Extravagance

I’m lying in my hammock right now on a stunningly beautiful summer afternoon. The birds are singing their happy little bird songs. The air smells like freshly cut grass and the white pine I am lounging under. The air is so warm that even this usually cold, sun-loving girl is perfectly content in the shade. All I hear is the buzz of a bug nearby, and the gentle breeze as it tickles the new leaves in the woods that create my view. To have this moment makes me feel so loved.

All morning my heart felt so quietly worshipful. I put on my music as I drove over a hundred miles on my Thursday morning errands, and two songs came on that spoke of extravagant love. Though those particular words have never processed in my brain before, today I heard them twice before noon. Extravagant Love.

I am in awe of a God Who gives and takes away, and all the while loves extravagantly.

Let me explain.

Two families I know have had major life crises recently. One family faced a medical diagnosis that rocked their world and left them reeling. After many weeks, the husband and father was relieved to hear his story isn’t ending quite yet.

Just yesterday, another family suddenly and tragically lost its husband and father. Their world will simply never be the same.

I lie here in my hammock contemplating how these two families have the potential–through the worst life has to offer–to know more than ever the extravagant love of God lavished upon them.

Extravagant–Exceeding reasonable bounds

Lavish–Expended or produced in abundance

Many would say, I’m sure, that a loving God would never allow these things to happen to His children. It’s a deep discussion that cuts to the core. For all of time wounded hearts have questioned His love based on circumstances.

I don’t have anything all figured out, but this is what I know deep in my spirit that no one can ever take from me. I wasn’t created and given my life on this earth for my own happiness. There are most certainly blissful moments of it, but my happiness is not my purpose.

I was created to fit perfectly into a plan that draws me, and those around me, safely and securely like a puzzle piece nestled into the heart of God. All that has happened to me until the day I leave this world has been and will be to help me hear His voice more clearly and draw me closer to Him. My purpose is so much bigger than this life. My joy, my pain, my sorrow, my success is all about knowing Him more. It’s up to me how quickly I learn the lessons.

There was a song by Ginny Owens that was popular several years ago that really hit me hard. I used to quite boldly sing this song, and it is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that I think God took me up on it.

It goes back to the power of words. I’ve posted quite a bit about it–here for instance where I tell the story about how my family got sick after singing words from a song.

We, as a family take our words very seriously. Remember that song, “Be careful little mouth what you say”? The rest of it says, “For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little mouth what you say.” He’s not waiting to pounce on us for saying the wrong thing, but since He first created the world with the very words He spoke, He gave words power and it’s up to us how we use them. They can be used for our good or we can use them against ourselves.

So, can I just ask you to listen to what you’re saying and singing?

Back to Ginny. Click here to listen.You see, it was as I told God that I was willing to go through any trial if it would draw me closer to Him, that He gently took me by the hand and walked me through the valley of the shadow of death. Through some very dark moments and unusual circumstances, I lost both of my parents within six months of each other. In that same time frame, Christian and I were brought to a place of surrender in our lives and in our marriage that taught us in a way we can never forget about the extravagant love of God.

Would I go through it again? In one way, that’s tough to say. In fact as I heard those words again today in the song, I hesitated before I was willing to sing them. That stove He let me touch so I would learn was hot! And I learned!

In another way, all I want is more–more of the clear vision deep in my very soul that knows how loved I am.

When I was in school, I had a teacher (Christian school, remember?) tell the class that when we heard that someone else was going through something tragic, that in our hearts we shouldn’t ever feel relieved that it wasn’t us, but rather we should wish it was us, since we know God well enough and could handle it better than that person could.

Wow.

I can’t wrap my head around that thinking. I find in it some major flaws. But you can’t help but wonder (can you?) when you hear of someone’s suffering, how you would handle it.

I have had days when it felt like darkness had settled on me like a blanket. Days when it felt like my tears never dried up. There are songs for those moments. Words that I would whisper aloud because I had no others. Words of praise. Words of life. Even if my voice would be shaky, my heart was confident that I was loved no matter the circumstance.

I am nowhere near perfect, but my roots go deep. I love the verse that says,

But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers—Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.

