Stacy Voss

See life differently. Live courageously.

Tag: love (page 1 of 6)

The Gift of Favor

Have you ever received a gift that you loved, but despite its positive attributes, it also had some negative ones? For any of you that were gifted a Fitbit, your answer should be yes. Activity trackers are great because they provide that extra motivation to move a little more and to hit your daily fitness goals. But here’s the thing: it requires that we move a little more. Get a little sweaty. Go out for a walk, even when we don’t feel like it, which can be categorized as being not so great on certain days.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at gifts that were given during that first Christmas that have both positive and negative attributes. We’ll explore how those gifts continue to be delivered today and how they can impact our living. Today, we’re looking at the Gift of Favor.

Mary will serve as our example for both the positive and negative attributes that resulted from this gift. Let’s start with the good side first.

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth . . . to a virgin pledged to be married. . . The virgin’s name was Mary.

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Luke 1:26-28, emphasis mine

This is the same angel who said to Zechariah, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news” (Luke 1:19)

We tend to skip over Mary, fearing we’ll give her too much credit and authority as others tend to do, but sometimes we go too far and don’t listen to her story close enough. Put yourself in her young shoes as an angel sent from God told her she was highly favored. How would you feel? What would you think?

That awareness did something to Mary, for how could it not? Listen in to the first portion of Mary’s song:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”

Luke 1:46-48a, emphasis mine

So often, we play the childhood game of “he loves me, he loves me not,” even (dare I say especially?) when it comes to God’s love. After Gabriel told Mary she was favored by God, how could she continue plucking the leaves off the flower of love-doubt?

Yet with that gift came the other side of the coin, for her favor cost her too. She nearly lost the relationship to the man she was engaged to. After all, how many guys would believe a story about becoming pregnant without having sex? In fact, it wasn’t just Joseph that discounted her story (at least until an angel told him otherwise). Add “reputation” to the list of Mary’s losses. She went and hid out with Elizabeth, probably in part to avoid the murmuring about her she knew would be inevitable about her.

She lost her home. Mary and Joseph left Nazareth to be counted in the census, but then God warned them in a dream to not return home and instead they escaped to Egypt. I have lived as an ex-pat in another country. It definitely has its joys, yet there were times I just missed home. Other days I wanted to be around people who understood my customs and on the nights when I was too tired to speak a foreign language, I longed for the easy flow of conversation in my mother tongue.

The list could go on and on, but you get the point. But the real question is how does this gift of favor continue to this day?

Too often, we use our circumstances as a way to determine if we’ve merited God’s favor or if we’re on the outs. When things are good, we rejoice that we’re “in.” But just as quickly, when things turn bad, we wonder what we did to make God upset or go back to believing that we never deserved His mercy in the first place. Ironically, we never did deserve His grace, but that shouldn’t ever be part of the equation, for that is precisely why it’s considered a gift and not a payment of something we earned.

For some, December is a time of rich blessings. For others, the days are filled with heartache and grief, and many of us bounce between those two ends of the spectrum. Wherever we’re at on any particular day, can you commit with me to not use that moment’s circumstances as a gauge to determine if God loves us or not? Instead, let’s dress ourselves in this powerful truth:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Colossians 3:12, emphasis mine

Join me in embracing both sides of the gift of favor.

Stacy Voss

P.S. This is part of a Gifts of Christmas talk I’ll be giving at a cookie exchange/tea at Christ Community Church on December 16th at 9:30. They have graciously allowed me to invite you, my dear readers, to come join us that morning. I would love to see you there if you can make it! Please just shoot an email to cccdenver8085@gmail.com to let them know if you want to attend so they can make sure they have plenty of food for this free event.

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The Five Love Languages of the Cross

I’m assuming that most of you have heard of Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages. In it, he describes the five fundamental ways in which people primarily give or receive love. They are: gifts, physical touch, acts of service, quality time, and words of affirmation. The gist of the book is that each of us have one or two of these areas in which we really feel loved when someone expresses it through that forum.

And conversely, we really feel hurt when love is withheld from us in that category, or worse yet, when someone we care about does something that we perceive as negative in our primary love language. For example, I’m all about words. Splatter a few tidbits of encouragement my way and I’m good to go for the week. But cut me down. Degrade me or place a label on me and I’ll fall under its weight.

As I was once again trying to prepare my heart for Easter, to try to grasp something that is so enormous that I honestly admit I’ll never fully get it, I noticed one startling thing:

Jesus experienced rejection in each of those five areas in the days or moments leading up to the crucifixion.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if Jesus had a primary love language (after all, God is love. Period). It isn’t about guessing if there is a way in which we can or can’t show our love in a way that resonates to the Most High. It’s that Jesus experienced the negative effects in each of these categories.

