love

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A Love Story Worth Telling

Published October 11, 2013 by joypatton

I recently read a story about gospel artist Bryan Popin and how he and his wife met.

Bryan&SusanPopin-30 CROPPED AND EDITED copyPrior to the release of his latest album “You Can Make It,” gospel artist Bryan Popin experienced many difficult moments through which he learned to persevere.  Perhaps none was more life-changing than when performing at a conference just outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana. After playing his first song, he scanned the audience and his eyes were instantly drawn to a girl named Susan.

“She just glowed,” Popin says. “I was stunned. Watching her worship with her hands lifted to God was about the coolest thing I’d ever seen—at least to a 16-year old boy that was in ministry.”Immediately following service, Popin proclaimed to his mother that this was the girl he was going to marry. 

Two years later, he returned to that church in Indiana, but Susan wasn’t there. Instead, her father informed Popin that she was now living in Los Angeles. Another two years later, Popin visited a different church in the Fort Wayne area and amazingly saw Susan’s parents again. This time, the 20-year old musician took decisive action. He asked the father for her phone number.

 “I called her the very next morning,” Popin says. “In fact for four days, she didn’t even call me back. So then I started sending her flowers every day. By the seventh day, she called me and asked me to please stop sending flowers because she wasn’t in a good place. It wasn’t the reaction I was expecting, but at least I’d gotten Susan to talk to me.”

Popin then poured out his heart. He told her how he had missed his opportunity four years earlier and how desperately he wanted the chance to pursue a relationship with her. But then Susan had something important to say.

 “Eight months earlier, Susan had gotten married and was now pregnant,” Popin explains. “When her husband found out, he closed their joint bank account and left her. She was moving home to Indiana to be back with her family.”

Over the next several months, Popin consistently traveled to Indiana to visit Susan. “When I finally got to hold the newly-born Isabella Grace in my arms and look into her big beautiful brown eyes, I fell deeply in love for a second time,” Popin says.

 About 18 months later, Popin married Susan and they have been together ever since.  Popin and his wife Susan now have four beautiful children.

 “I wasn’t planning on getting married and having an immediate family, but I loved Susan and fell in love with Isabella,” Popin says. “She has totally changed my world. She showed me what true love was. When you’re a dad with a little girl, it’s pure, innocent love. But as much as I love my four children and my wife, even more than that, God loves us. It’s just mind-boggling.”

I loved this story, and thought it was such a beautiful picture of God’s persistent, pursuing love for us.  There’s part of us that says, “I wish someone would love me that way.”  Whether you are a teenager, a single woman or a married woman with an imperfect husband (I think that covers everyone), the heart of a woman wants to be pursued and valued and chosen.  You may look at their story and want what they have, but the good news is that you already have it.

Jesus has chosen you.  He saw you across time and picked you to be his.  He is sending you flowers every day all around you to let you know he wants a relationship with you.  The problem is that many of us feel like Susan probably did when Bryan called her in L.A.  We feel like we have messed things up and that no one could possibly choose to love us again.  We believe we are damaged goods because we are “not in a good place.”

This is me.  I reject the good news of God’s everlasting love because I know that I don’t deserve it.  I reject his love, not because of who he is, but because of who I am.  I put him off and tell myself we will get back together when I’m in a better place.  Do you see how the story would have changed if Susan would have done this?  Do you see all the love she would have missed had she refused to let Bryan in?

Jesus is standing there telling you that he loves you with arms full of flowers even in your “bad place.”  Often we act like the gospel story begins with “Because we were such great sinners and made such a big mess, God sent His Son into the world.”  I hear this version preached from the pulpit very often.  And while it is true, it is not the beginning of the story.  The story really begins with “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Don’t leave the love out of the gospel.  Don’t forget that you have already been loved, chosen and pursued by God.  Do not reject his advances toward you and his voice that gently calls you to love him.  Instead return his call and receive his love.  You don’t have to be in a “good place” to be in a relationship with him.  “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16)

Popin’s album “You Can Make It” will be released October 22 through a partnership with eOne Music and will be the first national debut for this piano player who is dedicated to bringing his listeners closer to the heart of God. Check it out here: http://bryanpopin.com/

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Good vs. Bad

Published July 16, 2013 by joypatton

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I’ve been realizing lately that I have two columns running through my head all day long. One column keeps all the good things I’ve done and one keeps all the bad. Mostly it’s good mom vs. bad mom. I have been realizing how often I tell myself I’m a bad mom in one form or another. (See last week’s post.)

For example, this morning started off with the good mom column. I spent time checking my kids “work boxes,” giving points for yesterday’s chores and loading them up with chores for the day. I even included “fun chores” like playing UNO Attack together. But this could turn out to be an item in the bad mom column if they actually attack each other during the game. You see, I’m a bad mom because I haven’t taught my children how to play together without fighting. Then at work I realized I didn’t have my phone within ear shot. Bad mom. Fortunately when I checked it, there were no urgent messages, so the work boxes must be working. Good mom.