There are definitely times when I fret and question and wrestle. But He’s a big enough God to wrestle with! He can definitely handle everything I bring to the mat!

Christian said today that if he and I are talking and he asks a question of me, he is really caring about my response if he waits to hear my answer.

Ever talk to someone who doesn’t even wait to hear what your asking before they give their answer? These folks just want to be heard. They don’t really care to hear the answer.

He said that some people approach God, in the wrestling, with that attitude. As if they already have the answers.

Some, however, are seekers waiting to know what He says so they can know how to respond.

So, go ahead and ask God the tough questions. But do it when you really want to hear His answer, not just because you already have your mind made up with what you have to say.

When was the last time you were lavished upon with something extravagant? Ever?

I can honestly say that the only time in my life I have known extravagance, is this love I’ve found.

Just so you know, it’s right there waiting for you, too.

 

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“Be careful of the words you say, Keep them short and sweet. You never know, from day to day, Which ones you’ll have to eat.”

I have one more good post in me about words. Well, for now. I reserve the right to revisit.

I read a great book yesterday. The timing was not a coincidence considering all of the recent speech control.
The book is called, Listen by Rene Gutteridge. It is a fictional story about the power of words. The plot is about an idyllic, small town where a website was created that posted conversations from within people’s homes in which people were speaking about others. 
Just imagine for one minute that your most private conversations about friends and family or church members were recorded, perhaps by cell phones and published for all the world to see.
It might change the way you talk, right?

“We know metals by their tinkling and men by their talking.”–Thomas Brooks

Have you ever sent a text to the wrong person? I have. And the text I sent was about the person I sent the text to! It wasn’t anything bad, but for those few moments when I realized that my words could have been misconstrued, I was afraid!  The damage could have been irreparable.

Our family is unusually carefully with our words. We have been taught numerous times about the power of the tongue. We know that God created all things with His words and according to Proverbs, the power of life and death is in the tongue.  I really could go on and on about this, but I’m not trying to preach a sermon. 

Consider words spoken about you when you were a child that did damage, either at home or by other kids. How much did that shape you whether you wanted it to or not? That whole “sticks and stones” thing is a bunch of garbage.
When my kids were small, if someone put someone else down, they had to then say at least five compliments to the other person to try to redeem their words. And things like, “I like how you take a deep breath,” or “I like how your hair is so long,” didn’t count.  But one point for creativity and making us laugh when we were really mad.

At our house you will never hear things like, “My headache is killing me!”, or “That makes me sick!” We take those words seriously because we only want to speak good things and give power to the awesome things God wants for us. Not the negative.  You might think it’s crazy but there was a Flyleaf song that we all really liked and the kids would all sing it. It was called, I’m So Sick and we talked about how maybe we shouldn’t be claiming those words by singing that song. Well, it was a catchy tune and sing it, we did. Within days the entire family was quite ill and it wasn’t pretty. Coincidence?
Needless, to say, we don’t sing that song anymore.

My dad never heard these ideas to my knowledge, but I remember being a little girl and hearing him say that he thought the most stupid swear word to say was, “I’ll be darned.” Only the word wasn’t ‘darned’ but I’m not gonna type that naughty word. He said that one would have to be pretty stupid to open that invitation.  Interesting.

As many of us are working on controlling our words these days, this is even more relevant. While you are conscious of what you are saying, be even more conscious of the strength of your words.

Consider this…Do words change the world when spoken, or do they change the person speaking them? Or maybe both.

“A sharp tongue is the only edge tool that grows keener with constant use.”–Washington Irving

Keep spreading the word. Issue the challenge to quit complaining to those you know. Let’s keep this going. If you fail, just switch the bracelet and move on. Don’t give up. This is about the awareness not the accomplishment.

The pastor who gave birth to this movement of bracelet-wearing, non-complainers took three and a half months to keep his bracelet on the same arm. Others have needed seven months!
I don’t care if I wear this bracelet all year. I want to make the most valiant effort possible to control my mouth. According to James 3, I’ll never do it on my own.

“Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” James 1:19 The Message