Category Archives: Belonging

Treasure

Boy blowing out birthday candlesTreasure

by Lydia Floren

Birthdays were (and still are) a big deal in the Floren home.  When my kids were younger,  I would plan special celebrations for them, and sometimes (ok, more than sometimes) I would go a little over the top.  When each of our sons turned six, we had a treasure hunt.  A dozen or so first graders each made a pirate’s hat, and were given a treasure map and a paper bag.  Then, they hunted all over the yard for clues, filling up their bag with prizes as they went.  Finally, they were led to the back yard, where a big X  marked the spot in the dirt. (Not too original, but effective, especially for a 6 year old.)  It was wonderful to watch them attack that dirt, and then after unearthing their very own treasure box,  to carefully lift it out of the earth.  It was fun to see their eyes light up when they pryed open the lid and discovered the gold coins inside.  (Gold coins filled with chocolate, but hey, they were gold.)

Every person on earth—every soul—is a treasure to God.  We are His beloved, worth sacrificing His son for.  God loves us each with a tenderness, a gentleness, that can take our breath away.  He eagerly attacks the mountain of guilt and shame Satan heaps on us, and replaces these lies with His truth:  we are free from condemnation.  We are whole. We are beloved. And after He gently brushes away the dirt, He delights in showing us—and the world– the bright beauty he has placed within us. The fruitful and fruit-filled life that comes from being loved.

God’s love is life changing. And soul-sustaining.

"You are a Treasure", words over a silver pitcher of flowers

Father, Thank You

Woman on pier.  Text reads "Father Thank You"

by Lydia Floren

The following prayer is on the first page of my thanksgiving journal. It blesses me, and I thought it might bless you too.

Father, Thank You…

  • You give me identity. You made me and gifted me with all the wonderful qualities I possess.  You have helped me see them and explore them. To understand them better. To cement them into a better understanding of who I am. 
  • You give me belonging. My place to belong. With no judgment or condemnation. Just acceptance, love, arms open wide. This place/home is

– with You. Every day. Where I am, there You are as well. And where You lead me to be is where I belong at the moment. And I am safe wherever that is.

– with other true believers, including those who have gone before, (like Nouwen, C.S. Lewis, Solzhenitsyn, St. Francis, Brother Lawrence, Hannah Whitehall Smith), and those in the Bible. And those in my life right now.

– And in eternity, my forever home.

And because of this true place that I belong, I can be content in the place that I am, wherever You have led me to be that day.

  • You give me immeasurable value, an innate sense of true worth that has nothing to do with any accomplishment. Just with the reality of who I am – my inherent and unique spirit. You didn’t come to save me for my usefulness, but simply because I am important to you. I was worth coming for and dying for, simply for the joy of my company with You forever.
  • You give me a sense of significance. A unique place of service and influence in this world. You invite me into the world every day to love people, and to serve them and minister to them. To be a part of what You are doing to redeem the world, and to restore it.  In Your power. By Your direction. With Your wisdom and discernment. And because it is in Your power, and by Your direction, I don’t need to fret about the details. I can just trust the process and the plan I have prayed thru with You, knowing that You will adjust and redirect me when needed.
  • You give me safety and provision. Protection. Safe passage wherever You lead me in life. And the understanding that You will provide everything that I need, including contentment in whatever circumstance I find myself. And the ability to face pain and walk through it. And You give me the security of knowing that You will come find me if I wander off the path, and will lead me back in the direction I need to go.
  • You give me guidance, and fellowship/company along the path You have set out for me, every day practical guidance in healing, in ministry, in growth, in self-care, in tending what I have been given. Even guidance in how to plan, to strategize. Guidance in the spontaneous. Guidance in how You want to work thru me to bless others.
  • You give me Yourself.  The greatest and best gift, and the most enduring one. The ongoing joy of knowing that I am continually in Your presence/company. Continually loved/cherished. Continually wanted, and included. Continually protected. Continually supplied with everything that I need. Continually being healed, renewed, empowered, challenged, encouraged.