This afternoon I came home and the girls wanted to go to the pool. But I couldn’t take them because I had to take Connor to the doctor. This is bad mom because I let him play in the woods, and he got poison ivy because I didn’t make him shower when he came in. Every time he gets poison ivy it takes over, and we can’t get rid of it until he gets a steroid prescription.  Bad mom.

While at the doctor’s, my dear husband texted to say he was taking the girls to the pool. Bad mom because he had to stop working to take care of the kids. When I got home, I made a good mom choice…I think. Andrew stayed at the pool with the kids and I mopped the floor. It could be bad mom for not choosing to spend time with the girls or it could be bad wife for not spending time with the husband.  But it could also be good wife because he came home to a clean house.

Tonight the boys went to a baseball game, so I was trying to find something fun to do with the girls. We decided to go to the mall and ride the little train. Bad mom for teaching my girls that shopping is what girls do for fun. Bad mom for not being content to spend the evening at home. Good mom for spending time with the girls.

When we got there, I had no cash. Bad mom. After the train ride, I let them pick the restaurant in the food court. Of course, it was pizza again. Bad mom. I picked the salad. Good choice. But also ate a big helping of pasta. Bad choice. I did have a diet Pepsi that I split with my daughter. Now this one could go in either column depending who you talk to. Bad for the caffeine and letting my daughter have it and that all diet drinks are just bad for you and you should just have water. Good because it was diet and had very few calories?? So confusing. I realized that pasta was a really bad choice when I went to try on clothes and everything made me look fat. Very bad choice.

Then we went to the playground at the mall. Good mom. And I just removed the sucker from my daughter’s mouth so as not to worry other moms that she would get a sucker stick through her brain. Good mom. But then again, I’m sitting here typing a blog instead of engaging with them. Bad mom.

Maybe your columns are different. maybe your day is measured by smart vs. dumb or cool vs. lame. Do you think that God keeps this kind of record of your day? If he did, would his record match yours?

As I have considered it, I think the answer to both of those questions is no. When God looks at me he doesn’t see two columns. He has no cosmic scale. When he looks at the chart of my day, the current of his thought is love. His abundant, free-flowing grace covers my day. His mercy is new every morning. He keeps no record of wrongs. It has all been forgiven. He is far more concerned with my heart because when my heart is turned toward him, the choices that matter fall into place. My heart turns toward him because of his great love for me, not because I’m trying to keep points in the good column. I also don’t avoid him because I’m afraid the bad column will bring his wrath, which is completely deserved. Instead I turn toward him because of his steadfast, everlasting love.

When I judge my day according to columns, it also affects those closest to me. They get columns too: good kid vs. bad kid, good husband vs. bad husband, good friend vs. bad friend. But when I learn to accept the grace and mercy God pours on my day, I am free to pour out grace and mercy on those around me. And they feel loved.

Consider this question: how many checks in the bad column could your child have before you stopped loving him or her? This is a ridiculous question because I simply can’t come up with a number. No matter how full the bad column was this good mom would always love her kid. So then if we know how to love our children in spite of poor choices, how much more does our Father in heaven?

I’m learning to replace two words, good and bad, with one word… LOVE. To receive it from the Father and to give it to others.

What are your columns today? Will you believe in and accept the Father’s love?

 

Free Advice Friday: What’s the Biblical definition of self-love?

Published December 7, 2012 by joypatton

This question came via text this week.  Often the basis of this question is the teaching on the passage that we must love others as we love ourselves.  I have heard it taught that you can’t love other people until you love yourself.  I think that we have to able to receive love before we can give love.  But when I ask myself what Biblical self-love looks like, I have a hard time finding examples, especially when I look to the life of Jesus.

I don’t think there is such a thing as Biblical self-love.  The Bible doesn’t directly talk about loving ourselves as something we ought to do.  I’ve been studying John and particularly how Jesus related to the Father as a model for how a Princess relates to the King.  We never see Jesus trying to love himself more.  Rather we know that he loved the Father and that the Father loved him.  His one desire was to do the will of the Father (John 4:34).  He sought the glory of the Father, more than glory for himself (John 5:41).  We also know that he entrusted himself completely to the will of the Father (I Peter 2:23).

