I've had this post in draft mode for some time, and have edited a hundred times because I don't think I'm doing a good job of articulating what it is I'm trying to express. But I'm hitting publish tonight because I'm tired of fooling with it and over analyzing it. Bless your heart if you make it to the end of it.
I love to read. I love books...all kinds of books; good fiction, non-fiction, good self-help (for real, I do!), biographies, autobiographies...I love it all. I love a good page turner, and most books I can finish in a day or two, because once I start, I just can't stop. But with two monkeys in my life now, I don't get to read nearly as much as I would like. Free time is non-existent for me these days, and I know other mamas can relate. Since Presley's birth, the only books I've touched are "What to Expect The First Year" (a must, even with a second born), "Breast Feeding for Dummies" (I'm serious, and again, a must for me, even with a second born), "Pinkalicious", "Goldilicious", "Purplicious", "When You Give a Mouse a Cookie", etc....you get the idea. Not a lot of quality adult reading in there.
My favorite books are the ones you happen upon and maybe don't expect much out of, but it ends up being a great one. And that's what I found recently. I wasn't looking for something new to read, but I borrowed this book from my Dad after seeing the title, and being intrigued by it, and also seeing the author, and knowing she wouldn't disappoint.
To say I have been blessed by this book is an understatement. To say it has changed my outlook on life would be a little more accurate. And to say it has rocked my world would be pretty on point. This is not a new book, having been published in 2003, but I'm late to the game, I guess. I have this problem that probably warrants an entire post for itself, but basically I am very often resistant to something that is massively popular. I still have never seen "The Passion of the Christ" (remember the buzz and hype around that movie?). I've never worn Crocs. I was probably the last person on earth to join on Facebook, just a few months ago. I can't explain it, but Beth Moore is one of those things that I thumbed my nose at for a long time, just because of the hype that surronded her. For years I have heard women gush over Mrs. Moore's bible studies, and once, years ago, she even came to Little Rock and did a conference, and I knew lots of ladies that went. But me? Not interested in jumping on the Beth Moore bandwagon, thank you very much. It was not until last year when I participated in a bible study at my church based on Mrs. Moore's study of Esther that I fell in love with her and realized how stupid I had been. As it stands now, I would maybe call myself her biggest fan. No wonder so many women (and men) hold her in such high esteem. She is a spirit filled teacher of the Word, and she does it in a way that absolutely captivates! She allows Christ to use her to touch the lives of millions of people, and she is absolutely humble about that. She has a deep love for scripture, and she emparted some of that love to me. I love the bible and cling to scripture in way I didn't before. As a side note, if you have never read the book of Esther in the bible, you are missing one of the best page turners ever written, and it's not even fiction.
Back to "The Beloved Disciple". This book is a study of the disciple John, his life and relationship with Jesus during His time on earth and after, and his understanding of the amazing love of God (I hope I summarized that well). I will not go into full book report mode, but I will say that after reading this, I'm seeing with new eyes. I have been a Christian since the age of 8, have sang "Jesus Loves Me" thousands of times, have been regular in church my whole life, and I feel like I am just beginning to scratch the surface on the love God has for us. I think that as humans, and even as Christians, it's so hard for us to comprehend a love that is so perfect and pure and unconditional, because in our fallen world we see so many examples of love gone wrong; failed marriages, parents who abuse their children, friends who betray, families that fall apart, and the list goes on and on. But the love God has for us is different. It is mighty. It is deep. It is fierce. It is unending and unchanging. It is not conditional on our behavior. It is beautiful. It is enough. It is perfect.
I can only speak for myself, but I think that once you really begin to comprehend this incredible love that God has for us, and you allow yourself to be washed in it and filled with it, that the natural follow through from that is that it would spill forth from you. And isn't that what we're called to do? Show the love of Christ to the world? Be His hands and feet? To love others as He has loved us?
I have been challenged by what I just described, and am still a work in progress when it comes to showing that love to everybody. Without going into too much detail in a public forum where I'm not sure who is reading, I will just say that for the past year I have been in a season of discontent with an area of my life and with some people that I deal with in that area. I have been hurt, mistreated, and done wrong and been in a position where I didn't have a lot of recourse, and I more or less had to just take it. I have developed a deep bitterness as it relates to these things and these people, and for a long time now I have been holding onto that bitterness and hatred for dear life. I am a grudge holder like no other, and I have learned that such a thing is not a bragging right. Bitterness, hatred that is held within, anger...all these things do nothing to hurt the person they are directed at. They hurt you. And if you had told me even two months ago that God would be able to ever take the edge off those feelings, I would have called you crazy. But that is what he's doing for me. Slowly, my feelings are losing their steam, my thoughts are not as harsh, I'm not as quick to anger, and my heart is softer. The situation I am in has not changed one iota. But my God is changing me. God has not called me to have a spirit of grudge holding and bitterness. He has called me to show His love to the world, even when it takes me out of my comfort zone. To allow Him to be seen through me. To share His love with everyone, even the ones who do wrong by me. I'm not all the way there yet, maybe not even halfway there, but I'm trying. I am a far cry from perfect, and I'm not trying to paint a picture of myself skipping down the hallways and hugging everyone's neck. But my heart is different. Does any of that make sense?
I am a new K-Love listener. It's another thing I have thumbed my nose at for a long time, mainly because I thought Christian radio was all gospel music and hymn singing. Wrong again, Ashley. I still listen to regular radio too, but can I just tell you what a difference it will make in your day if your heart is tuned into praising and worshipping, rather than songs that sing of wordly things? So this song is new to me, but it's not a new release. From David Crowder Band, it's "How He Loves Us", and I think it articulates exactly what I'm trying to say way better than I ever could. The amazing, amazing, love of God has for us. This song brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat every.single.time I hear it. He loves us all so much.