You Are Destined for the Giving and Receiving of Extravagant Love.
Have you ever considered how God loves us? Not THAT he loves us, but HOW he loves us?
Just a few weeks after my mother passed away, I had a birthday. For those of you who have experienced the loss of a parent, you’re aware of how ‘special days’ can sometimes affect you. I fully expected to be a mess, but wasn’t. Perhaps I was still numb? Too busy? In denial?
Maybe it was remembering all my friends who’d lost their mothers at a much younger age and realizing how blessed I was to have had Mom with me for nearly fifty-five years? I don’t know. Let’s face it, grief is weird and unpredictable. It could have been any or all of those things.
I had a long drive to make that day and as I drove my mind wandered to past birthdays. It dawned on me that Mom had always managed to mark the day, for my brothers and me, no matter how busy she was and regardless of what else was going on. Mom had loved us extravagantly.
If you were not loved like that in your early years, I am genuinely sorry. But stay with me here.
Imagine a birthday with God in charge.
One might awaken to hugs and smiles. “Happy birthday, Precious!” or maybe even a chorus of the birthday song. Breakfast would be one of your favorites. All of the day’s activities would reflect the specialness of the day. Dinner would be another favorite. And afterwords…cake!
Who doesn’t love a tasty cake? And not just any cake, it would be your absolute favorite cake. It would have your favorite frosting, probably colored with your favorite color. And it would be decorated in a way that was meaningful to you. It would be extravagant.
Do you bake? What if you bought a cake mix each week at the grocery store, baked it and took it to someone who could use a bit of loving attention? Imagine the joy you could spread to others! It wouldn’t require a lot of time or cost a lot of money, but it just might mean the world to the receiver. That would be showing extravagant love.
Does God love you when you’re unlovable?
Good news! When you’ve been selfish, he still loves you. When you talk ugly and misuse his name, he still loves you. When you have disrespected your mom or dad, lied, cheated, stolen, and been downright hateful, even then, he loves you.
When you mistreat and mar the body he blessed you with, he still loves. He loves you no matter what. Just like Mr. Rogers, he loves you just the way you are. However, he also loves you way too much to leave you that way.
God loves us in our ugliness but wants the best for us.
When I was six, I had a terrible case of chicken pox and was covered head to toe in blisters. I had them between my toes, in my nostrils and ears. I was a mess! Add to that the misery of the itching which made me grumpy. I’m sure I was quite a sight and rather unlovable.
I remember my dad coming home from work one morning (he worked nights at the airport). Mom was having to leave for work and I was a grumpy, itchy, crying and snotty mess. If I were the adult here, I would have put that child in bed! But my dad, as tired as he was, took me on his lap, rocked me and read to me. He gently wiped my face, put lotion on the blisters and coaxed me to a sweeter attitude.
He wanted me to feel better, to be comforted. Again, extravagant love!
God wants you to love and comfort others.
There is a blessing in reaching out to others. He wants you to watch what you say. He commands that you honor your father and mother, stop stealing and cheating. Quit acting ugly. There are blessings found in pleasing him that are found no place else.
Always remember that God loves you where you are and how you are, even if you’re a total mess. But he refuses to leave you there. He wants you to be like himself. “Be perfect as I am perfect.” He wants you to be his hands and his feet, loving the ‘unlovable’.
Do you know someone who is suffering? Just dropping by for a short visit with an inexpensive bouquet of flowers would be so meaningful. If you don’t know of anyone suffering (what are the chances?), just go by the nearest retirement home. I guarantee there are lots of lonely people who could do with a bit of sunshine.
He loves you extravagantly and wants you to love others the same way.
A grateful heart is a happy heart.
If you’re on FaceBook you’ve probably seen the meme that reads, “What if you woke up today and the only blessings you had were the ones you were thankful for yesterday?”
