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“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that WE loved God, but that HE loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if WE love one another, God lives in us and his love is MADE COMPLETE in us.

We know that WE LIVE IN HIM AND HE IN US, because he has GIVEN US OF HIS SPIRIT.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, GOD LIVES IN HIM AND HE IN GOD.  And so we know and RELY on the LOVE GOD HAS FOR US.  

GOD IS LOVE.  Whoever lives in love LIVES in God, AND GOD IN HIM.  In this way, love is MADE COMPLETE AMONG US so that we will have CONFIDENCE on the day of judgement, because in this world we are LIKE him.  There is NO FEAR in love. But perfect love DRIVES OUT FEAR, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

WE LOVE because HE FIRST LOVED US.”

1 John 4: 7-19 

(emphasis mine)

Dear Friends.  I love it when this phrase occurs in the Bible.  It just physically draws me closer to my Bible, y’all.  Here I am, just sitting with a ‘dear friend’ and a cup of tea and the Lord.  It’s holy space.  Me, God, and the millions of other people who have read this letter.  Goosebumps, this legacy of love…

And John, he’s my favorite brother — besides you, Tim 🙂 — (and I wish it was because I felt I was like him in temperament and spirit).  Truthfully I’m probably more like Peter –ever the reactionary, always getting himself into trouble, swiping off a guard’s ear here and there. That.would.be.me.  But John was such a passionate, all about the love man, wasn’t he?  When my heart is all beat up and broken, when I feel like I’ve failed  for the “that umpteenth” time in just today,  when I have to beg forgiveness from my husband and friends, when I need patience, when I need my heart aggressively opened, when I crave understanding, when I’m feeling all of my “whys” and “hows” and “tomorrow is coming and I’m not certain I can” — I go to John.  Not necessarily Revelation (smile), but the books of John.  So, we converse most days… (smile again…).  I hope he doesn’t freak out too bad when I give him a super big hug in heaven.  I’m usually a very timid “I need to get to know you” kind of person first when it comes to men and these things — but John is getting super squeezed 🙂 .

I often get asked what I believe the ‘main idea’ of the Bible is (y’all remember basic English class, right? heh, heh) — what are the guts of it for me?  That’s a hard question to answer, isn’t it?  If you had to direct a non believer to the essential — where would you turn their eyes?  For me, it’s all of those verses above.  And my goodness yes — all the ones before and after are solid words as well — but these for me are the basis of it all.  Love is all of it.  It’s the reason any of us are breathing.  It’s the reason any of us get a chance at anything.  It’s the reason any of us receive this thing called grace.  It’s all because of that bigger than life action word called love.

So as I’m fighting, what I’m assuming is allergies, stress, and not enough sleep lately and reaching for a Sudafed in the middle of church this morning, SO completely ecstatic we sang “How Great Though Art!” (I LOVE and ardently miss real hymns!!!!!) I had lots of heart tugs along with my head that was locked in a vice grip….  Questions are good.  It means we’re listening, right?  We’re listening and connecting…

And now I am listening to the boys bang around upstairs, which I’m assuming is basketball.  And I ask for your patience as I attempt to tie together some thoughts.

None of us come from places of same in our walks, and that’s what makes life entirely beautiful and yet utterly complex.  So I ask that you meet me here, just for a moment, in my place of different.  And if you’ve camped somewhere similar in your background — or live in somewhat familiar digs currently — I want to sit with you for just a minute and let you know that even if I don’t know you, I pray for you every night from a very holy place in my heart. You are held.  ❤ 

And the basketballs bang against the walls just in time to stop the tears…  My sanctuary of home — I never imagined it would be so noisy with boys…  I believe that testosterone must be the loudest hormone…  Hmmmmm, someone might be bleeding as that was a very boisterous “ow!!!!”, but there’s no screaming — they’re laughing — it’s all good… (although there might be a hole in the wall — it’ll just be another place to store dirty laundry…)

God does not need us.  I heard this message today.  This is so very true.  Being in very nature, God, this would completely negate his deity.  He is omniscient, all powerful, majestic, and bigger than we can ever imagine — he defies all human logic.  Him NEEDING us would no longer make him God.  He created the entire world, including us, out of nothing.  He, himself, just is and always was.  He is the great I Am.  That kind of God doesn’t need his creation, clearly.

