Posts Tagged ‘Scripture’

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How God Used My Fictional Character to Teach Me True Things

November 6, 2015

what-if-fictional

What if our characters are real?  What if they are actually the souls of unborn children who died before birth, and God gives them to authors as inspiration for characters in our stories?  What if we will meet all our characters someday in heaven?

When I came up with that fun fictional concept last week, I didn’t intend to write a story about it.  I just thought, “Haha, this is a cool idea.”

But a dear friend urged me to write a story, so I decided I would have some fun with it.  I flung my “Is this the best use of this concept?” worries to the wind, and sat down and wrote the first thing that came to me, the idea that tugged at my heart – a near-death scene where I encountered my most precious fictional character, Kevin, from beyond the grave.

It was like lightning struck.

It was fun, the way skydivers find jumping out of a plane fun. 😛

The entire couple of hours I worked on the story, adrenaline buzzed through my body.  I poured out words without inhibition, completely honed in on the emotions of the scene, blind to everything around me.  When I finished it was like I was walking on air.  I floated upstairs and went to bed, worn out and slightly totally obsessed.

I knew this story would be exciting and interesting to write, but I had no idea it would leave me full of tension and aching with yearning.

I had no idea that for two days I would cry out to the Lord for help and wisdom, terrified that I had built my own character into an idol by envisioning him as a sinless saint from heaven.  (I already adored the guy as my character, and now he’s perfectly sinless and “alive”??)

I had no idea the adrenaline would leave me with muscle cramps and no appetite for half the week, and I would lose four pounds in four days from the stress of remembering the story, re-reading it (more aftershocks of adrenaline!) and sharing it with some fellow authors in my writer’s group and elsewhere (*terror* Will they despise this chunk of my soul??).  It was not a real experience, but as far as my emotions were concerned, it might as well have happened in reality.

And I had no idea that as time passed, God would suddenly hush the siren-cry of character worship and catapult me into a spiritual ecstasy so joyous that I (the totally introverted shy person!) would go grocery shopping and smile at everyone I passed and want to talk to them, even mentally fish for ways I could share the gospel as I went because I was full to bursting with Christ’s joy.

What is this madness??  God, who am I and what did You do with myself?? 😀 

For the first couple of days, I thought I had made the most horrific writing mistake of my life.

I prayed for wisdom and just waited for some convicting inner urge to delete the whole thing and never think of it again.

I felt like it blurred the lines between reality and fiction and was too close to a “ghost story” for my personal comfort.  I thought it was completely off-the-wall-weird and I deserved rotten tomatoes flung at my head.  I thought I had walked right into a swamp of temptation and my imagination had led me astray (it wouldn’t be the first time).

But I prayed that God would use this piece of writing for other purposes, to glorify Himself to me.

Suddenly, while thinking about the themes in the story, my heart was captured by eternity and my Savior in a new and incredible way.  I had been seeking the Lord in a stale fashion for a long time, going wearily through the motions because I should, despite having no deep feeling there…and suddenly I was all feeling.

My emotions were gushing over, uncontainable.  I could no longer gripe about any hardship, rather bursting forth with reasons for praise and gratitude.  I started delving into God’s word not because I should but because I was delightfully starved for it, and I got fresh bursts of adrenaline simply reading about heaven.  I overflowed with prayer of all kinds throughout the day, not just simple thank-Yous or petitions, but full-hearted, amazed exaltation.

Things that Kevin said in the story convicted, encouraged, and uplifted me.  His glorified zeal for the Lord was infectious!  I started applying his words to my daily life across the board.  Discussions about the story with fellow writers who read it led me to more snowballing epiphanies and spiritual joys, both about my stories and my real life.

Wow!  God really doesn’t care about my prayers being organized or eloquent – He is patient and doesn’t mind me taking time to formulate my words or pause for a minute just to feel in awe.

Wow, He has perfect, personal love for me.

Wow, Lord, You have given me the promise of heaven!

Wow, when I am suffering You cradle me in your almighty hands like a mother holds her hurting child.

Wow!  When I push my characters to overcome their flaws, and I’m sad about their pain but know it is best for them, that must be how God feels about the trials of our sanctification.

Wow to everything.

My “revelations” about God were not new. Mostly they were things I already believed, grasped, and agreed with in theory – in my brain.  But pouring them out on paper, experiencing them so intensely that I was physically in pain for days afterward, suddenly they became tangible truths wrapped tightly around my heart and flowing out of my actions and words.

And the timing was impeccable.

This week my daughter’s neurological issues worsened.

For some time we’ve been waiting impatiently for her neurology appointment in mid-November, watching her increasing symptoms with concern.  But in the past week week her speech clarity took a nosedive.  She struggles to speak articulately, a new problem that is deeply concerning.

A few weeks ago, I might have been a distraught mess at this new development, frustrated by my helplessness, and angry at the lack of speed in the medical world.

But it is very hard to feel grumpy or angry about anything when you almost died and met your character from heaven, 😉 and had him gently point you toward the earthly service of Christ and the love of God that holds us even through agonizing pain.

I have wept to see my daughter struggle, and wept imagining the worst.  Trust in God doesn’t erase pain, though He holds us through it.

But I am not angry, not despairing, because my eyes are set on life beyond this fallen world, and the Savior who bought me for that life.  He is the surpassing treasure that will sustain me no matter what else happens!

The road might be hard ahead.

But because of what I’ve learned from that short story, I feel prepared by God to meet it.

I am blown away by God’s kindness.  I can’t stop talking about it!  Not only did He revitalize my faith right when I needed it (so I could hold His hand tighter rather than flailing and panicking when things got harder), but He also taught me these lessons through one of the things I love most: writing stories, my characters, and exercising my imagination.  He used my favorite thing to touch my heart!  He could have brought me these lessons any old way – sermons, blog articles, a simple talk with a friend – but he chose to do it through my own passionate storycrafting.

I almost wept with joy as I realized that.  What a personal, sweet expression of His individual love toward me!  It was like a parent giving their child a new folder full of schoolwork, and decorating it with stickers of their favorite animal – or giving them glasses to see with and getting them frames in their favorite color.  But this was deeper and more delightful than those kinds of tiny tokens.  It was an approving and loving validation of my imagination’s worth and why He gave it to me.

God used my own fictional character I love to take rarely-applied truths from the depths of my mind and apply them to the depths of my heart.

I can’t quite express why that was so incredibly special to me, that He taught me this much and used this writing experience as the catalyst…but it was a gift, and I treasure it.

One friend has joked that my stories make me bold.  They break me out of my shell to talk passionately, or make me do crazy things (like snap surreptitious photos of random strangers just because they look like my characters).

I guess this is why God gave me stories.  To make me brave.  To make me bold.

I don’t think this particular story is “going anywhere.”  It’s esoteric, odd, and probably only touching for fellow writers who share the yearning for their character to be real.  It’s slightly messy, with no real plot.  It will never be published.  It’s so deeply personal and so true to my imperfect soul that I cringe at parts to think that I’ve actually shared this with anyone!

But I realize now it wasn’t for anyone else, so their opinions don’t matter. God meant it for me.

I will never forget this tiny story, because God used it like a lightning rod to set me ablaze again for Him. <3

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

– Revelation 19:6-10

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Writer Wars: The Prolific and the Percolators

September 16, 2015

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Yesterday I read an article I enjoyed.  To me, the lesson was: take your time writing books, pay attention to quality, and don’t feel pressured to pump out multiple novels a year, but rather do what you know is right for your stories.  Since I don’t have much time to write, and I am committed to seeing books through even if it takes years to hit gold in revisions, I appreciated the message.

But if your point and purpose as a writer is to take someone’s breath away, capture a riveting story, translate an idea — whether fantasy, love story, science fiction, human interaction, tragedy, thriller, family saga, memoir, non-fiction — in a way that raises hairs or gets someone shouting “YES!”; if you’re compelled to tell that story so beautifully, so irreverently, with such power and prose as to make a reader stop to read a line over just to have the opportunity to roll those words around one more time, then don’t listen to that advice [to write 4 books a year]. – Lorraine Devon Wilke (emphasis hers)

I posted the article in my writer’s group, not noticing that the article was somewhat condescending in tone toward those who do put out many books a year.  She implied (perhaps unintentionally) that writing many books a year means your books will be sub-par.  I heartily disagree!  Some of my favorite authors are extremely prolific.  But I failed to notice that overtone while I was appreciating the other aspects of the article that reinforced how I tend to do things.

Others drew my attention to a response article (be aware if you look it up – there is coarse language), in which Larry Correia tore the original one apart sentence-by-sentence, taking the opposite tack…that writers who take their time are the real hacks, not the other way around:

For most authors our first book is crap that probably doesn’t deserve to see the light of day. I’ve seen them referred to as books with training wheels. Pragmatic professional types stick that piece of crap in a drawer, move on with life, and write more books. Maybe they’ll come back to it and pick out all the good bits to use in other projects later, or they’ll try to edit it again once they have more experience (or your heirs will wait until you are dead and then publish it to cash in on your name), but the important thing is they move on.

