I have lost track of how many times I have read this prayer over the last few months. Dozens and dozens. And every single time, without fail, just reading the four words that title this section bring a tear of humility to my eye. Wow. He prays for me.
Key themes in this entire chapter (prayer) are:
~Knowing and experiencing the only true God.
~Jesus represents The Father.
~He deeply loves us.
~Our surrendered lives bring Him glory.
~Over and over again He prays for His followers to be united as one.
~Our allegiance is not to this world.
~He has commissioned us to represent Him.
~The world will be convinced by LOVE.
I am sure that I will be reading this again and again and again. I need its reminder again and again and again. My heart’s desire is to be part of the answer to this Prayer. If love and unity are this important to Jesus, then they should be of utmost importance to me. I refuse to participate in the rampant hatred and division that seems to be everywhere I look these days. These things do not represent the One I follow.
The One Who, after this prayer, gave His very life because of His love for me. How could I ever desire to spread anything but love??
So much HUMILITY is needed these days when pride, self-promotion, and “my rights” seem to be our focus.
While reflecting on the Christmas story, Mary’s HUMILITY is something that shines.
Gabriel’s news was confusing, unsettling, made no sense, and in fact, was IMPOSSIBLE.
Mary did question the angel. She was, after all, human. Yet, even in the midst of her confusion she said, “I accept whatever He has for me.”
While visiting Elizabeth, who was experiencing her own miraculous pregnancy, Mary sang: “He set His tender gaze upon me, His lowly servant girl… MERCY kisses all His godly lovers. MIGHTY power flows from Him to scatter ALL who walk in PRIDE. Powerful princes he tears from their thrones and lifts up the lowly to take their place. Those who hunger for HIM will always be filled. But the SMUG and SELF SATISFIED he will send away empty.”
Oh, that more people would respond in this way of humility. Even when we don’t understand. Even when we are confused. Even when we would have chosen to do things differently.
This Christmas season, I would very much love to see humility lived out in my own life and in the lives of others who claim to follow The One Who set the ultimate example of what true humility looks like. The One Whose birth we celebrate.
This Thanksgiving, before the cooking begins, it’s been good to pause for a moment to reflect on all we have to be thankful for this year. Yes, even in THIS year of so much yuck. As I reflected on so many bright spots in the midst of so much darkness, I found myself being thankful even for the darkness.
Because that’s where the light shines brightest.
There are perspectives I probably would never have learned from had it not been for hidden things coming into the light.
This has been a year of:
~loss & learning
~grief & growth
~barriers & breakthrough
~challenge & change
~trial & transformation
~process & perspective
~confusion & clarity
I have personal examples for each of these that I won’t take the time to share here. But let’s just say, this Thanksgiving, I feel so much more thankful than I was expecting to feel.
Because I intentionally shifted my focus from all that’s disappointed me this year to all that’s delighted. And you know what? In each moment of darkness I was able to see a glimmer of light. And sometimes a glimmer is all it takes.
It’s not about putting on a happy face when you aren’t feeling it. It’s allowing yourself to feel all the feels and get to the “but God...” in the midst of whatever you’re experiencing.
As we transition into the Christmas season, I encourage you to remember to sit with the One Who is WITH you.
Emmanuel is with you in the:
~loss & learning
~grief & growth
~barriers & breakthrough
~challenge & change
~trial & transformation
~process & perspective
~confusion & clarity
May you encounter & experience His nearness today as you count your many blessings, and name them one by one. I think it just might surprise you what all He has done. Yes, even in 2020.
These are my grandparents on their wedding day. Granddaddy looked especially dapper in his Army uniform.
Thinking of him on this Veteran’s Day. When his enlistment time was up, he penned the following:
“I have just given four years, four months, and fourteen days of my life in the service of my country, and I am proud of every minute of it.”
Then a new realization came to him.
“I feel the same way about my God, how great He is, and I am His child and He is my Heavenly Father. I would gladly die for Him, and from this day on I will do all I can to praise Him, promote Him, and to make the world aware of His wonderful presence.”
And that’s exactly what he did the rest of his days.
