Monthly Archives: May 2014

Do You Love Me?


By Judy Villanueva

John 21:15   “Do you love Me?”  

Stuck in the bathroom, I attempted to muster the courage to go back out into the party.  It was a gathering of people with whom I felt  out of place and misunderstood.  Granted, they were just feelings and likely not even true, but it is how I felt.  Overwhelmed, I slipped into this awkward space to pray.  “Lord, I thought I would do better today!   I prepared beforehand.  I prayed, read the Word, determined to love well, and yet, here I am, stuck in the bathroom feeling so defeated.  Help me to be strong!”  What I heard in reply surprised me.   “I am here.  It’s ok.  Return to love in weakness.  I am with you.”  This felt strangely freeing, mostly because the only place I could love from, at that moment, was from weakness.  So, I returned to the party and loved…weak and a bit scrambled up inside, but freed to love!

The only thing that keeps me from loving on any given day is me.

For sure, many things threaten to box me in and block God’s flow of love.  I might be tired, irritable, or anxious.  I might be constrained by the pressure of feeling insecure, less than, or judged.  It might even be that the person in front of me is  just plain unloving!  Each and every time, I have a decision to make to either step back from loving or, to pause and ask for God’s help to move forward.  When I am in these situations,  my first taste of freedom often comes from simply deciding to love, and the next ones from giving myself fully to this decision.  In other words, as I act on believing that God is able to empower me to love beyond my fatigue, insecurity or dread,  grace begins to flow!

Here is the incredible thing about any decision to love.  When we love,  we bless and honor Jesus!  We answer His question, “Do you love Me?” with a resounding “Yes! I love You, Jesus!” whenever we avail ourselves to be filled and poured out for another.

 Can you imagine that it is possible to bless the heart of God when and as we love?

That is quite a notion!    And, thankfully, it counts even when we love imperfectly and in weakness.  We must never forget what it means that the Spirit of God lives within us.  We walk around with  access to an inexhaustible spring of deep and bountiful love!  We may feel boxed in and scrambled up,  but when we find our way out of our awkward spaces and cry out for help, we discover that wide and rich waters of love await us.  Come, drink and love Jesus!

“Lord, I bump into mini-crossroads every day where I am aware of my love-limitations.  I am selfish and in need of Your well that is inexhaustible!  I want You to hear my “Yes, I love you!” as I love others.  I want to bless You!  Fill me and free me to love.  Amen.”

What about you?

Do you feel free to love others?  Are you aware of what closes off your heart?

Have you considered that in loving others, you bless the heart of God?  I

What do you think  Jesus meant by asking  “Do you love Me?”  How would you respond? Registered & Protected<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> WCK5-MAPD-V6IE-IWNN



Folding Socks

DSC_0621By Judy Villanueva

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1)

God, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you. (St.Augustine of Hippo)

Surrounded by of pile of socks, I hunt for two brown ones with stripes, matching grey argyles, and strain to decipher the subtle differences in the solid blues!  I suddenly feel a familiar pang that I recognize as my soul becoming restless.  Existential angst.  Does my existence have meaning?  Does folding socks matter to God or is there something more important that  I should be doing?  It alerts me to beware of what I think, pray and do next.  I’ve been here before and am learning that when my soul feels restless it wants to be fed (or medicated).  Feed it with a cookie, a trip to the mall, a tv show, a glass of wine or with frenetic doing that will offer distraction.  Instead, I decide to pray and bring my soul to Jesus.

My husband and I have been reading a book called “Soul Keeping” by John Ortberg and the last pages invite the reader to the deathbed of a remarkable man, Dallas Willard.  Reading out loud, we find ourselves overhearing the last words he whispered to God, “Thank you. Thank you.”  My brow furrows as I consider the implications of these words uttered in the midst of great suffering.  I feel curious to know more about him and hungry to learn how to live so that when I breathe my final breath, my soul will exhale in gratitude.  Dallas lived a life that cultivated a contented and grateful soul and when pressed hard, what flowed from the depths of him was gratefulness.

There is something about the finality of death that is focusing.   It seems to clear the clutter that gets in the way of living well.  At death, all chances to be kind end.  Any and all opportunities to love are over.  At life’s end, grudges feel ridiculous and time, too precious to waste on petty complaints.

In the clarity of death’s wake, worry about mattering yields to loving and being loved by God.

It invites a vision of generosity, grace and energy to bless others while there is time.  It is a reminder that a life lived well is fed and formed by God, and that last breaths are exhaled from whatever has been shaped over a lifetime.  Learning to love and be loved by God infuses all of life with meaning…it quiets the soul, plants seeds of gratitude and makes, even folding socks,  yet another moment of His grace.

“Father, help me to find meaning in Your arms and let it calm and fuel my soul for blessing others.  Help me to cultivate gratefulness and care for my soul so that in each day of my life I might give you glory, and upon my death, give thanks.  Amen.”

 What about you?

 Do you ever struggle with restlessness of soul?

What do you tend to feed your soul to calm it?  Food, tv,  shopping, or something else?

Have you discovered that meaning comes from being loved by God?  Have you felt the rest that happens in Him alone?

What do you think cultivating contentment and gratitude looks like?