Father, thank You for the joy of knowing that I can trust You with my whole heart and my whole life. 

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.  John 16:8 

Dreading Easter

Stained Glass church windows with title "Dreading Easter"by Lydia Floren

When I was little kid, I had very mixed emotions about Easter. I loved the part where I got to decorate eggs, eat chocolate, and dress up in a pretty new outfit. But, I dreaded going to church on Easter.  They said the Easter story was good news, but it didn’t seem good to me. It was the story of how mean people made fun of Jesus, and beat Him up, and then killed Him, and that somehow, it was all my fault.  What was good about that?

But I know something now that I didn’t know then: I didn’t kill Jesus.

Jesus made the decision to die entirely on His own. In fact, He could have changed His mind anywhere along the way.  For example, I can easily imagine this scenario happening in the middle of Jesus’ torture:

Jesus lifts his chin and focuses straight ahead.  Suddenly everything stops, suspended mid-motion. The roar of the crowd turns to silence. The razorlike whip, a mere 2 inches from His torn flesh, dangles in midair like strands of Spanish moss. He rips off His cruel crown and tosses it aside. In three long strides, He reaches the men stooped over his robe. He grabs the garment from frozen hands, donning it as He walks away, slicing through the stilled crowd like a hot knife through butter.  

This could have happened.  Jesus had plenty of power to do this and more. But He didn’t.  Every single moment of His life, and every second leading up to His death, He made the same decision over and over again. To stay. To endure. I can almost see Him gazing at each person in that vicious crowd, and as their eyes met, His murmuring, “You are worth it.”  He is still saying it to each of us. “I love you. You were worth it then, and you are worth it now. I have called you by name. You are mine.”

This Easter season, stop at the cross for a while, not to pile on guilt, but so you can be rid it. Let God banish those lies swirling around in your head: “You are worthless.” “You are a screw-up.” “You don’t deserve to be loved.”   Ditch the lie I believed as a child, “I killed Jesus.”   Stay at the cross for a while and absorb the truth: “Jesus chose to die because He loved me, and wanted me with Him forever. That’s how important I am to Him.”  “I am totally worth it.  He said so with His words, and by His actions.”

Shed the lies. Accept the truth. And then move on. Live your life in the freedom that Christ paid so dearly for. Freedom from condemnation and shame. Freedom in the knowledge that you are loved, valued, wanted, and worth dying for.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Gal 5:1

There is no dread in Easter. Only joy.

His joy is us.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 NASB

Our joy is Him.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11

Are You My Answer?

Little bird with caption:  Are You My Answer?

by Lydia Floren

Are You My Mother? is a classic children’s story about a little bird who broke out of his shell and found himself alone in his nest. Somehow, he knew he had a mother and that he needed her, even though she wasn’t there. So, he hopped down from his perch and started looking for her. Each time he spied a potential candidate (animal or object), he would ask, “Are you my mother?”   And each time, he got the same response, “No, I am not your mother.”

The baby bird continued searching until he finally encountered his mom.  Curiously, he didn’t ask her, “Are you my mother?”,  because when he saw her, he immediately recognized her.

“I know who you are,” said the baby bird. 

“You are not a kitten or a hen or a dog. You are not a cow or a Snort”

“You are a bird, and you are my mother!”

We can often wander around in our lives in search of someone or something, to take care of our deepest needs.

We don’t use words, but like that little bird, we do ask the same question over and over again, “Are you my answer?”,  or in other words, “Will you be the person or thing that will fill that big hole in my heart?”

For example, we can do this when we rely on attention or accomplishments to bolster our self-esteem. Or when we focus more on what we can get out of a relationship than what we can give.  “Are you my answer?”, we query. “Will you give me the sense of significance, the feeling of belonging I so crave?”