Jesus didn’t model self-love, but he did model self-care.  He withdrew and took time for himself, but I believe it was because the Father told him to.  Everything he did was submitted to the Father.  The people he healed and the teachings he taught came directly from the Father, not from himself.  (John 7:18)  He didn’t heal every person, cast out every demon or raise every person from the dead.  How did he know where to go?  How did he know when it was time to minister to others and when it was time to withdraw?  The Father told him.  Jesus modeled a beautiful submission to the Father and what it looks like to abide in Him.  When he died on the cross, it was not self-love or self-glorification (Ice Queen) nor was it self-loathing or self-hatred (Orphan).  Rather Jesus obeyed the Father to the point of death on the cross because he loved the Father and trusted him completely.

Likewise for us, the Princess loves the King and desires to please him.  The Princess loves what the King loves, and the King loves her.  But it’s not that the Princess tries to love herself, to protect herself or take care of herself.  Rather she trusts that the Father loves her, that he protects her, that he takes care of her.  In a practical sense, I trust the Father to give me time to refresh.  I trust the Father to give me strength when the list for the day is overwhelming.  I trust the Father to help me know what boundaries to set with others.  I do this because I know that my time, my heart, my emotions are worthy of protection because the Father has made me worthy of love.  I can trust the Father even in the midst of suffering when my world is falling apart because I know that discipline leads to righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).

Maybe the struggle is not in loving yourself, but believing that you are already loved.  John says, “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).  He is the one who shows us what it feels like to be loved and how to love other people.  We must “come to know and to believe the love that God has for us” (I John 4:16).  Brennan Manning in Abba’s Child challenges us to “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God.  God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth.  Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.”

So my dear Princesses, the love you have for yourself does not come from yourself or your own desires.  Rather you can love, accept, value and cherish yourself because the King Father first accepted, loved, valued and cherished you.

If you have a question for Free Advice Friday, you can email me at joy@joypatton.com.

Thoughts on Valentine’s Day

Published February 14, 2012 by joypatton

I asked my sister Paula Kuzman if I could repost something she put on her facebook page last week about today.  Last year for the first time she had a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, and this year is her first Valentine’s Day with a husband.  I appreciated her perspective and thought it would be encouraging whether you are single or married.  (You know, sometimes married people can get jaded about the whole holiday too.)  I hope you enjoy it, and Happy Love Day!

Valentine’s Day is coming up… and some of you are bummin’ cuz you’re single… but I DARE you to make this the best February 14th you’ve ever had. 😉

You know what helped me get through 28 years of single Valentine’s Days? I couldn’t just ignore the holiday – it was everywhere: stores, commercials, movies, conversations. So I heartily [pun intended] embraced it. And instead of focusing on me and what I didn’t have, my new goal was to brighten everyone else’s day and make them feel like a million bucks. [It really IS true – that when you’re feeling down & out and empty, serving and blessing others is abundantly satisfying, filling and rewarding!] Invite friends over to make cut-out cookies and decorate them, and then deliver them to friends’ houses or take them to work. Spend time making cards/gifts for the people in your life you love and appreciate. Have a LOVE party. Make some Scripture verse cards to hang up around your house that remind you that God is the author of love. Do something silly like dress up in pink and red. 🙂 Buy a bag of Valentine’s suckers and pass them out randomly with a smile. Decorate. Start a tradition that you can get excited about every year [mine was buying a pair of awesome Valentine’s socks… totally lame, I know… but it helped.]

Hallmark wants you to think we celebrate this holiday because Saint Valentine was romantic. [lame!] But he was so much MoRe than that – he was a champion for love… he fought for what was right… he was uber generous… he was self-sacrificing… he put the needs and interests of other people ahead of his own… and he was killed for his faith! Can’t we think of a better way to honor the Truth he lived and died for than romantic dinners and gifts and chocolates?? [Although, I do NOT suggest the removing of chocolate from your celebrations. Bad, bad idea.] 🙂

We can’t necessarily control our feelings. They are what they are. And we certainly can’t control God and where He has us in life. But we CaN control our outlook and our attitude. We CaN control what we allow to dominate our minds. We CaN choose to rejoice with those who rejoice, instead of comparing and getting jealous of their relational status. We CaN make someone’s day with an act of kindness, or an uplifting word, or a simple smile. Don’t be a victim to ‘Single Awareness Day.’ You have the power of the Risen Christ inside you to hold your head high and walk in confidence, looking for opportunities to bless and encourage. You ARE the radiant Bride of Christ – BeauTiFuL :: HoLy :: DeaRLy LoVeD :: CHoSeN :: aCCePTeD :: FoRGiVeN :: HeaLeD :: PuRSueD :: CaLLeD :: HoNoReD :: KNoWN :: FRee :: ReCReaTeD :: FuLL oF HoPe :: GoD’S oWN PRiZeD PoSSeSSioN :: aDoPTeD :: RaNSoMeD :: GoD’S MaSTeRPieCe :: CHRiST’S aMBaSSaDoRS :: SoNS & DauGHTeRS oF THe KiNG ::

Don’t forget who you are. ♥ Have a Happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂

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