I grew up never misunderstanding this.  In certain evangelical circles, this is pretty soundly hammered home.  Especially to women.  And my father took this to extents that were abusive in just about every context you can imagine.  I served and worshiped in churches that exerted control with this being their ultimate zeal and focus.  We are worthless.  We are nothing.  God is everything.  (negating power from a people is the best way to harness control, isn’t it?)

And while, theologically, this is actually and inherently true — a very huge, and a very MIRACULOUS piece of this ‘we’re not needed’ relationship with our God is egregiously missing.  Maybe it’s just assumed, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it so it doesn’t get lost or misunderstood for those of us who haven’t heard it enough — because it is so incredibly AWESOME and is worth repeating (smile)…

True, God most certainly doesn’t need us.  But the awe-inspiring miracle, the fantastic and incredible and awesome and blow my mind and move me to tears and drop me to my knees every single time AMAZING is that — he WANTS us!  He TRULY WANTS US!!!  He who always was created us and a perfect world — and we messed up.  Let me clarify — we messed up big time.  We had it all and we wanted MORE.  We threw it all away for a measly forbidden apple, for goodness sake (so I’m over simplifying — but still, you get the idea — the garden was PARADISE — Adam and Eve had it pretty darn good!!!).  And there was nothing we could do, nothing.  I mean, there were a BAZILLION rules — but no one could keep all of those perfectly (have you read Leviticus or any part of the Old Testament — good gracious, how did anyone keep up with that?!?!?!).  So he sent his son into this world to be a sacrifice for us — TO DIE FOR US — that’s how badly he WANTED US (I mean, that’s kind of HUGE, isn’t it?????).  That’s a pretty intense rescue plan!  That is the most amazing love story of all time!  A blameless Messiah — Emanuel — a GOD WITH US — to take on all of OUR sins!  And to top it off,  it’s OUR CHOICE — our choice — whether or not we believe.  He doesn’t even get a GUARANTEE that he gets all of his children back with this most loving sacrifice!  We get to choose…

And he WANTS us, not NEEDS us — but WANTS us — to choose love.

And it’s really the ultimate kind of love now, isn’t it? There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING we can give him that will complete HIS being — yet everything in him completes us.  I think that’s why they call it ‘amazing grace’.

We ARE nothing.  He IS everything.  And yet — and a very BIG yet, we are worth his greatest sacrifice.  All parts humbling and all parts holy.  I’m pretty sure that’s what it means to be human and of the spirit.  It’s a line of knowing your worth in Christ’s ultimate sacrifice made for you, understanding where you would be without him, knowing it is all by grace — and ONLY by grace — and pondering that you began as dust — but that grace makes you forever his soul, his new creation, his precious daughter — and that makes you wanted by a King that really didn’t HAVE to do any of this…  But he did.  For a creation that failed him miserably.  For a creation that continues to fail him miserably.  For a daughter named Angie that fails him daily, hour by hour — not because he NEEDS me, but because he WANTS me.  And I refuse to let that go.  I was bought by his blood.  I am his girl.  And no person, no principalities of heaven or hell can EVER take that away from me…

We are divinely his.  So loved and so wanted. And that is no small thing.  In fact, that is the very biggest of things.  It is everything…

I will confess to all of you something else of which I immensely struggle (I am so massively flawed, y’all)… which most of you know.  My aversion and attrition to memberships and rules — the man-made ones.  I pray about this continuously (at least I’m consistent — ha!).  God breaks me open often.  We’ll just say that.  It’s painful.  Being broken often.  I ask for it.  I want it — because I don’t want my pride to get in the way or anything that is of me.  I want my walk to be authentic, of him and for him — and my rebellion to these things to be real and of the spirit, NOT from a heart that is laced with bitterness.  So I search it and pray about it and wrestle — oh dear ones it often times feels so physically REAL, this wrestling — with this giant thing we call organized religion.

I’ve never, ever understood the need to compartmentalize people–to group them and label them. Maybe it’s because I have never neatly fit into one tidy little box involving Christianity — or anything for that matter. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen so many people misjudged and hurt and ostracized by silly labels.  We don’t as readily get to know individual people — but we sure get to know absolutely “everything” about their labels now, don’t we?  In fact, we get pretty smart and educated concerning their stereotyped ideology to the point where we feel pretty good about just how much we ‘know’ about those ‘other people’.  It’s just easier.  And it’s certainly safer than loving our real neighbors — named Susan and Allison with two kids named Ben and Karen who look just like — wait a freaking minute — US.

