abuse us or use us–that’s not being loving toward them. If we want to truly love other people, sometimes we have to let them go their own way. But that doesn’t mean we stop caring. It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be there in a heartbeat if they had a genuine need. It doesn’t mean we would stop praying even if we don’t know what to pray for. We pray because we love. We love because God loved us first.

More on that on Valentine’s Day.


by jill at 8:06 am in

What love is not

February 12, 2015

IMG_8230With Valentine’s Day approaching, I’ve been thinking about love. (And perhaps chocolate and flowers, but that’s another subject.)

I think when we are young, we see love as revolving around us. Do we feel loved? Are people loving toward us? That can take many forms–as is seen in the different love languages–but when we are focused on people loving us as opposed to us loving them, we often link love with conditions. Are things going the way we want them to go? Are people treating us the way we believe we deserve?

But people often disappoint us, don’t they? Maybe we don’t like the gift they gave us or they don’t do the things we ask of them. Maybe they hold us at a distance or perhaps we just aren’t that close to anyone because getting close means taking the risk of getting hurt. So we would rather pour our energies into the things that please us rather than risk love.

Because deep down we know that love isn’t just about being loved. It’s about loving in return. And that can get messy. People are messy. They have bad days and they aren’t always nice and they can say hurtful things. People can bring us joy and despair in the same day if we let them! A lot of it has to do with our response to how they act or don’t act.

The New Testament has a lot to say about love. Most of us go to the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 for a good definition, but love is written on nearly every page of the Bible, in every story. It is why Jesus came and did what He did for us. (That’s perfect love, which we’ll get to in a few days.)

For today, I want to explore what love isn’t.

1 Corinthians 13 gives us these negatives:

1001582_370342606428809_85594425_nLove is…never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice…

The list poses quite a challenge, does it not? We can all give examples of times we were jealous or envious of someone who did something better, had more than we had–be it money or popularity or beauty.

But love isn’t jealous or haughty or selfish or rude. It does not demand it’s own way. Just this week my poor husband had to deal with my “irritable or touchy” side.

Grudges are also so easy to hold without realizing it. Anger turned inward turns to bitterness which feeds grudges. That’s why the Bible says not to go to bed angry and give the devil a foothold. (The enemy loves bitterness because it eats away at us on the inside and makes us miserable.)

I have to admit, I fail at this list way too often. But I act this way when I focus on “me”. When I think that love is about me. Do they love me? If they loved me, why don’t they…(fill in the blank.) Instead, I should be thinking about them. Maybe they didn’t do this because they are going through something I can’t see. Maybe I should be showing them love by “hardly even noticing when others do it wrong.” (Or don’t do it the way I think they should.)

Love isn’t these things. The negative side of love is selfishness. It’s narcissistic. It’s controlling. It’s demanding. It’s not the way God intended us to be. This goes for love of any kind – marital, parental, friendships…whoever God has called on us to love. Even our enemies.

So if this is what love isn’t, then what is love?

More on that tomorrow.


by jill at 8:04 am in

A call to prayer

February 2, 2015

prayer-1-1031070-mI mentioned the other day that my dad left me a legacy of prayer. He also left me a legacy of love for Scripture as he read his Bible every day, 365 days a year. I have much to be grateful for in his love for God, and am so glad he passed it down to us.

I’ve heard leaders on and off call on Christians in our nation to pray for one thing or another. This happens often in May on the National Day of Prayer.

I would like to ask us to consider something more than that one time of year. I wonder if you would join me in praying daily.

Here are some things that are heavy on my heart to pray for:

1. Jesus came to earth to die for us for a reason. He wants us to be with Him where He is. (Read John 17 and Hebrews 12 to understand His heart.) His crucifixion isn’t just a tragic tale. There was a purpose to his coming, and it had to do with people, with everyone who is willing to believe in Him.

  • Pray for the people you love who don’t know Him yet.prayer-and-devotion---hands-2-992378-s
  • Pray for the people who have never heard of Him, to hear the good news that He came to give them freedom and peace with God.
  • Pray that you will know Him and love Him more.

2. 57 Million babies have died in this country since 1973. Some don’t consider them babies because they are still in utero. But if cells are multiplying and a heart is beating, life is there.

  • Pray for the women who have suffered an abortion and cannot forget. There is healing in Jesus.
  • Pray for the women who are considering abortion as an alternative to a situation that could have a happier ending in adoption.
  • Pray for our nation to recognize that this is a serious issue that is doing far more harm than they realize.

worship-the-living-god-1381608-m3. Leaders in this country, from the government to business owners, from wall street to main street, face many trials and struggles. God tells us to pray for those in authority over us. From kings to governors on down the line.

  • Pray that God would cause an awakening to begin with our leadership, that greed would no longer be part of the equation of politics or business.
  • Pray for the attitudes of people toward authority, that we can live peaceful and quiet lives.
  • Pray for level headedness in dealing with controversy.

4. Our world is in turmoil. The Middle East is at war. Terrorism is on the rise. Fear is real.

  • Pray for peace. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (because God says to pray for that city). Pray for the eyes of those who are blind to the truth to be opened.
  • Pray for those who are enemies of peace, who would force the world to live as they live. Remember that God even gives His enemies a choice. Pray for mercy.
  • Pray for our allies in the Middle East and around the world, that our foreign leaders will seek the Lord, that our own leaders will do the same.