Following is an excerpt from one of his sermons:
“The time to teach one to love his enemies is before he learns to hate...A life built upon Christ is properly balanced, and able to endure much. A life built on any other foundation is colored by conflicts of the world; it breaks under pressure, and often goes to pieces. Our lives must be tempered with the spirit of Christian love and fortitude if we are to meet the problems of each day as strong and true followers of Christ.”
Love and fortitude are definitely two traits he modeled so well. He was the kindest man I’ve ever known. We’re talking Mr. Rogers caliber here!
Even the last several years of his life which were often marked by chronic pain, he praised & promoted Jesus, and made the world aware of His wonderful presence.
I miss him. I’m proud of his service for this country. But I’m even prouder of the legacy of love he left behind.
Granddaddy, I’m doing my best to carry the torch.
Last night we “recalibrated” our clocks. And today we must recalibrate our minds to come back into alignment with standard time.
These days are your thoughts more critical than compassionate?
Perhaps it’s time for a heart recalibration.
Perhaps it’s time to get back to your First Love, Who says to first, love.
People will not know we are Love’s followers by our opinions, our rights, or our religious rituals. They will know we are His followers by our love for one another.
It is time to recalibrate our lives to our First Love.
Above ALL else pushing its way to the front of our thought life. Above ALL else demanding our time. Above ALL else we are consumed with...hmm...election, anyone??
If you, like I, need a reminder of what this looks like, I suggest re-reading 1 John 4, with the guidance of Holy Spirit, perhaps in a translation you’re not as used to, so you see it with fresh eyes.
This beautiful chapter concludes with this powerful statement: Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us! Anyone can say, “I love God,” yet have hatred toward another. This makes him a phony!
Oh, fellow Christ followers, please please please, let’s stop giving the world a phony picture of Who we follow.
By Jill Perry
“In times of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.” -King T’Challa (Black Panther)
Our Marvel loving family is mourning the loss of one of our superheroes, at least the actor who played him, Chadwick Boseman. While rewatching this movie I was once again reminded of the prayer of The King of kings, where He prayed that we would be united as one, even as He and His Father were one.
In the movie, the Wakandan nation had hoarded its valuable resources - vibranium and technology, for their own protection. They were turned inward. (Spoiler alert!) But by the end, they came to realize that sharing their resources with the world was even more valuable. They began turning outward.
We may not be citizens of Wakanda, but we ARE citizens of Heaven, where the main resource is LOVE. We are called to be ambassadors of this love, not only here in our own little spot on this vast planet, but in ALL the world.
When T’Challa puts on his suit, he transforms into the Black Panther.
When Tony Stark puts on his suit, he transforms into Iron Man.
When Peter Parker puts on his suit, he transforms into Spiderman.
Their identity hasn’t changed. Not really. They are still a king, a techie, and a high school student underneath the high tech suits. BUT the suits definitely make a big difference in what they are able to do, that they can’t do otherwise.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, PUT ON a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things PUT ON LOVE, which is the perfect bond of UNITY. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in ONE body; and be thankful. Col. 3:12-15
The thing about these superhero suits you and I have been given is that we are expected to put them on and KEEP them on. We shouldn’t get to take off compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiveness, or LOVE just because someone’s opinion, skin color, political perspective, cultural experience, language, geographical location, religious upbringing, or socioeconomic status differs from ours.
Unfortunately many who claim to love Jesus are much too quick to take off that love and set it aside when discussing certain topics. Or even worse, saying mean-spirited things under the guise of "speaking the truth in love", but here's the thing...If it doesn't look, sound, or feel like love to the one to whom the statement is directed, we need to take pause to reevaluate if love truly is our motivation. We need to check to make sure we haven't taken off our love in an effort to prove a point or self-protect.
LOVE is the perfect bond of UNITY. We are ONE. One single tribe. The human tribe. Created in the image of God, Who IS LOVE. We aren't called to prove a point. God already proved the only point that matters by sending His Son because of His LOVE for us. We aren't called to self-protect. God has promised to protect us with an army of angels. What we have been called to do is LOVE The ONE and LOVE the one. And love looks like something.
May we put on our superhero suits and turn outward to help a world in desperate need of pure Kingdom LOVE.