But no person, or thing, is able to satisfy our deep hunger for unconditional love. Only God-Who-Is-Love can do this.

“Are you my answer?”

When we ask God, His response is always the same:

“Yes, dear Child, I am your answer.  Come. Lay down your burden of shame and self-contempt. Stop trying to fix yourself.  Rest in this truth: you are completely known and fully loved by Me. God. You are so precious to me that I chose to die for you. Nothing you do – past present or future – will ever change my love for you.”

When we truly encounter God’s love, when we allow it to seep into the core of our being, we don’t need to ask. We know. He, the God-Who-Is-Love, is our answer – is The Answer – to our deepest need.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, 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

Huge tree with tangle of roots and the caption, "Be rooted and grounded in love."

Getting Away

12216-getting-awayGetting Away

by Lydia Floren

I  remember first getting away by myself when I was a resident in Jacksonville, Florida.  Medical training was pretty intense, and I found myself needing a true break. So, periodically, I would pack an overnight bag, and head to the nearby beach, where I’d rent a cheap mom-and-pop type hotel room for a night or two. Other than the usual essentials, I would take only my Bible and my journal.  I’d sleep for long stretches, take walks by the ocean, praying to the sound of crashing waves.  It was truly restorative.

A few years later, when I was married and mostly staying at home with little ones, I’d occasionally talk my husband into childcare duty and check into a nearby B and B.  I was amazed at how different a night or two would make me feel—refreshed, renewed, settled. Resting and reconnecting with God (and myself) did that for me. My husband noticed the difference too, and started to encourage me to take some personal time, on occasion. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago he pulled me aside and asked   “Hon, do you need to get away for a couple of days?”

The location and timespan of these little solo retreats has varied over the years, but some things have remained pretty constant.  Rest. Solitude. Silence (including all electronics). Prayer (both talking and listening). Bible reading. Journaling.

Until recently, I’d never met anyone else who did this sort of thing.  Well, Jesus did it.  And while writers such as Henri Nouwen and Brennan Manning have mentioned their own such experiences in passing, I had never seen, much less read, a whole book dedicated to this topic.

Until now. My dear (and fairly new ☺) friend Tish just published a wonderful book about taking a personal retreat called Getaway with GodI met Tish at a writer’s conference (Write to Publish) a couple of years ago. I liked her immediately. Tish is a gentle, Godly woman, and her book reflects her heart. It also provides some great resources and insights into planning your own personal retreat.

Getting away with God–the Person who knows you best and loves you most. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Especially this time of year? Maybe it’s time to give yourself a gift.  Mark your calendar and make your own plans for some personal rest and renewal.  (And maybe pick up a copy of Getway With God while you are at it.)

Best. Christmas present. Ever.

PS. For the chance for a free signed copy of Tish’s book, just respond to this post on the blog Belovedlove.org/reflections, message or post on our Facebook page @ Belovedlove, or on Twitter @bebelovedlove!

p.s.  I took the above picture at my friend’s Northwoods cabin. The one below is from another friend’s low-country retreat in South Carolina.

12216-restores-my-soul

Gently

Gently

by Lydia Floren

I’ve been avoiding God again. Well, to be honest, I’ve mostly been avoiding myself – what I might find when I slow down and get still enough to pay attention. Frankly, I don’t want to see the failure. The raw need. The fear. I skirt the edges of these feelings, afraid that, if I face them head on, I will get lost in depression and discouragement.

So, I stay busy. And keep God at arm’s length. But this is not a good long term plan. God is with me, within me, gently calling my name, ready to hear my concerns. I can’t ignore Him. And I miss Him.

So here I am, in the middle of the night, jolted awake by a bad dream. I reach for His comforting presence, before I remember not to. His kindness is startling. Gently He soothes. Embraces. Lifts away my burdens. Gently, He heals past wounds, still raw, gives insight into my pain, and offers perspective – on present events, and past ones.