As Christians, we are commanded to pray. There are many, many reasons to fear. But even more reasons to pray. When we come together to pray, we have the ability to take down spiritual strongholds, in Jesus’ Name and by His power (not ours). But please know, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” This world is in a war far greater than the threat of terrorism. We are up against ancient unseen powers.

People may call me crazy for believing what I’m sharing with you today. But it is all in Scripture. And I know from experience that prayer makes a difference. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. It is more than my dad’s legacy. It is our commission from God Himself to pray. I’ve been too lax when it comes to praying for some of these things

But I think our world depends on us to do so if we want to see things improve rather than grow increasingly darker.

Will you join me?

by jill at 6:32 pm in , ,

My dad’s secret gift

January 28, 2015

Dad and Jill Jill's WeddingI don’t think a girl every truly stops missing her dad. It’s been three years, and I can still see his smile when I would walk into his room at the nursing home. I hated that he had to live there due to his care needs that we could not meet, but I loved being with him, taking him for walks outside if the weather permitted, bringing McDonald’s lunch each Wednesday, and listening to his wry sense of humor that never failed to brighten my day.

I could go on for hours telling you stories of my dad, like how he would take me to lunch on my birthday, just him and me, or how when I was in school, he would take off work and show up at assemblies because parents were allowed to be there, or how he would meet me for lunch at home when I was in grade school to let me in and how we would eat Friday dinners together, just us, because my siblings were married and my mom worked late. But that would just touch the surface of my memories.

His secret gift is the one I now find most precious. And my dad gave that gift to each and every one of his children and grandchildren, every single day he lived.

My dad knew how to pray.

I never thought all that much about the importance of a prayer ministry back then. I knew it was something the elderly could do when they couldn’t get out much, but I didn’t realize what a costly gift it was at the time.

I remember telling my dad this or that child needed a job or was sick or something, whatever thing seemed like a reasonable need, and I would ask him to pray. And he would say, “I pray for every one of my kids and grandkids every day.”

The other day I realized that I’ve kind of picked up that gauntlet for my family and friends now that my dad isn’t here to carry it. Prayer matters more to me than probably any other form of ministry–even writing. And of course, without prayer, I’m no good at writing anyway. But prayer…that matters. It is like incense floating from our hearts to God’s nostrils. (That’s a biblical picture, by the way, in case it sounds strange.)

We make a difference when we pray. God hears the fervent prayers of His people. The Psalms are filled with the prayers of King David and Solomon and Moses and the Sons of Korah and more. And in the New Testament we are commanded to pray for everyone – from kings to the “least of these.”

Do you pray?

To my dad, prayer was like breathing. And I understand that now. I didn’t pray for my family and friends back then like I do now. Maybe it’s because I’m older. Maybe it’s because life is harder. But I think the main reason I pray is because I need to. Because that secret my dad passed on to me is that prayer will change me and make me more like Jesus. And in the process, perhaps it will do some good in the world.

Our Creator longs to hear our prayers. He wants us to ask for His help, and to talk to Him as a man would to His friend.

Rather than look at all that is wrong in the world, perhaps it is time we thank Him for what is right and true. For what He’s done for us. And then ask Him to forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Then perhaps He will make us into the people we were intended to be–like Him.


by jill at 7:58 pm in

Things that make me wonder

January 27, 2015

FullSizeRender-6I’m often asked where I come up with ideas for stories. That’s not really hard to answer because I have this inner “wonder” gene that makes me ask those “how” and “why” questions. I have an intense interest in history, in stories of real people. I’ll give you an example of a snippet of story that might end up in a book someday.

The other night I was looking for some old poetry I wrote years ago. I pulled out my under bed box and began searching, but found instead some envelopes with old photos and news clippings, some originals, some copies of a fatal car accident in the 1930s. A young couple was killed in the accident – she instantly, but he clung to life for three days. She was 22. He was 27.

IMG_3890That story wouldn’t mean much to us except that he was my husband’s uncle. Some family history – tales that were passed down – give us a few clues to what might have happened, but no one living knows for sure. Kind of how it is with the people in the Bible.

Anyway, there were some other pictures with names and dates on the back. One I’d seen before of a young woman in that same family who died at age 18. She just missed her high school graduation. Now considering she died in 1924 or 25 and he in 1931, under completely different circumstances, I never tried to connect their lives in one of those “I wonder” moments.

But last night I also found a very faded picture that I tried to enhance to show here. The little boy and girl were those same two young adults who later died far before their time. Norma and Bill. How old they were here, I don’t know. But I wonder…were they close? When Norma got sick, how did Bill react? Did Norma’s death affect Bill for years in such a way that changed him? Did that grief lead to his untimely accident?

Do you see how it starts? With enough research and more family and friends added to the story, and you have at the very least the beginning of characterization.

I also have pictures from my grandmother as a little girl with her younger sister, each holding a favorite doll. In her case, I have a story from her that told me how she felt about that doll and even more how she felt when her mom made her give her doll to her niece a year later. I don’t have to speculate as much in her case. But I can wonder how her nieces felt receiving those dolls. I can wonder if that one act was why my grandmother couldn’t keep anything more than a year if she hadn’t used it during that year.

There are so many factors that shape our lives. No one can ever step inside the head of another person and hear what they are really thinking. No one can tell the motivations of that person or understand why they do or say what they do or say. But that’s exactly what novelists try to do with real people and fictional ones. It’s how stories begin.

“I wonder” works a lot better for me than “once upon a time” or even “what if”. But we all come at storytelling differently. This is just what works for me. And if you look into the eyes of the kids in these old photos, what do you see?


by jill at 8:39 am in