Category Archives: Love

Finding Treasures

Young man staring out across a still lake.Finding Treasures

by Lydia Floren

Last week, we talked about how we are each a treasure to God, dearly loved by Him.  And how life-changing and soul-sustaining it is to be loved like that.

When we are loved like that, it moves us to action.  God calls us, challenges us, to care for those around us, the same  way that He cares for us.  Gently. Compassionately. Graciously. Respectfully.  We have no business judging. Or, condemning. Or, dismissing. Or, hurting. Or, criticizing.  We have no idea what someone has been through, or may still be going through.

And that’s not our job anyway.

Our business is to treat each treasure—each unique creation of God—with the utmost care.  To value them, regardless of what we see on the surface, because we know how precious they are inside.  And, when we have opportunity, our job is to brush off a little dirt and show their beauty even more, to themselves as much as to us.

Take the time today to notice the person in front of you.  Smile at them. Find a way to encourage them with a word, or a touch.  A listening ear, a small gift. A laugh. A prayer. Each effort you make brushes away a bit of dirt, and frees a spirit/heart to shine a bit brighter.

Superhuman Part 2: Finding Your Superpower

Superhuman, imposed on a heart.

by Lydia Floren

Last week, we talked about the challenge of loving others with God’s impossible love, something we can only do with His superhuman strength.  Today, let’s explore how we can access that love, how it can be such a reality in our lives, that it becomes easier and easier to love others in the same way.

Two boys in super hero costumes - Captain America

So, how can we love others with this superhuman, “1 Corinthians 13”, love?  It starts with learning to be loved, choosing to accept, experience, and live in the reality of God’s impossible all-encompassing love.

Choose to

  1. Accept the reality of God’s love. Acknowledge the truth that even though you don’t deserve it, God loves you in this mind-blowing, all-encompassing way.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;    

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

  1. Experience the reality of God’s love. Knowing something, in your head, is the starting place, but experience is what solidifies the truth in your heart and spirit.  Only when you make the decision to trust God’s love, will you experience the reality of it.  What does that look like?  It means letting go, and accepting His help/grace. Letting go of the need for control, of self-hatred, or guilt, or hurt, or fear, or self-centeredness, or self-protection – whatever has been dominating your life, and holding you captive. And then, grabbing on to the truth that He will take care of you, and lead you in the way you need to go. It means resting in the truth that you are loved, cared for, valued, important, wanted. That you belong. That you are safe.
  2. Live in the reality of God’s love. Living in the reality of God’s love for you, is simply this:  practicing steps 1 and 2, over and over again, until they become a deep habit that marks the fabric of your life.

The more we live in the reality of God’s love for us – the more we acknowledge the truth of it, and then choose to trust it – the more power we have to love others in the same way.

We love because He first loved us.  1 John 4:19

Meme with "be loved, love.  Soak in God's love & shine."

Superhuman Part 1: The Need for Super Power

red heart with the word superhuman imposed on it.by Lydia Floren

Our family has always been enamored with superheroes.  Ever since our boys were little our home has been populated with superhero toys, games, comic books, movies and costumes.

child in a batman costume                    little boy in a Robin costume

One of the kids even had a superhuman theme for homecoming one year.

crowd of teenagers in superhero costumes

And how many people do you know that have a Thor-sized hammer in their garage?

Why are superheroes so popular?  Because they have super powers, of course. All of us, at one time or another, have wished for some type extraordinary ability, haven’t we?  Maybe we dreamed of having

  • Photographic memory, so that we could get an “A” on every test.
  • Time travel, so that we could see the future (and maybe win the lottery).
  • Instant tele-transportation, so that we wouldn’t be late to an appointment (although I am not sure that would totally cure my tendency toward lateness).

I have often thought that following God requires supernatural strength, especially in the most fundamental thing God asks us to do: to love. “Oh that’s not so hard,” you might say, Everyone knows how to love.”  Well maybe, if you think that the love God wants us to give others is just sappy sentimentalism, or electrifying passion, or dutiful good deeds. But the love God wants us to give others goes far beyond this. Here’s what 1 Corinthians 13 says love really looks like (my paraphrasing):

Love is…

Patient.

Kind.

Trusting.

Understated.

Respectful.

Gracious.

Selfless.

Unflappable. (Has a long fuse.)

Love…

Forgives easily and often. (Doesn’t hold grudges.)

Celebrates the good.

Bears all things.

Believes all things.

Hopes all things.

Endures all things.

Love never fails.

Impossible.

Loving like this is hard, isn’t it? It’s particularly difficult when you try to love a person who is rude, or selfish, or arrogant or fickle.  And it’s near impossible to do when that person has deeply hurt you, or someone you love.

And why would we want to love someone like that? Some people don’t deserve to be loved…do they?

No. Some people don’t deserve to be loved. But, let’s be honest. There are times when each of us is hard to love – much less like. Haven’t we all at one time or another been rude, selfish, arrogant, and fickle – and probably worse? It’s funny how little we remember the hurt we inflict, and how often we recall the pain others cause us. Truthfully, no one – not one of us – deserves to be loved the way that 1 Corinthians describes it.  But God loves us like that anyway.

Still, being around a difficult person is, well…difficult. So how do we get past the distaste, the offense, the hurt? How do we release the pain so that we can love someone in the way God asks us to love them?

Super strength for super love.

Godly love requires God’s power. Only with the help of God can we set aside our own feelings and love others like God calls us to love – bearing, believing, hoping, enduring all things. God-Who-Is-Love has given us His super-strength to love others in a way we could never do on our own.  Our job is not to conjure up love, but to access God’s rich store of love, already present in our hearts.

Are you finding it difficult – maybe even impossible – to love someone in your life?  You are not alone. And you are not on your own. God gives us the ability to love others with superhuman, life – changing love.

Which, by the way, is the same way He loves each of us.

We love because He first loved us.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 

does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into 

account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

Love never fails;   1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

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."

Lifeline, by Lydia Floren

Lifeline

by Lydia Floren

I have spent a lot of time, over the years, learning how to experience and live in God’s love. I have read books, scoured the scriptures.  I have prayed. And I have written articles and launched a website, and spoken to groups on this topic. And prayed some more.  You would think by now I would be living a life where I experience God’s love all the time, that it would come naturally to me. But, often it doesn’t.  Yes, there are times when I “live in the presence of accepted tenderness”, as Brennan Manning calls it.  In those moments or days, I feel like I am in a speedboat skipping over the waves, grinning from ear to ear.  My heart overflows.

But how quickly my world can shift!  I get caught up in the little things, which somehow morph into big things. Or I get blindsided, suddenly lashed by a severe storm. One minute I am atop the water, the next I am up to my chin in choppy waves, struggling for every breath. My natural reaction, of course, is to flail, to fight with all my strength to keep my head above the current.  In my panic I have lost sight of Jesus’ steady gaze.  I no longer see his strong hand just inches from my own.

My lifeline

In the middle of the tempest God often whispers (and his whisper can be very loud, believe me!)

“Give thanks.”

“What? can’t you see I’m drowning here, Father? There is no time for this.”

“I see exactly what is going on, Child.”

“Give thanks. Now.”

I have learned through hard experience that I had best pay attention to that oh-so-kind voice. To take a gulp of air and give thanks right where I am.  When I do, the whole tempest around me shapeshifts into calm. The storm isn’t gone, of course.  I have just found the calm in its center. So I begin…

Thank you…

Thank you that you are going to make something wonderful out of all of this, and work it all to good. thank you for your goodness. Your care. Your constant presence in my life. thank you that I can trust you to give me strength to do what you are calling me to do. thank you for teaching me not to avoid the fire, but to walk through it under your protection. Thank you that you are not, and never will be, ashamed of me. That you know and have covered, not only my past mistakes, but also the ones I will make in the future. Thank you that you love me more than I can imagine. And thank you that I can trust you to guide me, and protect me. 

Thanksgiving changes everything. It is like opening the valve to a fire hydrant on a hot day.  Or turning on the light in a dark room. Or…or meeting God’s gaze in the middle of the storm, and then clutching on to his hand with all my might.  Terrified one minute, and content the next.

Are you in the middle of a storm? Overwhelmed with mounting bills, a deep hurt, or a scary diagnosis? Or an oppressive sense of failure? Are you fighting for your life?

Maybe it’s time to stop reacting to the problem, and start looking toward Your Lifeline.  To quit flailing.

Take a deep breath.  And then whisper these simple words: “Thank you….”

Once you start, He’ll help you fill in the rest.

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?

Newlyweds

2:11:16 Newlywedsby Lydia Floren

Have you ever spent time around a pair of newlyweds? Over the Christmas break, all we Florens had the privilege of hanging out with the freshly-minted Mr. and Mrs. Andrew and Monique Graaff. Andrew (or Aundrew as we like to call him) and Monique were married December 17, at their home in Johannesburg, South Africa. After spending a week honeymooning in Durban, they buzzed back home for Christmas day, and then, the next day, got on a plane to come visit with us. They had been husband and wife for a total of 8 days!

All the kids were home for the holidays, and, by the time they pulled up to our house, we were in full Floren mode. (I know, this makes some of you cringe.) Movies, football, games, teasing. Intense discussions. Friends stopping by. Lots of laughter. And of course, food – massive amounts of food.

I am sure that Monique was overwhelmed by all of our Floren-ness. Andrew, on the other hand, acted like he never left, at least when he was interacting with us.

But Andrew was definitely different. Settled. Smiling. Tender. Happy. I’ve never seen him so happy!

It was easy to see why. Monique is special. She is gentle and strong, and sensitive and friendly, smart and talented. And she is beautiful (stunning, in fact). But her beauty is so much more than her physical features. Monique is one of those rare individuals who has learned to receive God’s unconditional love, and she shines with that love (as well as the love of her adoring husband☺).

Newlyweds are in their own little world. Not rude, by any means. Just set apart. Andrew and Monique called each other “My Darling.” They exchanged tender glances. Andrew brought Monique coffee in bed. Monique served Andrew lunch. They snuggled and cuddled, and laughed and whispered. And they smiled. A lot.

Sometimes their eyes just followed each other, as they moved around the room.

You know, God’s gaze follows each of us, as we move about our lives. And He looks at us with a tenderness that can take our breath away. He wants us to live in the circle of His arms, knowing we are completely loved and cared for. Completely forgiven. Completely flawless in His eyes. We are delightful. Beautiful. Magnificent.

The more we bask in the love God offers us, the more beautiful we become. We are settled. We smile a lot. We shine, and scatter our joy like rose petals at a wedding, blessing everyone who crosses our path.

Want more?  Read the recent post “Someone”

Facing My Failures, Embracing God’s Grace

God's love reaches into me warming me like hot tea - peace - he restores my soulIt’s hard to see my own shortcomings.  I don’t want to look at my ugly wounds.  But, if I desire to heal – to be restored – I must first face these flaws.  Then, I must be still and allow the Great Physician to free me from the habits-rooted-in-lies that keep me doing the same destructive things over and over.  Sometimes God’s knife must go deep – it can’t be helped – to get to the root of the lie.  The results are definitely worth it:  true healing, and with it, profound joy.

Father, forgive me for my haughtiness, my rudeness, my feeling of superiority, of trying to jockey for position, or importance.  Help me to be an instrument of your peace, not of my own pride. Thank you for restoring my soul.

The deeper my soul reaches toward Truth, the more deeply God’s love reaches into me, warming me, like a cup of hot tea on a cool morning.  In the safety of His embrace, I can celebrate my God-given identity, value, belonging and calling independent of others’ fluctuating opinions, or influence.

Each time I manage to turn around and face my failures, the brilliance of God’s grace takes me by surprise

Why do I forget this?   How can I learn to remember?Hebrews 4:16 let us approach God's throne of grace with confidence

2 corinthians 2:19 my grace is sufficient for you

Psalm 23:3 he restores my soul

Do you ever find yourself running from yourself?    What prompts you to remember the brilliance of God’s grace?

We would love to hear from you!

God's grace is brilliant - joy - God's love