Gently, He shares truth where I see lies. Gently, He reminds me that He is 100% good, and that I am 100% safe: nothing and no one can touch my identity, value, belonging and calling.

God meets me where I am. And ever so gently, ever so faithfully, He leads me out of my mess, and back into His joy.

He leads me out of my mess and back into His joy.

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

The Lord is my Shepherd

the-lord-is-my-shepherd-

the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want

The Lord is my Shepherd

by Lydia Floren

This week’s blog is the first in of a series of pictoral blogs on Psalm 23. Take a moment to think about this phrase this week.  What does it mean for THE lord to be your shepherd?  What pictures or scenes make you think of the phrase “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”?  

Snap a picture, or jot a few words down, and share it with the rest of us.  It’s easy–simply post it on the Belovedlove Facebook page. (with photos, if you have time include a few words about your photo, such as why you chose it, or where you took it.)

Everyone’s eye is so different, and God speaks to each of us in special ways!  Thank you for sharing part of your world with the rest of us!

Lydia

I thank God in all my remembrance of you!

pay-attention-4x6

 

Hanging Out

6:24:16 hanging out

Hanging Out

by Daniel Floren

Dad took me to Chicago for Spring Break. It was an incredible trip full of hilarious improv, great food, and cool culture spots.

One day, I really wanted to go to a particular pizza place and check it out. I took it upon myself to figure out all of the transportation details, feeling quite accomplished as the ’son’ directing/leading ‘dad’. We got to the address, and saw nothing but high rise buildings. It was the Corporate Headquarters for this pizza spot – no where close to the actual restaurant. I was soooo mad. I spent the next hour trying to walk off my frustration. “I totally screwed it up,” I thought to myself.

The next day, after the Shed Aquarium, we had about a 4-5 hour gap with nothing to do. I turned to Dad as we looked out at Lake Michigan, and I asked him with some urgency, “Dad, what do you want to do? I don’t know what comes next, I’m out of plans, I didn’t plan well enough. I’m sorry, but we have some free time. How can we redeem it to make the trip worth the money? What do you want to do?” He looked at me and just kind of half-smiled in amazement, shaking his head. He took a second. “Daniel. This. This is all I want. Just spending time with you.”

In that moment, a number of curious things clicked into place. I looked at Dad’s shirt. It was the TKA Elementary School shirt from when he was my soccer coach. Yesterday he wore my high school football shirt, and the day before that a TCU polo. The point was always to spend time with his son. All of the gifts and adventures of Chicago were just a nice backdrop for hang-out time.

I have always come to God asking, “What do you want to do?” With my life, my marriage, my job, my friends, my day, the groceries, this very second…

Strangely enough, I think the answer has always been, “We’re doing it!” Christ wants to hang out and commune with me and love me! By the very nature of turning to God and asking, “What do you want to do?” we’re there! We are now talking and hanging out! Before I take another step toward anything, I’ve got to first realize that that is the most beautiful thing. We’re just there already. His Grace met us there and his love keeps us there. All of our purposes and plans must be in context of just hanging out with the Lord. Then, without any pressure, we can go grab pizza.

The Father’s Love Letter

The Father’s Love Letterthe father's love letterI am sharing something different today.  It is a powerful and personal message of God’s love called The Father’s Love Letter written by Barry Adams.  The Father’s Love Letter started outas a simple sermon illustration, but has reached many lives in the past 15 years.  It  has been translated into over 100 languages.  (Check out their website  FathersLoveLetter.com to learn more.)

Hope this blesses you as much as it continues to bless me!

-Lydia Floren

The Father’s Love Letter

My Child,

You may not know me,
but I know everything about you.

Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image.
Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring.
Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived.
Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation.
Ephesians 1:11-12

You were not a mistake,
for all your days are written in my book.

Psalm 139:15-16

I determined the exact time of your birth
and where you would live.

Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born.
Psalm 71:6

I have been misrepresented
by those who don’t know me.