By Jill Perry
God reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave US the ministry of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18 NASB
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
So, the question is how can we be a LIGHT in this darkness that is racism, police brutality, and abuse of power? How can we LOVE better?
Love looks like something. Here are a few things THE King said light and love look like:
This broken world is in desperate need of HOPE. Are you shining a hope light in your dark corner of the world? Or are you contributing to the hopelessness with criticism and condemnation?
We can offer FREEDOM to the brokenhearted with compassion in action. It is no longer sufficient to sit back in our recliners and shake our heads over these injustices. It is time to do something. And that “something” may look different from person to person, so we don’t get to judge whether the way one person does it is ok or not, as long as it is lawful...
Racism is a form of blindness. What if we all asked God to give us HIS eyes for other people? How would we see them? God, the most incredible artist, created each human being as a masterpiece, mixing each shade and hue of color with painstaking attention to detail, and each one is beautiful. What if we started celebrating one another’s differences and intentionally looked for our abundant commonalities? Did you know that all humans’ genetic makeup differs by a mere .01%?? It seems, then, that we are far more similar than we are different. What if we allowed that to influence how we treat one another? Oh Lord, give us NEW EYES!
What if more of us “pigment-challenged” folks actually started seeing and treating all people of all pigments as our neighbors and began loving our neighbors as ourselves...I mean genuinely loving one another...
I suppose love is what it always comes back to, isn’t it?
“All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:12
This is one of the many Scriptures God led me to when we were seeking Him about the property He had for us. We have now been on the property for two years and have spent much of that time updating the interior to make it a restful retreat for our guests. Since we are surrounded by beautiful farmland in the lovely rolling hills of Tennessee, we've not put much effort into landscaping the exterior. However, the old retaining wall was deteriorating quickly, and finally succumbed to the heavy rains and rot, causing not only an eyesore, but a safety hazard as well. Thanks to some generous donations we were able to replace it with a stone wall. Next step is to add some plants and flowers to make it not only safe, but "delightful".
My mind keeps wandering to THE Delightful Land Mimi is now enjoying to the fullest, which far surpasses what our earthly minds comprehend as "beauty". My goodness, she did LOVE flowers and butterflies. I can only imagine what those must look like in Heaven! And the beautiful music she must be playing on Heaven's piano for her Audience of One...I'm so thankful for the "foretaste of Glory Divine" she gave us while on this earth.
Speaking of music, years ago she led a ladies' ensemble called Sweet Assurance. These precious ladies came to the house and played Mimi's beloved baby grand piano, while we gathered around her bed, and literally sang her into Heaven. I cannot hope to describe with mere words the holiness of her passing. God's timing has been evident in so many ways, even giving us reasons to be thankful in the midst of the covid crisis, because if it hadn't been for that, she might not have been allowed to be at home when she passed, and Pop definitely would not have been there to hold her hand, as he's done for the past 65 years.
Her last earthly words to Eddy were "I love you the mostest", and now I imagine she is hearing her Beloved Savior say those same words to her in her own Delightful Land filled with butterflies, flowers, and music.
This photo was snapped just a few hours after overnight storms with very loud thunder and strobe-like lightning moved through our area. Just an hour north and northeast of here, tornadoes ripped through, leaving devastation in their wake. Yet, to look at this photo, you'd never know anything so awful had happened...homes, businesses, schools destroyed...families reeling from the loss of loved ones...messes to clean up, structures to rebuild, lives to somehow pick up the pieces and move on...
Yet this view serves as a God-hug, gently reminding me that He is the Redeemer and Restorer. He painted the skies brilliant blue to remind me to have hope. He sprouted the new green grass to remind me that He is the God of ALL things new.
Before snapping this photo, I paused a moment to soak up the welcome warmth of the sun and breathe a prayer of thanks for His protection, provision, & peace here at Bursting Barns, then He reminded me that this same blue sky is also covering the areas hit hardest overnight, so I asked Him to lift the heads and renew the hope of all those affected. I asked Him to send them a tangible reminder that He is the God of new beginnings, the Redeemer, Restorer, and Master Rebuilder.
What storms are you dealing with in your life?
Lift your eyes and see the hope He offers.
Jill Perry, founder of Bursting Barns Ministries