And I get that we feel some need to find comfort in sameness.  We all so desperately want to be KNOWN, don’t we?  I SO understand that.  We want to find OUR tribe, don’t we.  So much so that we often find a certain sense of comfort or “togetherness” in making jokes about other labels, other religions and other groups of people.  It’s polarizing and maybe makes us feel “better” and “more justified” in our walks of faith to laugh at “those people”. Maybe it’s because I’ve so often felt the ostracized outcast, or just in general been more connected to the struggling underdog — but I outright bristle at the Baptist, Catholic, Anglican, Unitarian, (insert any religion here) or “don’t get me started on those Mormons!” jokes — as if this puts us on some higher theological ground somehow.  And my heart breaks as I always wonder — what if one of those said denominations just so happened to walk into our little church today and is sitting here right this very moment among us?  What if they came seeking some comfort and solace?  What if they came seeking a deeper connection with Jesus? What if they came seeking him period?  What would they think of all of us and our Jesus we speak of? What if we just missed an opportunity? And just as passionate as WE are about what WE believe?  So is most everyone else (and wouldn’t we hope that they WOULD be?!?!?!?!?  My goodness, YES!) — and I never forget that — because I came from every single church of the zealot evangelical that thought that THEIRS was the only one true way to worship and believe in Jesus.  And those were some of the darkest and most Jesus free churches I have ever been a part of.

Because Jesus isn’t in our dogma, our sermons, our theology, he isn’t in our buildings, our traditions, in our programs, our songs, in all of our Bible studies or give aways or lunches or retreats or this or that or ten billion other things — he isn’t in ANY of it unless he is LIVING in our hearts and our EVERY SINGLE DAYS.  If his presence isn’t in our hearts and reflected in our lives, loves — he isn’t present at all.

And there in lies my issue.  I can NOT separate my spiritual life (what some people call their ‘church life’) from secular life. There is no such thing!  It’s just all life to me, honey — (which does get me into trouble a few times).  And so Sunday is just a day I’m taking my church (my body of Christ) to a building and meeting with other people taking their church to a building where God is because WE are. But God IS every other day of my life too.  And he IS in everything I do and he IS everywhere.  In fact, spirituality is the MOST real part of life.  What we can’t touch and see is the very realist of our reality.  He’s everywhere — unlike Santa who only SEES everything (smile–you can thank my eight year old for THAT analogy 🙂 ) — God actually IS all of the places with us — tap tap on your heart — hello Holy Spirit. So it’s a little more mysterious than that — but you get it — God is everywhere all of the time.  Not just in a building on Sunday.  Doesn’t really matter if you feel him or not.  He’s still there.  Doesn’t even matter if you praise him or not.  He’s still there.  Doesn’t even matter if you love him or not.  He still loves and wants you.  And when we get a handle on that–well, we can’t ever really, but in our limited capacity…  Life blows wide open…  ❤ No fear.  He’s there.  And tomorrow?  Yup.  He’s there too.  As I’m typing hoping for his glory and love to be understood — right here… ❤

And I don’t have to stop and think about the last thing I did for God or JUST for God, because he is the reason I get up in the morning.  He is the reason I do anything.  My ENTIRE life’s purpose is FOR HIM.  There is no separation.  He is, I am…  Pretty simple.  I like simple. ❤

My profession?  Yep.  Felt that calling for the Lord (and you guys, it was so NOT MY PLAN — I would have not so intensely studied for and taken the GRE’s in IC 😉 ).  Motherhood.  Yes and yes (again, so NOT MY PLAN 🙂 ).  Even a very simple thing like how I try to always smile at people — yes (this is actually a difficult one for me because nine times out of ten — just going to let you in on ALL of my secrets — smile — I really DON’T FEEL LIKE smiling — but GOD MADE EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING and THAT IS PRECIOUS REASON ENOUGH to smile at someone whether I FEEL LIKE IT our not — I’m actually insanely shy). What I put into my body, how I exercise (check out ‘fit for his glory’ if you need some inspiration–amazing resource), what I wear, how I feed my family, take care of my children, appropriate my energy, how we spend our money, decorate my home, the books I read, music I listen to, ALL OF IT.  There is no separation.  (and do I mess up?  um yes — like lots of times…) But it doesn’t mean we give up!  God is forever tries — thanks, Glennon! 🙂

So I get really confused about this “what do you do for God?” question.  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…” Colossians 3:23 