John 8:41-44

I am not distant and angry,
but am the complete expression of love.

1 John 4:16

And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
1 John 3:1

Simply because you are my child
and I am your Father.

1 John 3:1

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
Matthew 7:11

For I am the perfect father.
Matthew 5:48

Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
James 1:17

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

Because I love you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts toward you are countless
as the sand on the seashore.

Psalms 139:17-18

And I rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

I will never stop doing good to you.
Jeremiah 32:40

For you are my treasured possession.
Exodus 19:5

I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul.

Jeremiah 32:41

And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Jeremiah 33:3

If you seek me with all your heart,
you will find me.

Deuteronomy 4:29

Delight in me and I will give you
the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gave you those desires.
Philippians 2:13

I am able to do more for you
than you could possibly imagine.

Ephesians 3:20

For I am your greatest encourager.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you
in all your troubles.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When you are brokenhearted,
I am close to you.

Psalm 34:18

As a shepherd carries a lamb,
I have carried you close to my heart.

Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away
every tear from your eyes.

Revelation 21:3-4

And I’ll take away all the pain
you have suffered on this earth.

Revelation 21:3-4

I am your Father, and I love you
even as I love my son, Jesus.

John 17:23

For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
John 17:26

He is the exact representation of my being.
Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you,
not against you.

Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression
of my love for you.

1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love.

Romans 8:31-32

If you receive the gift of my son Jesus,
you receive me.

1 John 2:23

And nothing will ever separate you
from my love again.

Romans 8:38-39

Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party
heaven has ever seen.

Luke 15:7

I have always been Father,
and will always be Father.

Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is…
Will you be my child?

John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you.
Luke 15:11-32


Love, Your Dad
Almighty God

Father’s Love Letter used by permission
Father Heart Communications ©1999 FathersLoveLetter.com

Share with Us:  How have you experienced God’s love recently?

Belonging

belonging-1Belonging

by Lydia Floren

A few years ago–well, maybe more than a few–“Cheers” was a popular TV show, and launched some major acting careers. (Woody Harrelson, Ted Danson, Kirsti Allen). The show revolved around a group of people who became friends by hanging out at a bar together.

The theme song of Cheers goes like this:

“Sometimes you want to go Where everybody knows your name,                                                         And they’re always glad you came;                                                                                                        You want to be where you can see, Our troubles are all the same;                                                You want to be where everybody knows your name.”

Don’t we all want a place where “everybody knows our name, and they’re always glad you came?”  Sure we do. We want to feel welcome, a part of things. We want to have that intimate group that knows and loves us, and is always glad to see us.

A sense of belonging is not just something we want–it’s something we need. God made us relational creatures: we are all hardwired with the drive to belong.

But there are times in life when we don’t feel like we belong. We may have just moved to a new town, and haven’t yet made friends. We may feel a little wobbly in a new job, or are finding our way in a new community. We may be isolated by illness, or language, or culture. We may feel “unsafe” or misunderstood.

But no matter how we feel, we can be certain of this: if God has put us somewhere, that is where we belong. And whatever situation we face, God will provide for all of our needs, including our need to feel a part of things.

Sure, there are times when no human arms welcome us, no voices call out our name in joyful greeting. But God provides in His own unique way. He sends a beautiful sunrise, or a birdsong, a dog’s wagging tail. He refreshes us with a warm breeze, a new insight, a fond memory. He encourages us with a message from an old friend or an invitation from someone new. And most of all, He welcomes us with His tender spirit, constantly calling out our name in love.

Because we know we belong to Him, and belong where He has placed us, we can step into each day confident that our loving Father is with us – within us – providing for our needs before we even ask Him.

And we can be certain that, when it comes time to step into our forever home, the one He is preparing for us right now, a crowd of folks will be waiting for us.

And everyone – everyone – will know our name.

I have called you by name; you are Mine! Isaiah 43:1

Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matt. 6:8

What unique ways has God met your need for belonging?