So - we finished the For the Love series - or rather - we only have as much wrap-up as we want to under take left.
Occasionally over Lent I had a conversation or two with some of you about the series - and a few conversations with others not following the series - but who volunteered opinions on it. Reflecting back on those conversations - I'd group them into three categories: some folks responded with "Yay! God's love", some with "where's the obedience!" and some just kind of waited ... perhaps to see what was coming next.
Well ... what is next then?
If you know we just celebrated Easter - then you know that Easter - appeared to be an end on Good Friday (renamed, I imagine, quite a while after the first Easter - don't you think?) - but was probably referred to by the disciples as "The Worst Day In History". I imagine that when they mentioned amongst themselves - they paused to swallow golf-balls, deal with their sudden "allergy eyes" and so on.
But by Monday morning - if not Sunday lunch - it was pretty clear - things were different - and Easter was a glorious beginning.
Whether you've been following Jesus "practically forever" or - two minutes ago - there's always a new beginning available.
First - I want to clarify - that I believe we're in that third response group ... the group waiting to see what's next. We're not only in the "Yay! God's Love" group. We're not merely in the "where's the obedience group. We're in the group that feeds our souls nourishingly full at every "meal" - spiritually I mean of course - and then digests all day and lets God's love work through every cell of our being - and then obedience - is the uh ... er ... ahem ... natural by-product you might say.
Don't think about that too much.
And yet - please, please do realize that this really is how it works best. It's just a no good, horrifically disastrous mess if we try to aim at obedience by feasting on obedience itself instead of love. It just works so much better ... not actually totally and inescapably automatically with us spiritually ... but more-so-ish.
At least I do truly, truly believe that this is how it worked before the fall.
Since then though, things are well, just wonky. We don't "automatically" get obedience - we have to work at it.
But - I'll argue that love is still the ideal fuel.
So - now all fueled up on Love - what's next.
Well ... what is next for you?
In all likelihood - if you read this say ... today at some point ... then the "next" will come up for you when life starts to happen and you pause, and wonder "hmmm ... how do I do that?" Maybe that will happen around an unexpected expense, or an unexpected hic-up in some key relationship, or maybe you'll start to catch a cold, or maybe your "next" will happen in that part of the day when you're not at work, and not in bed - and you get to choose what to do with your time.
Whatever your next is - the fuller you are with God's love - the more happily nourished your soul is with God's love - the easier it will be to include Him - authentically, "naturally", and helpfully in that "next. Full of Love - secure in your supply of it - your "next meal" so to speak - it's easiest (though surely not easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy). It'll never be effortless - or thoughtless to include God in our "nexts" - but it'll be easier to do so freshly feasted on love than it will under any other circumstance.
Or at least - that is my experience - and I believe that is just my experience with what Scripture teaches.
So - full of God's love, we dialog with God (again - so to speak) as we enter that unexpected expense, the relationship hic-up, the cold, the down-time - and there it is ... our moment!
I used to imagine my moment would be when you hear that angel chorus start to sing opera and you receive some long-lost letter from the Apostle Paul and you're off to the races on some grand adventure.
Alas - that would be the spiritual equivalent of pushing back from your Easter feast and trotting out the door on a marathon.
Surely - if you've trained to run a marathon then the whole thing is a different matter though isn't it.
One of my first apps on my iPod touch - like - 10 or more years ago - was an app called "Couch to 5k" - designed to gradually grow your cardio-vascular stamina so you could "run" a 5k.
Well ... these moments listed up above - are like the initial 30-60 second bursts of "running" (read - jogging while panting) - on my old app. Not as sexy as running a marathon - but if you break it down - a marathon is just so many (sooooo many) minutes of jogging - all strung together. These moments are the exact same to our spiritual marathon. And sometimes - they leave you just as winded - though - I'd argue - rarely without a much much bigger sense of accomplishment when you complete them well.
The importance - the value of the fuel of God's love in those moments become soooo crucial. It's in those "next" moments that we actually do the heavy lifting of our walk with God. It's in those moments that we get to choose. Choose to trust and make the best choices we can about the unexpected expense, the relationship hic-up, the cold, the down-time.
In those moments when you have the whole world of options before you to choose from - including all God's ideals laid out in scripture, all your life-time's worth of habits, and all the notions (and sometimes nonsense) sprinkled in by media - we do what we do.
And then it's done.
It can't be undone.
All we can do is get ready for the next moment.
Going into those moments fueled on God's love - you're flush in all the things that give you courage - namely - love, grace, hope, encouragement ... and more besides - so you're in as good a shape as possible to make that leap forward.
I don't know about you - but sometimes I do okay. Sometimes ... not so much. Sometimes - all too rarely, I'm tempted to think at times, I look back at what I did and think "Wow!" and that's a good thing.
Whether I'm horrified or elated or just "meh" - again - God's love is the best way to process the process. Anything else - and you'll end up miserable - either in your soul or to be around.
So - what does that mean for our "For the Love" Lenten series?
Well - I'd recommend that you go back to your two or three favorite verses. Maybe write them out where you can see them regularly. Maybe think about what it is about the particular ones you chose that you like so much.
Graham Cooke says that the scriptures that speak to you - speak to you because they speak to why God made you - and made you just the way He made you. They're your inheritance with Him.
Quite a thought.
You might even want to meditate on those two or three verses. Maybe you want to even memorize your favorite -and then meditate on it some more. You might find that memorizing it makes meditating on it feel a little different. That's okay. That's normal for meditating. That's why memorization and meditation go together - like a right and left foot. Let that verse you memorized float into your head whenever it can. Use it as a "personalized ring-tone" so you'll know when God's "calling" you - not for rebuke, guilt, fear, or any of that ... but to remind you that long before Time was - God designed you - for your inheritance.
None of us - no matter how much we have and understand of God's love - will hit home-runs on every single one of those moments. But - fueled in this way - even the misses become something God can give us courage to learn from.
Try it out.
I'm going to do it too. My verse is Psalm 27:4 ... my all-time favorite.
Let me know what you think.
I'll be back in a few days with the next, next step.
ps ... if you want to make your own instagramy quote picture thingy - you can use Canva. It's free, there's a free phone app, and it's easy. There are lots of tools to use to make such a thing - but canva is a snap.