Idealistic, literati artistic types will waste six years polishing that turd. At the end of it, the turd might even be so shiny it no longer looks like a turd, and they’ll publish it to rave critical reviews, and rejoice in their whopping $1.75 an hour they made from writing before going to work their shift at Starbucks. Meanwhile, the “hack” will chuckle, cash their royalty check that pays all their bills, and get back to work on book #15. – Larry Correia

Reading the second article was difficult for me, partly because I’m no fan of mocking sarcasm and rude language, but mostly because it was an extreme example of the mindset that made me appreciate the original one! 😉

At the same time, it also had good points.  Going slow doesn’t guarantee quality either.  It’s important to actually write and not just think about writing.  Etc.

At the end of the day, I was disappointed at the writer world.

Clearly there aren’t just “Mommy Wars” – there are “Writer Wars” too.  We can’t just disagree with each other.  We have to call each other “hacks.”  We have to call each other’s books “turds.”  We have to make fun of people who put out fewer books than we do and accuse them of being unprofessional.  We have to tear down the people who put out more books than we do because clearly they aren’t doing it “right.”

At the end of the day, we’re all doing the same work.  We do it at different paces, for different reasons, by different methods, and with different results.  Of course we do, because we are individuals!

But we all care about our stories, right?  We care about our characters, our worlds, and our readers.  We want our books to be the best they can be, and we search for ways to accomplish that.  We’ve all felt the sting of rejection, and celebrated the joy of a beautiful review or positive feedback.  We know what it is to get lost in a fictional universe, and try to balance that work/fun with “real life.”  We’re all human beings with feelings, and life is hard for all of us.

We have much in common.  And the important thing is to give the world good stories.

Doesn’t the world have room for both kinds of writers, the practical prolific ones and the dreamy dilly-dalliers (and all the ones in between)?  The world needs all kinds of stories, from all different personality types and backgrounds.  We need plotters and pantsers, literary and genre writers, indies and traditionally published, and yes, the prolific and the percolators.

Can’t we appreciate each other’s strengths and learn from one another without sniping at each other’s perceived disadvantages?

I don’t get it.  I truly don’t.

All I know is that the world of Christian writers and publishing should be different.  (And all praise to God, we usually are!  The thread in my group of believers was gracious and polite, even though several didn’t appreciate the article I shared.)

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits,impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:13:-17

If you like to write fast and hard and earning lots of money is your goal, go for it!

If you like to write slow and gently, and prefer to prioritize ideals, that’s cool too.

Basically, “You do you,” as Chuck Wendig wrote in a third article I just saw this morning.  Do what you feel called to do.

Reading Jeff Gerke’s The Irresistible Novel (click that link for my review) primed me to take the writing advice I like and leave the stuff I don’t.  This controversy reminds me that the same goes for publishing advice too.  We should all be teachable, and yet remember that God didn’t make us to walk the same paths.  We are all members of one Body, and we fill different purposes in His world.  We all have different processes, and that’s not only okay, it’s GREAT!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a battle scene to write.

Slowly.

As inspiration comes to me.  😉

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3

What’s your style?  What are some of the best things you’ve learned that help you write better in your own style?

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When God Gives You Darkness

August 27, 2015

Oh, oh, here we go
Welcome to the show
Lights shining, so blinding
From our head to our toes
When this room blacks out
You know we will stand out
So come on, oh
We’re gonna glow!

– “Glow” by Britt Nicole

Children love glow sticks.  Actually, adults love glow sticks too.  (At least I do…I still count as an adult, right?)

And what’s the first thing kids do with a glow stick?

They run into the darkest room in the house and shut the door so they can see how bright it is.

In broad daylight, the glow is faint – if visible at all.  But in the dark, you can fully see the glorious illumination.  It’s a beacon, a reading lamp, a thing of beauty.

Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this.

This little light of mine

I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Fellow Christian, you’re a glow stick.  You have the light of Christ inside of you.  You are His temple and His workmanship.  But how could the world see your glow, if you always shone in the noonday of perfect peace and ease?  How could your faith grow stronger, if it was never held against the night?

Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” – Job 1:7-11

Sometimes for reasons we can’t comprehend, God sends us into the deep, dark closet and shuts the door.  Sometimes he lets Satan take us there.

