Tag Archives: love

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

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.

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”

What I Want

12:11:15 What I wantby Lydia Floren

Sometimes I avoid God.  I’m not even sure why.  Maybe I am afraid.  Or I don’t want to feel guilty.  Or maybe I don’t want to change.  Or I don’t want to face myself.  I don’t.  I don’t.  I don’t.

What do I want?

I DO want to press past my guilt to forgiveness.
I DO want to be free of my compulsions.
And I DO long to—need to—hear God say:

All is well, Child.  All is well.  I love you right now, just as you are.  Always have.  Always will.  There is nothing you can do that will change that.

I am here.  I am not going anywhere.  There is no need to be afraid.  You are safe.  You are not on this journey alone.

Now come to Me, Dear One.
Step into My love
Receive My embrace.
Tell Me what’s on your heart.
Listen to My wisdom.
First Come.
Then follow.

What I want – what I need – is to be loved.  Only then can I love as He calls me to love.  No need to avoid God.  He is the best thing that ever happened to me!
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Matt. 11:28 NIV

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

This holiday season, Be loved.  And then Love.  Soak in God’s love and shine!

The Blessings of Giving Thanks

blessings of giving thanks titleby Lydia Floren

What one habit has most transformed your life?  For me the answer would be                           the practice of thanks-giving..  Here are a few of the blessings of giving thanks that I have experienced:

Attitude. I see even a little blessing in life as a bonus, not a right, when I appreciate that my life—and everything in it—is a gift from God.

Contentment.  I am free to enjoy each day–even if things are difficult–when I give thanks that God is working all things to good.

Trust.  It is easier to trust God’s direction, especially when the future seems uncertain, as I give thanks for God’s love and goodness.

Fearless following. I can boldly follow God’s lead–the best i know it–as I give thanks for God’s commitment to safely guide me. I know that He will make any mid-course corrections if I misunderstand or just wander away for awhile.

Self-concept. I am at peace with who I am when I give thanks for my life–the unique blend of attributes that makes me “me”.   It settles me.  I have nothing to prove. I am valuable, and valued by the most amazing being in the universe, the person that made me.

Encouragement.  I am en-couraged—given courage to be myself, when I appreciate my identity and value.   And I can then en-courage others.

Hope.  I have hope to see beyond a hardship when I am giving thanks in the middle of it.  I can also more readily see benefits of those challenging situations.

Perspective.  Giving thanks for eternity reframes my perspective, and reminds me  what is really important.

Focus. Giving thanks for others takes my focus off myself.

Tolerance.  When I give thanks for the unique gifts of others, I more inclined to celebrate differences, instead of being annoyed by them.  I can appreciate that each person’s individuality makes life rich, just like one spice combined with another creates a wonderful flavor.

Freedom.  Giving thanks for Christ’s sacrifice allows me to leave the past behind, and to quit beating myself for being “imperfect.”  God completes me. In Him I am perfect.

Calling.  There is nothing like the deep soul-satisfying joy of God working through me to love another person in my own unique way.  Giving thanks to God for calling me to be loved, and then to love–Him, myself, and those I encounter–brings me joy.

Presence of God.  Giving thanks in all things brings me into the very presence of God.

The practice of giving thanks in all things has changed–and continues to change–my life.

How has giving thanks blessed you?  We’d love to hear from you!

The Barnacles of Busy-ness

sunrise_beachBusy-ness is a persistent parasite, like barnacles on a sea shell.  Busy-ness attaches itself to my life through “extra” expectations and goals and plans.  If I allow these barnacles to grow and multiply, my priorities and my calling become almost unrecognizable.  I come to believe that these embellished plans are God’s will for me, and I convince myself that no one but I can accomplish these plans–not even God.  My time is consumed by either working on these altered plans, or worrying about them.  Gone is my willingness to begin each day in God’s presence, and to seek His guidance throughout my day.  There is no time.  I must hurry.  There is much to do.

Through Psalm 23 my Patient Father, My Shepherd calls me back to reality, to the truth deep within me.  He calls me to remember, rest, reflect, restore, and refocus:

ps 23 1REMEMBER:

The Lord gives me plenty–more than enough—of everything I need to do what He calls me to do.

  • plenty of time.
  • plenty of resources.
  • plenty of His love and acceptance and grace.