We are his, everyday.  We walk with him, everyday. We are church, everyday.  He gives us breath and life, everyday.  We are saved by grace, everyday.  It’s not a pick and chose when and what goes to God kind of life when you become a believer.  You’re all in and you are ALL HIS.  And how I spend my money actively being church?  That’s also led by God–and not by anyone else.  Help One, A21, Hope Now, and women’s shelters in our very own county carrying out these same goals of keeping children and women safe from sex trafficking and violence (rape, sex trafficking and violence against women and children is an EPIDEMIC in this nation of ours — I’d like to scream, where is church?!?!?!? where is church!?!?!??! and thank you Sarah, thank you Rachel, thank you Glennon, and thank you to every sister and every single Momma and woman and daughter and brother and father and human being in these trenches so few people ever talk about — I love you, so very, very much — and I thank God for you every day and pray for every single one of you giving of yourselves every day and all of you so bravely surviving — warrior on!!!!  warrior on!!!!!! ❤ ) – — yes these organizations ARE church to this girl.  Incredible organizations being the hands and feet of Jesus in our communities and around the world for causes that are so often lost in our church buildings today. This is what love looks like. ❤ This is what church looks like ❤ .  This is what grace looks like. ❤ This is where Jesus moves my heart. ❤

The other message that often fails to get relayed is that our ministry, our testimony — besides actually being simple — how we live and give of our lives and give of his love every.single.day — (hey, I’m not going to force Jesus on you brother and sister, but I sure would LOVE for you to know him and see him by how imperfectly I try to live my life in love 🙂 ) — is that GIVING and being GENEROUS for God does not always involve money.

And again, I’m asking you for a moment to please sit in my difference… 

My childhood might have been a little different from yours.  Or maybe not so different.  I grew up poor.  Food stamp and government milk and cheese poor.  Five kids living in a slum house poor.  Like walk around that huge gaping hole in the floor or you’ll fall through to the next level of the house, poor.  And please don’t get me started on Dave Ramsey and the prosperity principles.  I.just.can’t.  I grew up watching poor people who couldn’t even buy groceries and feed their families give and give and give some more.  Couldn’t even pay their bills and give.  Have no electricity or water and give.  Because if they just had ENOUGH faith, God would miraculously provide.  And when he didn’t?  Well, your faith just wasn’t strong enough, Christian.  Did the church help these families?  With stern admonishment to pray harder and be more faithful —  I guess if that’s what you call help, then yes.  But here’s the GIANT thing that’s missing.  Giving and generosity in God’s eyes isn’t strictly confined to the old white dead guys on green backs…

There’s this thing called servant-hood and our God-given gifts — both of which can be given generously (and often on a daily basis — praise God and hallelujah!).  And really, he just wants our heart, y’all.  And what moves from those hearts is our servant-hood to him and all the gifts that flow from it.  It’s pretty amazing — they synchronicity of it.  ❤

My husband is a teacher and a coach (one of the MOST dedicated and hard-working of BOTH that I know and love).  He coaches two sports because he loves coaching AND, let’s be real, his teaching salary doesn’t quite pay enough to take care of the bills and the expense of raising two very active boys.  I am a preschool para-educator.  That is like volunteer work with a little bit of cash on the side–smile (let’s just say I do not even own a credit card 😉 ).  But we both insanely love and have a sincere passion for what we do and feel called and led by God to do it (you’d kind of have to for what we do, right? 😉 ).  That pull is quite an intense one.  When God says do, you don’t say — um, I’ll think about it… 😉 It’s kind of like Jonah — he finds a way to keep drawing you back to his purpose 🙂 .  And so we make it work.  Some months more than others–smile.

My husband often gets teased for being thrifty and is known for hunting down some of the best deals (he’s REALLY good at it 🙂 ) — we also hit up Goodwill for clothes and clip lots coupons (smile) — but it’s the frugal life.  And it’s one we are quite thankful for.  We are supremely blessed on all counts.  And although our professions are filled with numerous stresses, we know that this is what God has called us to do and where he wants us to be — and we are in fields were we are necessary, where we make a positive impact, and where we wake up every day filled with purpose and ready to make a difference (most days we feel ready — smile — the other days we just feel called — ha! ).  And this means everything to both of us. Again — blessed.  We understand how fortunate we are.  We also wake up and go to bed each night grateful.  Our kids may not ever go on exotic vacations or have the most expensive or “it” brands of anything — but they don’t care about any of that stuff either — yet, smile.  And no, my husband does not get his summer’s off.  Just in case any one was under THAT illusion (wink).  He works just as hard during the summer months.  I truly do not know how he does it and I constantly pray for him — I can do all things… Philippians comes to our minds quite often in this house… 🙂