“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus said.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

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How many stories of martyrs have you heard, where the darkness was great but their faith only grew and the gospel spread like wildfire?  Where they sang hymns while the flames licked their feet or prayed in power as the waves rolled over their heads?

God never lets the darkness or the devil steal His glory.  They can’t snuff His light out.  They can only provide contrast.

Sometimes God brings us darkness so that we might learn His light…but sometimes He sends us into the dark so we might shine His light in a way we could not do in the sunshine.

Put it under a bushel?  NO!

That song is supposed to be about children proclaiming their witness, but it might just as well be God singing about his own little lights that he has sent as ambassadors into the world – because we don’t light ourselves, He lights us.  And God never puts His light under a bushel.  Rather, He displays it high.

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.” – Luke 8:16

Maybe this is why sin is on the increase, persecution is rising, and stocks are falling.  Perhaps this is why the world looks so dark to many believers today.  Contrast.

This world is a dark place, and God is filling it with lampposts.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16

If He’s brought you into a dark place, perhaps He is holding you aloft against the night, a tool to shine His glory more brightly against the black.  Maybe He’s proving your faithfulness to the devil.  Maybe He’s proving His faithfulness to you.
Hold fast.  There will come a time for a new world with no darkness at all.  And for now, the light shines in the darkness even brighter than in the day – and the darkness will not overcome it.
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When God Says “As You Wish”

July 2, 2015

Last week I was chatting with a friend about parenting struggles.  She has a child who had gotten addicted to TV, and she had to do the hard work of cutting back screen time.  Not only was it upsetting to the child, but it was hard on Mom too!  Now she has to entertain the child during the time that was spent on TV before, or put up with the whining of a child who wishes they were being entertained instead of having to entertain themselves.

Parenting is hard! we agreed.  Challenging a child means challenging ourselves too.  It means putting aside our wants (peace and quiet, me-time) to help a child get over an idol or a disobedience issue.

And that got me thinking.

Most of us are familiar with that iconic line from The Princess Bride:

That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying “As you wish”, what he meant was, “I love you.”

I definitely don’t deny the sweetness of that line (my husband and I sometimes say, “As you wish,” to each other!), and I don’t deny the beauty and practical love of deferring to others and serving them.

BUT.

That kind of deferential love can only go so far.

As parents, if we love our children, we can’t tell them “as you wish” for everything.  There are times we have to do the hard stuff: take away privileges, discipline them, limit screen time, let them make mistakes so they can learn.  We have to put them to bed even though they’d rather stay up all night, and feed them their vegetables even though they’d rather dine on sugar all day.

A parent who rolls over and says, “As you wish,” to every whim and demand of their child is not a loving parent, but a neglectful and lazy one.

He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.

– Proverbs 13:24

While there’s debate over whether the “rod” in this text is meant to be literal or metaphorical, the basic point is clear to people of all parenting styles – love disciplines.  Love sets aside my wants and needs, my mushy desire to never confront my child, my laziness, and the inclination to let things slide.  I have to get off my backside and intervene when my oldest is bullying the baby.  I have to take the time to talk to my daughter about her attitude instead of merely placating her wishes in hopes that she’ll stop whining.  Love doesn’t always give them what they wish, but rather sets aside what I wish in order to give them what they need.

Similarly…

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. – C.S. Lewis, “The Great Divorce”

God does not always say, “As you wish,” to His beloved children.  That is what He says to those He does not love.  And that is a frightening thought!  Those who happily go their own way, besotted with their sin, are those who are condemned to destruction, those who are hearing God’s, “As you wish.”

Those who go through trials, their desperate faith tested and stretched again and again, may wonder why God hates them so – but in reality, He is giving them His very best, not what they wish, but what He he knows they need.

You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you. – Deuteronomy 8:5

And maybe it would have been easier for God to let us slide, wash His hands of us, and say, “As you wish.  Throw my law to the wind.  I’m done bothering with you.”

But He made us.  He knows what’s best for us, and what we were made for – and it’s Himself, and beauty, wholeness, and truth.  He cannot sit idly by while we twist His law and destroy one another and leave Him forever.  So he did something harder than any human parent will ever have to do – God left the peace and joy of heaven, entered this sin-soaked world as a Man, and suffered and died so that He could buy us back for Himself.

He gave Himself for me, so that I can have the strength in Him to confront my children’s sin – and my own.