Physical Touch

The cat of nine tails clawing at his back, intentionally being thrashed into his flesh over and over.

Thorns pressed deep into soft flesh.

Nails. Driven down, down, down.

Oh, and the lack of air. Yes, the gasping over and again, desperate for just one. more. breath.

Words of Affirmation

“Crucify. Crucify!”

Mocking, ridiculing, taunting.

The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, ‘Prophesy! Who hit you?” (Luke 22:63-64)

Quality Time

The very men Jesus poured everything into had a choice as he faced his darkest hour. Endure the trail with him or skidaddle.

Most fled.

One denied. Over and over and over. “I don’t know the man.”

Can you imagine that? Right as things get hard, you overhear your best friend say, “nope. I don’t know her. Never met her.” That’s pretty much what the Rock said. Let’s add that line to the lack of words of affirmation category, too.

Acts of Service

Purple designated royalty, and for once a robe of that color graced Jesus’ shoulders, but only in mockery. The closest the masses came that day to paying him respect was riddled with sarcasm and disdain. Nothing kind was done to Jesus that day. But everything unkind was.

Gifts

That sharp crown pressed much too deep.

The purple robe, a vivid display of mockery.

And a beam weighing 30-40 pounds, laid upon his back to carry to the place where he would die. Or at least carry it as far as his tortured body would allow.

But What About Love?

Like I said, when someone we love does the opposite of our primary love language, it pierces deep.

But these people obviously didn’t love Jesus, right?

Probably not, or at least they didn’t display it in those moments.

Be he loved them so very, very much.

Us, too.

A love I won’t begin to understand.

A love that became the reason to endure pain reaching levels our minds can’t fathom. Willingly, so.

 

What is your love language? How do you respond or feel when someone you care about hurts you in that vernacular? How does that enhance your view of Easter and Jesus’ five love languages of the cross?

 

 

Thoughts on Valentine’s Day from a Divorcee

Perhaps it’s because we’re officially in the month of heart-shaped boxes that I had that fleeting thought of, “ugh. Valentine’s Day.” Yes, it really was more of a cave-man grunting-type thought rather than a full coherent sentence, but it quickly got pushed to the wayside with something else: the words a friend had told me minutes earlier:

“I love you, my friend.”

My friend, Nina, was my first adult, non-family, female friend to tell me she loved me many years ago.

“I uh, um, well,” I probably stammered back, unsure how to respond. (Nina, if you’re reading this, please accept my very belated apologies, along with an equally overdue word of thanks).

It took me a while to understand what Nina was saying, words that later on were echoed by other non-family folk.

Love. A pure, caring, with-you kind of thing.

I couldn’t accept it because it didn’t fit for multiple reasons, one being that I’d only heard that phrase from family, both the blood kind and the marriage ones. I didn’t believe someone not in a blood-binding kind of way would love me.

Nor did I think that getting divorced would teach me about love.

thoughts on valentines dayUntitled

Yup, you read that right. Before I say any more on that, hear me out: I revere marriage. It is a holy institution, something not to be entered into lightly and definitely not something to be exited at whim.

But.

In those three letters lies a story of heartache, hope, and a bitter surrender to the reality that we have no control over others’ emotions, actions, perceptions or anything else. So when the gavel sounded as the judge reduced the holy to a thing of the past, I guess I figured love was gone.

I was wrong.

In the time since becoming a divorcee last year, I’ve been told “I love you” more times than I can count. Sure, maybe not as frequently as when the phrase was some sort of expected salutation in my marriage, words said before bed just like “hello” is said when answering a phone.

No, this “I love you” phrase means something entirely different now.

Many, many of my friends have told me this in the past year. Let me stop there for a second.

Many, many of my friends. Wow. How lucky am I? These with-you girls mean it when they say they love me. They have my back, cover me in prayer, and listen on those days when something has me worked up (and even better, go on to put me in place when necessary rather than sitting back and watching me slide off the tracks).

Yes, they tell me they love me. I still feel a bit like that first day when Nina said those words to me, a touch of that “are girls supposed to say this to each other?” mixed with “this is awkward” sprinkled with a huge dose of, “but maybe this is closer to what love really is than what I previously thought.”

Actions and words. That’s what James tells us about love. I think prior to getting divorced I primarily had people who said they loved me but their actions said otherwise. But now, when many might think I receive less love than ever before, I can’t help but say it’s the exact opposite. The love I receive from my friends surpasses anything words alone could convince a heart of. They say the words, perhaps to remind me of something I had to fight desperately to remember: I am valuable and am loved.

 

So as Valentine’s Day draws near, don’t worry about this divorcee in that regard because I’ll share the thing I know now that I didn’t believe a year ago: I am loved. And so are you.

Happy chocolate-fest, love-celebrating Valentine’s Day!

Stacy Voss

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