Perhaps you remember the song, “Count Your Blessings”. Stop and ask yourself the question, what are you thankful for? Have you ever tried to make a list of all that God provides? Clean water for drinking and bathing. A roof over your head. A place to sleep. Family. Food. Jobs. Transportation. Health. Clothing. Safety. Friends. Salvation. Education. Adversity. Social media. Coffee! Pain. Music. The ability to see, hear, speak, taste, smell and touch. Love. Dogs. (Cats, too, I suppose.) A future. Chocolate! Laughter. Curiosity. Prayer. The changing of the seasons. Chick-fil-a. Sports. Wisdom. Service. Free will. Sorrow. Second chances.
Where would you be without these blessings?
Let’s be honest with each other, there are certain things that we all take for granted until they’re gone. How hard is it when you go through a season deprived of some of them?
Have you ever been without a roof over your head or a place to sleep? I haven’t. But I know what it’s like to need a job and not have one. And when I did get a job, even though it was less than ideal, I was grateful. Not having a job makes you really appreciate a job. Isn’t it amazing how having to do without something can make us more grateful?
As parents, sometimes we hold things back from our kids until they’re mature enough to appreciate and take care of them.
Who gives a three-year-old a trip to Europe? Or a car? How in the world could that child appreciate such things? Instead, you go to Sea World or buy a tricycle. God is a good parent, and he does the same thing.
He provides for all our needs and so many of our wants. He wants to bless us. He knows what we can handle and what we can’t. But how often do we thank him? Like any parent, God is pleased when we express our gratitude.
Try this exercise: Buy a pad of sticky notes and put something on each one that you’re thankful for. Stick the notes all over the house and be sure to write the names of your loved ones and put them where they’ll be sure to see them.
See what this does to affect the attitude of gratitude in your home.
What about the stuff he deflects and protects us from?
Have you ever thanked God for the things he doesn’t allow, the ‘No’s’ that bless you? Some of the items on this list you may not even be aware of. But if you think back, you’ll likely remember a few.
That test that came back with good results.
The ‘fender bender’ that could have been so much worse.
The bones that didn’t break.
The surgery that wasn’t needed.
The friendship that didn’t work out.
The job we didn’t get.
The flight we missed that later crashed.
The robbery that was prevented.
The hurricane that didn’t hit.
The door that never opened.
The relationship that never took place.
These are the areas where God cares for us even though we may never know or give him thanks.
Infants and little children have no grasp of everything their parents do for them and everything that is provided for them. They aren’t mature enough to realize or appreciate the protection of a parent’s “No!”
Mark and I are friends with a couple who were facing a lean Christmas. Ever been there? They somehow managed to get each child a book that they wanted. After wrapping the books on Christmas Eve, they went through the house and placed bows on light switches.
On the water taps and showers.
They put a bow on the thermostat and each closet and dresser.
There was a bow on the refrigerator and the front door.
These bows were reminders of all the ‘gifts’ that they were providing for their children that were often taken for granted. These wise parents confided to me that the holiday was a turning point for their family. Their ‘attitude of gratitude’ was reborn and became a blessing to many beyond their own household.
You will never know all that God has done for you and provided for you.
You may not be aware of his protection and safe-keeping. Sometimes you don’t appreciate the “NO!” But out of his love, he protects you anyway. Can you imagine the impact it would have if your family or your congregation made a point of remembering, celebrating, and giving thanks for all the things that DIDN’T happen?
The Angel of Death didn’t take the first-born of the obedient. Daniel was cast into the lion’s den, but he didn’t get eaten. The apostle Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake and did not fall ill or die. So, what’s your story? How has God blessed you with a ’No’?
God’s loving protection is extravagant love.
Decide to love others the way that you are loved by God.
What would the world be like if every individual was loved like this, even if it was just by one person?
Imagine the people in your life following your example and loving each other extravagantly. Imagine yourself, being the kind of parent, grandparent, friend or neighbor that you, yourself, need.
Reach out in simple, tangible ways. Leave them with no doubt that they are loved…extravagantly.
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