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Love Is…More Than Sacrifice – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

March 4, 2015

love seriesWelcome to my series on 1 Corinthians 13!  For the introductory post, click here.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

– 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I had a chance to put what I’ve learned about this passage into action yesterday.

(Really, it should always be in action!  It should be in every action!  But I mean God brought it to my mind and helped me escape temptation through my memory of this verse.)

It’s a long story, but in short – I committed to providing a cheese and cracker platter to a funeral reception at our church that evening, and due to some misunderstanding or miscommunication, I was under the impression that our neighbors were going to deliver it for me.  This did not turn out to be the case.  So I found myself rushing out the door with the three kids in tow, leaving our partly cooked dinner behind, so that I could get the platter to the church on time.

Let’s just say my mood wasn’t the greatest about this unexpected turn of events.

I felt like what God told Cain, that, “Sin is crouching at your door; its desire is for you and you must rule over it.”  Sin was right there with me, breathing down my neck.

And I could have let it own me, then.  But God in His graciousness helped me turn to Him instead, and brought this verse to mind, along with all the things I’ve learned from studying it over the past month.  He is faithful and good that way!

Lesson #1: You can sacrifice, yet have not love

In countering the “love is a feeling” lie the world often tells, Christians are known to respond with the sentiment that love is an action.  Love is what you do, we say.

This is only half true, I realized.

As we can see from this passage, we could even deliver up our bodies to be burned, and have not love.

I could speak with the eloquence of the greatest men or the languages of angels…but without love my words would be nothing but a disturbing clashing sound.  I could have the power to see the future, understand all mysteries, and accomplish anything with my great faith in God…but without love these amazing feats are worthless in God’s eyes.

I could sacrifice everything, right down to the shirt off my back – right down to my very life! – and yet be loveless.

So we cannot take impressive feats or self-sacrifice as proof of love.  There’s more to it than that.  (More on that thought in the rest of the series!)

Lesson #2: You can be a champion for Christ, yet have not love

One of the things I’ve loved about reading this passage is studying the commentary my digital Bible has to go along with it.  Here is one thought which the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown commentary had which stuck out to me:

Men will fight for Christianity, and die for Christianity, but not live in its spirit, which is love.

Ouch!  I could fight untiringly for the cause of Christ, even die for Him, without truly becoming like Him.

Funny how that works.  Sometimes laying down your life in death is easier than laying down your life by serving others with the love of our Savior.

Why do we think we could make the ultimate sacrifice, but not even think of making smaller sacrifices?

People sometimes ask that question to imply that we wouldn’t actually make the ultimate sacrifice when it came down to the wire.  But I believe we could, and would!  We really could die for Christ in the extreme before dying to self in the mundane everyday.  But if that is how we spent our lives, if we only sacrificed at the end of the line and never before, what does that gain us?  Nothing.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1

As a kid I remember being terrified of that verse, praying full of fear that God would make me a living sacrifice, picturing myself going up in flames. I didn’t notice that the key word in that phrase is LIVING.

Living, breathing, working, serving.  Presenting our bodies to Him, putting ourselves at His disposal.  This is acceptable to God.  This is our spiritual worship.

Taking up the cross of Christ means dying to self every day, not only when persecutors come for our heads.

So back to me in the car…

The love passage wound through my head and shame welled up inside me.  Here I was, quietly fueling a grudge, bristling at my inconvenience, and yet somehow I still managed to be quietly puffed up for being so “selfless” and serving my church when it wasn’t convenient for me.

But if I have not love, I am nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind.

Love bears all things.

The reminders piled up and blew that hot-breathed sin right off my shoulder.  By God’s grace I was able to turn around and say, “Please, help me do this for You.”  Sin did not rule the day!  God is great.

There are so many things we do in life with a self-congratulatory attitude behind it all.  We do things for the passion of it, for the emotion, for the rush of feeling like we “made a difference.”  We could even be very good at what we do, using gifts and talents God gave us to serve Him.  But if we do these things in a loveless way, they are no better than selfishness from the viewpoint of eternity.

It’s not the sacrifices we make.  It’s the way we respond to others, the way we carry out relationships, the way we interact with fellow image-bearers of God.  Love isn’t a feeling, and it isn’t a course of action, though those things are usually involved. Love is a purposeful attitude that rises from submission to God alone and manifests in treating our neighbors as ourselves.

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Next week, we’ll dig in to the loving way vs. the loveless way, continuing to the most famous part of the chapter, verses 4-7.

Please share your thoughts and additional musings in the comments!  I would love to hear your insights on this passage…there is always more for me to learn.  🙂