Love Lives Here

I love books. I love the feel, the smell, the creativity, the emotions, and the way they continue to make your brain tick for days, even weeks after reading them. If you know me at all, this is not new information. I love to read, and a bookstore gift card makes me insanely excited. (And a little nervous, because how do I choose?)

That being said, I have read a lot. So when a book comes along that really jumps out at me, I can’t help but share its message, especially if that message leads people to Jesus. I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Love Lives Here launch team, and this was one I could really get behind. I read Love Does by Bob Goff two years ago, and it was such an encouragement to love others as Jesus did. To say YES! when it’s scary and to take chances for the Kingdom. He spoke so highly of his wife, “Sweet Maria”, that I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of lady she was. What kind of life did she lead to be deemed “Sweet Maria”? And then she wrote a book.

Maria Goff’s Love Lives Here is another book that makes me want to be more adventurous and live my life in a way that more closely reflects Jesus’ time on earth. She addresses fear and letting go of past mistakes, encouraging the reader to fall in love with Jesus on a deeper level. As she writes, “We don’t need a plan to be us, and we don’t need permission either; we just need to begin”. God has already called us to go in Matthew 28:19-20, otherwise known as the Great Commission. We already have permission. For someone like me, who relates more with Martha than Mary (responsibilities, check off lists, rule-following, etc.), I am hesitant and feel my heels digging in a little when I hear “adventure”, but I love Maria’s reassurance in her words. “I grew up seeing adventure and responsibility as two ideas in disagreement with each other; but I’ve come to realize they don’t just coexist, they actually complement each other.” Maria’s husband, Bob, enjoys a life with boats, jeeps, world travel, and a lot of YES!, so I can only imagine she’s learned to adapt, and along the way, experienced life as a Christian in another light.

In, Love Lives Here, Maria Goff recounts family trips to war-torn countries and the fear she felt for her life and her family. She speaks a lot on fear and allowing God to help us overcome it. “Fear delights in our attempts to avoid or ignore it. The antidote that gives us the buoyancy to rise above our fear is found in love and hope and the kind of peace we don’t try to manufacture but experience in courageous gratitude”. (I told you- it’s good stuff!) Just like the Bible tells us in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”(NKJV).

In loving others, she reminds us not to “settle for having an opinion when you can be an example”. She encourages the reader to love your neighbors by actually getting to know them. The Goff family has a whole lot of love, and if we can emulate it in the slightest, this world will see a noticeable difference.

I highly recommend this one. And when you buy it, let a friend borrow it after you read it. Read it with a Bible in hand. She speaks truth, but don’t just take her word for it. Go to the Word and see the same ideas reflected in the book. By the time you get to the last page, I hope you can say with confidence that love lives where you are. Happy reading.

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What Are You Giving Up?

I have been a Baptist my whole life, starting nine months before I was born, if you ask my mom. I say this only to explain that I have not been expected nor taught to participate in Lent by giving up something. I made the choice to give up soft drinks one time in high school because so many friends were. While it helped me kick the habit for good, with only a very rare Dr. Pepper or root beer every now and then, I can’t say it changed my relationship with the Lord, and I didn’t view it as a fast at the time.

The idea of fasting from all food has always sounded scary and not doable for me, but fasting from a particular thing is a practice I’ve done when I’ve been wholly focused on something in prayer. This isn’t to say God would not give me strength to fast, but it is not something I have felt led to do at this point in my life.

But last Sunday, my pastor encouraged us to fast from something we like or consume a lot of, and instead of eating or drinking that thing, pray for the lost, for those who do not know Jesus. I have a pretty big sweet tooth, as evidenced by my dental bills, and I knew candy would be something that would send me to prayer quite often. I grew up with a dad who took me to the gas station every day after school for a sweet treat, and I typically have candy every day at some point. There’s always a candy jar or a vending machine readily available at work. We even have a sort of reward system that allows us to get “Spirit Chips” that can be traded in for candy in the gift shop. My intern and I ate an embarrassing amount of sour gummy worms during her semester with me, and I usually have some sort of chocolate nearby. I’m not saying this is good, but while I’m branching out of my Baptist box, I should throw in confession too, right?

So, I’ve given up candy. And I’m okay. But instead of making this about the habit this time, I’m making it about an opportunity to pray for something important. Giving up something for Lent is not about sharing in Christ’s suffering. Not drinking a diet coke and dying on the cross are not the same. At all. Fasting is about replacing something we value with prayer, to the point that prayer becomes the thing we value. We should hurt for the lost as much as we hurt without caffeine. We should be going to God for boldness to preach His Word. We should be sharing Christ with those around us and speaking love over hate. We should be acting like Jesus instead of shunning those who believe something we don’t. If giving up candy is how I can start this change in my own life, then bring it on.

David shows us an example of fasting in the Bible, when his son with Bathsheba was ill. In 2 Samuel 12:16-17, it says, “David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them.” He was so focused in his prayer that he fasted as he came to God in intercession. He didn’t do it to make everyone think he was religious or super spiritual. He did it because he knew he needed God more than anything else in that moment.

The moments I tell myself I need candy will now be the moments I bring my cares to God. 1 Peter 5:7 says to “cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (NKJV). Food or drinks can’t fix my problems, but God can. He welcomes our problems because He knows He can solve them.

As we prepare to remember the death and resurrection of our Lord this season, do things that make you walk more closely with Him. You don’t have to give up anything to become a Christian. But you will want to leave behind the ways of this world when you realize just how much God can fill in those gaps. Join me in praying for the lost. Name those in your life who need Jesus. Pray for boldness to share God’s good news. If you’re reading this and you don’t know God, I just might be praying for you too.