What I’m trying to get across here is that what we do every day can also be of service and a gift to our Lord and to everyone around us (and we shouldn’t trivialize that).  What you do at your place of work if done for God can also be your generous gift to him.  How you encourage and uplift your co-workers.  Small and big things you do for them are blessings.  Think about small and big things you can do for the kids you work with if you work with children.  There are so many ways we can give generously of ourselves to others in our work environments that are testimonies to his love.  ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING you give for God is service.  EVERYTHING done in love.  Nothing is too small or too insignificant to God when it’s done for him.  Example after example is found of this in the Bible.  Live your life in everything you do for the Lord — I believe that’s what this family calls walking with him (smile).  It may not be showy or get tons of praise or get attention drawn to it at the alter, but that’s NOT why we do it anyway, is it?  We do it for the glory and love of our God.  So don’t worry or beat yourself up or think you are less of a Christian because you aren’t often able to give money or tithe.  God doesn’t count you as less.  He really doesn’t.  He’s not solely counting your Benjamins as faithfulness, generosity, or servant-hood.  In fact, if they’re not given in love — they’re nothing.  Giving generously of our menial every day lives may not be as sexy or as flashy or as showy as the green stuff (or easily calculable), but it is just as important to God.  He counts it all as good.

And we are all given different gifts. We are all creative — yes, even me sometimes (smile).  Because we come from a very creative God!   I have friends who are amazing crafters in all mediums.  They bless me, amaze and encourage me and this world time and time again all for God’s glory.  There are also gifts of patience, time, just LISTENING when someone is hurt or lonely is such a beautiful gift isn’t it?  There are so MANY things we can DO in servant-hood, in generosity — so many things we can GIVE (some that aren’t even things 🙂 ).  Other examples: meals, little treats,  if you’re into oils there are some lovely relaxing scrubs and roller recipes to give sick or stressed out moms, teachers, friends going through hard times, babysit a friend’s children, clean her house, plant some flowers for her, weed her garden, get some one groceries when they are ill or strapped for time, read to someone, send a care package, cards of encouragement — really the possibilities are only limited by your imagination (or Pinterest if your imagination is as good as mine — heh, heh…).  Be open, get creative — and see how God can work in you!!!

What I’m getting at is God made you, and he made you for purposes to praise and glorify him and give of yourself and be generous with your gifts.  Don’t be afraid to use those!!!  Use them as often as you can.  Use them to glorify him, to turn people’s eyes to him, and to lift others up, and to bless those in your life and community.  Money may not be something you can consistently give or something you have extra of on a regular ‘laying aside’ giving basis.  And when you do, you will give when you can and where the Lord leads you.  But when you don’t?  It doesn’t mean you aren’t being a good Christian..  It means you’re taking care of your family.  And you’ll be generous in some other way that God has designed for you to be.  And God will love and bless you just the same.  

You may not be needed by our mighty God, but you are surely wanted and you are so innately loved.  Give someone the gift of your time to let them know that too.  Love you.  So much.  You are an amazing creation, a beautiful temple, a home to the Holy Spirit.  Let him shine! I can’t wait to see the amazing way you light up the world with his love!!!! ❤

And remember, sweet friend, you will forever and always be loved by a creator who thought sending his son to die for you was worth changing the story line of eternal damnation to eternal life.  You are living that forever story of love and salvation every day!  I happen to think it’s worth everything.  Worth sharing with others too. Our mighty hope.  And although only God can truly save, we can most certainly share his love.  Give and be generous with his love.  You see where I’m going with all this again 😉 .  It really always comes back to love, doesn’t it? ❤ He’ll make sure you always have enough… ❤ ❤

You are treasured, you are sacred, and you are his beloved, dear friend.  And no amount of money is ever necessary to prove that to him.  Just live your life in love for him.  Walk in love.  Every single day.  It’s just that hard and just that easy.  And he’ll be with you, every breath and every step of the way. ❤ You don’t need a mediator.  Just fold your hands and close your eyes, open your heart and pray.  He’s always listening. Even when you don’t have the words to say. ❤

Forever yours in his love. Ang ❤

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

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