Spend time with God.   It will feed and bless your soul. Registered & Protected<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> C5HI-B4LF-GIU2-E3MH




DSC_0514By Judy Villanueva

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns,  where evening fades, 
you call forth songs of joy. (Psalm 65:8)

Covered in blankets with our faces pointed toward the sky, we watched for magic!  “Glory!” our friend’s little daughter cried out, “I saw one!”  Under a canopy of stars we laid out on the deck, shivering in the cool night air determined to witness wonder!  “Glory!” another shouted, “Glory!  Glory!  Glory!”  Shooting stars showered us with delight and time seemed to stop as we watched wide-eyed and awed by each brilliant starburst!  It was the peak of the Perseid Meteor shower and there, gathered with family and dear friends, wonder gave way to worship and before we knew it, we were singing songs of joy in the middle of the mountains!

I am so grateful for wonder.  It is different than knowing or understanding a thing….there is something about wonder that points us beyond the comprehensible to unique and magnificent possibilities!

Wonder confronts our finite natures and asks us to reach beyond our grasp and dare to imagine beauty beyond our disappointments.  It signals us to hope!

It opens up soul-space and encourages us to watch for life.  Wonder reminds us that there is a God…a good and wonderful God.

“Wonder-ing” becomes more natural as we practice noticing and tuning into its invitations to stand still and behold.  Beholding helps us to see, feel and hear God in the midst of shooting stars, rainbows, and shimmering aspen trees…to name a few favorite wonders!  To behold is to stop, move toward and then look closely with all of oneself.   It is to allow wonder to speak and teach of God’s glory…glory found all around us, every sunrises and sunsets,  in wildflowers and waterfalls and, in sitting amongst friends with faces pointed upwards,  singing songs of joy for each moment spent together watching for glory!

“Heavenly Father, help me to notice your invitations to be drawn into wonder.  Life can be hard sometimes.  Help me to trust You and stay open to whatever You will next for me.  Thank you for lights in the sky, for dear friends, precious children, for beauty, wind and wonders too many to count that help me reach beyond disappointment and fear,  to hope.  Thank you for daily reminders that You are…and are good.  Amen.”

What about you?

What fills you with wonder?

Are you aware of how beholding wonder moves your heart?

How are your hopes?

Do you need a reminder that there is a God…and that He is good?

Lay down, look up and watch for His wonders.

(Thank you, Tommy Walker, for leading worship that night and helping us lift up beautiful songs of joy!)

Worship Registered & Protected<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />



marierainbowBy Judy Villanueva

Jonah 3:10-4:4 

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Aren’t you glad that judgment is in the hands of God…and not ours?  If it had been up to Jonah, Nineveh would have gotten what it deserved and paid for its sins with death.  He, personally,  would rather have died than see this city receive grace.  Justice.  We are each born with a sense of it and naturally lean toward evening up scores, paying debts owed, and making sure evil is not rewarded.  We feel better when justice is served!  Right?  Then, there is our just God who always seems ready to believe for the good in us…to be touched when we are sorry and turn toward Him…and, whose love keeps reaching for us with grace and second chances.

Have you ever thought about the heart of God?   I read passages like this one and marvel!  It is a glimpse into breath-taking glory!  Time after time, God’s creation defies Him and goes its own way.  Time after time, God creates magnificent scenarios to entice and rescue His beloved from their propensity to run away from His presence,  jump out of boats, and get swallowed by large fish.  It is almost amusing to “hear” Jonah scold God for being gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love!  “Oh I just knew you would relent from sending calamity.”  Amazing Grace.  Glorious and heart-stopping Love!  It convinces me afresh that God’s commitment to His creation is tenacious, unrelenting and more patient than we can fathom.

Sitting in the stench and slime of a whale’s belly gave Jonah the needed pause to reconsider God’s request to preach salvation to the Ninevites!  Coughed up on the shore, he finally obeys, and God’s offer of grace is accepted by the people.  But, Jonah is angry that God’s plan has worked!  “Is it right for you to be angry?” God asks.  A question designed to prompt Jonah to reflect, repent, and reorient.  Had he gotten too big for his britches, thinking he knew better than God?  Jonah’s story makes me all too aware of my own tendency to seek justice over mercy.  I can feel God’s question offering a needed correction.   In contrast, God’s patience and generosity with both Jonah and Nineveh invites me in close for a look at His beautiful heart.  There is power in reflecting on God’s heart!  Each peek is transformative, each glimpse giving new vision…each drip helping my heart to feel the beat of His, oh so amazing, Grace!

“Lord, I wish I could say that I cannot relate to Jonah.  Help me remember that You are God and I am not!  I want to be humble and pliable…ready to obey You.  Touch my heart, Lord, and enlarge my capacity to love others more like You.  Amen.”

What about you?

Is there a “whale belly” in your life that might be a pause, meant to help you obey something that God has asked of you?

Do you seek justice or mercy for others?  Are you bothered when someone gets a second chance?

How are your britches fitting lately?  Do you need to take time to reflect, repent and reorient?

Mercy, Lord.  We pray for Your touch that creates Divine capacity to obey, forgive and seek mercy for ourselves AND others.


Like a Spring Rain,   by Colporteur Registered & Protected<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />