Many people talk of love. “Love one another”, “Husbands, love your wives”, “Wives, love your husbands”, “Love your children”, “Love God”, “Love those less fortunate” and on and on. They are good words because many of them come straight from God’s Word!! I love talking about the love of God and His love for me. It IS the love of God that brings me peace, joy, comfort, guidance, and secured my eternal destiny. Oh how I am thankful for God’s love!
But talk is cheap. We could talk all day about loving everybody, but if I never showed them that love would it mean anything to them? For example, my hubby could tell me every day that he loves me (and he does), but if he never did one thing to help me or never asked me what could he do for me that day would I believe his words? No. I could tell my kids that I love them all the time, but if I never take anytime with them or listen to their hearts or help plan my schedule around what they would like to do will they ever feel my love? No. God told me that He loved me, but that was not enough. He did something about it. He had a plan of redemption that was put into action for me! That is love!
Love is not just words. Love is action. Love says something, and then does something to prove it. Jesus said, “If you love me (that is our words), then keep my commandments (that is action). God says He loves us, but then He acts in our lives to prove it. So, when we are “actively” loving God, our husbands, our wives, our children, our neighbors, our friends, our church, and our community we will have action that follows those words.
This past week, I was honored to be the guest speaker at a Joni and Friends Family Retreat. I have attended and helped before and I have never been a part of something more practical in love. The term “we are the hands and feet of Jesus this week” is used many times. I like that definition. Practical love = being the hands and feet of Jesus in someone else’s life. Would you like a glimpse of what love looked like last week?
~ Circles of moms crying, laughing, hugging and talking together because they all have special needs kids and they get it.
~ A little child that cannot control their body is being taken care of by a buddy. They are swinging and playing with them and drool starts flying everywhere because that child cannot control it. The buddy wipes it off and acts like it never even happened and continues to play.
~ A beautiful brother and sister who communicate through interpreters were surrounded by people all week long who stopped to just sit and talk with them.
~ Young adults in wheelchairs who could not get enough people willing to push them to wherever they wanted to go!
~ Blind friends who were amazingly gifted in poetry and singing and passion were handed microphones and an outlet to share their vision with us.
~ Teens would clear the tables for families so that they could just rest.
~ Services would stop so the one young man who absolutely loved to come and talk in a microphone could just come up and say “Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention – have a good day!” and then the service would continue.
~ A lady who was not with us very much in her mind, was drawn to the worship leader as he sang. She moved around a lot in her wheelchair with never any real place to go, but every morning she would roll over to him. I watched him just take her hand and hold it while he led and she would just sit and listen.
~ Autistic children screamed during service times and others would turn and smile…not scowl.
~ A young girl with Down Syndrome who wanted to show her talent of sword fighting with foam swords suddenly screamed out , “NO!!!! I can’t!!! I can’t!!!” and everyone just patiently waited while her buddy encouraged her that she didn’t have to but if she wanted to try we were here for her. She charged on the stage and they started! She squealed out, “I did it!!! I did it!!!” and our crowd roared with cheers with her!
~ A young man with Down Syndrome who wanted to sing and and while we waited, he stopped and just started praying. You have never witnessed a more real conversation with God. All stopped. We joined him prayer humbled by the fact that we knew we were missing what he had with God. Then he sang. Oh that I would depend on my God like that before I do anything!
There are so many more and I cannot take the space to speak them all. Such practical love shown by all and to all. The allowing of all of God’s children to use their gifts and talents for The Lord!
There are risks and hurts with this kind of love though. Just ask these families, who for many, get only rejection from their churches. The kids are too loud, they make us nervous, they are messy, they gross me out, they are not normal and make my children nervous, and on and on. This is why they look forward to Family Retreat so much. They get practical love!!!!!
Practical love does get messy. Just ask Jesus when He touched the bodies of the lepers. Practical love does make people nervous. Just ask those who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery and Jesus asked them to list their sins. Practical love is gross. Just ask the man possessed with demons who was constantly naked and cutting himself. Practical love will leave wheelchair tire marks on newly polished floors. Practical love will stain carpets. Practical love will require new paint jobs. Practical love will focus on individual needs – not just a one size fits all approach. Jesus did not yell out across all the lands, “Everyone be healed!!!!” He could have. It would have been a lot neater, took less time and He could have gotten back to the program. Oh wait. That WAS the program! Practical love was the program. How else would those of us know He loved us if He did not act and move in our lives personally?
People will get mad, they will misquote and misinterpret, they will falsely accuse, they will manipulate and twist your words. Those are the risks. How many times have we said that if we had been the only person in the world, Jesus would have still come to rescue my soul? So if our only reward is that through our practical love….being the hands and feet of Jesus in our homes, our churches and our communities….help just one person, then the rewards far outweighs all the risks!
Christ’s love for me was messy. It was a cruel and bloody mess on the cross of Calvary. Because of that, I don’t mind getting messy for Him. Christ actively shows me His love. Because of that, I don’t mind showing others His love. Christ’s love was personal. Because of that, I want my love to be personal to others. It is the love of Christ that constrains (which means controls) me. It drives me to action!!
I cannot worry about those who like to extinguish the practical love of Christ being demonstrated. They use a lot of oxygen but accomplish very little. I will go on not worrying about those whose lives they never touch. Instead, I will go forward thankful that I have been touched by Jesus and will follow His example!
I am going to leave you with this video of a song sung by my friends, Megan Ritchey (who has cerebral palsey and uses a power chair) and Zach Holler (who has a very rare condition that affects his mobility, his hearing and his sight). They are singing more than a song. They are singing their testimony. They live the truths of this song. It is called “Blessings” and is one of my very favorite songs now that I am paralyzed. The beauty and simplicity of my friends singing this and the emotion felt through the interpreter in sign language is the cry of our hearts. Thank you Megan and Zach for choosing this song for us!
“Oh Lord, thank you for your love. Help me to follow You and do my part in building Your Kingdom!”
For more information about Joni and Friends Family Retreats, please visit www.joniandfriends.org