He has done this before, and He will do it again. And again.

 

ps 23 2REST: Being still—resting—allows me to…

  • absorb His presence, and
  • remember His provision, power, guidance, faithfulness and love.
  • be strengthened for the day ahead.
  • step back and see the big picture, instead of being caught up in meaningless minutia.

 

ps 23 2bREFLECT: His quiet waters allow me a safe place to…

  • see my reflection,
  • face my recurring tendency to wander, and
  • re-clarify truth, and recognize what barnacle-lies might be attached to that truth.

 

ps 23 3RESTORE: He refreshes my soul with…

  • His grace.
  • His love and acceptance.
  • His affirmation of my identity, value, belonging.
  • His calling for me
    • to be loved, and
    • to love,
    • and to let go of everything else.

 

ps 23 4REFOCUS: He guides me to…

  • freedom from the barnacles of busy-ness—those expectations of myself and others that attach themselves to my life, keeping me from seeing and following God’s true plan for me.
  • increasing understanding of truth, and the exposure of lies I have long believed to be truth.
  • new ways to love Him, myself, and others who cross my path.

Every day, in hard times and good ones, when I follow the Lord my Shepherd He guides me to Joy— the hallmark of an abundant life.

Do you ever feel like you have collected barnacles of busy-ness? How has God been leading you to joy, and freeing you of the barnacles of busy-ness? We would love to hear from you!

barnacles of busy-nessBy Lydia Floren

Enjoy the Music, and Give Thanks

giving thanks for what God has done through us

Love is spontaneous, but it is not random.

God sees an opportunity:  one heart open and willing to give, another heart ready to receive.  His Spirit prompts, and we respond. He uses us “in the moment”, to love and encourage someone who crosses our path.  And we both are blessed.  Occasionally, often after the fact, He will show us what He has been about.  And then our joy multiplies.

In those moments, we must remember to give thanks.  The practice of thanksgiving acknowledges God at work through us, and keeps us from seeing His work as something we can take credit for.  It reminds us that our identity, value, belonging and calling come from Him alone, not from what we do.  We are following our Shepherd in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Thanksgiving assures the continued flow of God’s love through us, toward those around us.

give thanks for what God is doing and has done through us

Enjoy God working through you, but make sure you are directing attention and praise – yours and others’ – to Him for what He is doing, not to yourself.  You are an instrument, not the musician – a violin, not the maestro.  You do not create or play the music.  It moves through you.

If you become comfortable receiving accolades, you will start to think that you don’t need the Maestro.  You might think you can sit and play a ditty, and expect people’s hearts will be touched and changed.  They won’t.

I am the instrument, God is the maestro

Beware of giving yourself pats on the back for God’s work though you. Then, pride multiplies. And a sense of self-sufficiency, and the false belief that you can love, as God calls you to, on your own.   Nothing kills the movement of the Spirit in our lives quicker than this kind of attitude.

We must always be careful to give thanks for what God is doing, and has done, through us.

Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the music, and the part you get to play in sharing it with the world.

And, always, always remember to give thanks.

give thanks for what God is doing and has done through us give thanks for what God is doing and has done through us give thanks for what God is doing and has done through us give thanks for what God is doing and has done through us

God’s Supreme Attribute

by Lydia Floren

I love this quote by Billy Graham, so appropriate in the Easter Season,from his book The Journey.  He gave the ultimate gift – His life – so that we would be able to connect with Him intimately, daily, His presence continually with and within us.  Nothing can demonstrate His love and deep desire for all of us more than for us to spend an unending future with Him in the bliss-filled place called Heaven:

“The more I read the Bible, the more I realize that love is God’s supreme attribute.  Behind every dealing God has with us is His perfect love.  It was love that made Him create us, and it was love that caused Him to send His Son to redeem us.  His love pursues us and draws us to Himself, and His love will someday take us into His presence forever. ‘This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin…s’ (1 John 4:10).  His love is not a passing fancy or a superficial emotion;  it is a profound and unshakable commitment that seeks what is best for us.  Human love may change or fade; God’s love never will.  He says to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’ (Jeremiah 31:3).”

-Billy Graham (The Journey, p.22)

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13 NLT)

For more thoughts/observations about God’s great love, visit Belovedlove.org.

God's love is a profound and unshakable commitment that seeks what is best for us. Billy Graham