Do you live in love? Do you believe your love for God is strengthened through endurance of hardships? The treasure of living in His love is shared in 1 John. “We have come to know and believe the love God has for us. God is love. If you live in love, you live by the help of God and God lives in you.”
Through God’s help and His love in my heart, an all-day Christian conference in our city became a reality. The event focused on right relationships, renewal, revival, and re-dedication to the Lord and loved ones. This all day Christian event seemed too much for some, too little for others, but was ‘just right’ for the hearts of those who were drawn closer to Christ and whose lives were changed.
I was drawn closer to Christ by obeying what He put on my heart to do. It is never easy stepping out of the boat and walking in faith as Peter did. It would be much easier to close our ears to His gentle calling. Jonah ran the other way when God called, but the price he paid sent him into the belly of a whale to think it over and be dramatically drawn closer to Christ. God will get our attention or will leave us — if we continue to refuse His calling. Do you feel there is something you are called to do for Christ? Praying, studying the Word, and living in love will open your heart to follow His lead. When we follow in obedience, God is glorified and good things happen.
Two weeks before Rise Up, Recount Love, I opened a letter from a high school friend. Her words of encouragement fueled my faith. During the Women’s Renewal Session, I spoke about right relationships with family and friends. Emily sat on the second row smiling and showing confirmation that the message was meaningful. I thanked God that Emily was supporting her old friend who ran twice, then finally stepped out of the boat to have the Christian conference at our Agri-Exposition Center. The week following the conference, Emily walked through the front door at Tim’s Gift wearing that same, sweet smile. After hugging and sharing stories about the conference, we settled down at the prayer table to talk. Realizing we both admired the other throughout our school years at Clement, we told tales of Blue Goose rides to ballgames and how our lives have played out through the years. Emily shared stories that spanned decades of perseverance through trials and triumphs. Her beauty still shines, showing an inner glow that brightened each time we mentioned our Lord and loved ones. Our tears were laced with giggles, proof that good girlfriends are great treasures.
One particular chapter of Emily’s story struck a chord of deep love. She talked about her three precious grandchildren who live with her. Two are in elementary school, one in high school. I became friends with Emily’s granddaughter three years ago at dances for handicapped students, sponsored by the Civitans. Her beauty captivated me. She moved across that dance floor with such ease. I left the stage, where my son played music, to mingle with the happy crowd. I spotted Emily’s beautiful granddaughter, Devon. We danced; I whispered in her ear how beautiful she was and prayed with her. We stood in the middle of a sea of students having the time of their lives. I was humbled and told God so. Precious children of all ages were happy as could be; they loved, laughed, and lifted one another the way God desires all of His children to live and love. Emily’s granddaughter is a beautiful flower that blooms wherever she goes; being blind doesn’t slow her down. Emily told how the younger ones are involved in sports, how she had to get home for one was competing in the talent show at Clement that night, how her oldest eagerly shared about a Bible Study her Youth Group was doing when she picked her up at their church the night before, a study that needed to be done daily. Emily said, “Becky, I am thrilled she wants to do this, so we looked at our schedule and decided the only way to do the daily Bible study was to get up at 5:30am.” Her granddaughter agreed with an enthusiastic spirit that blindness could not spoil. Emily told how they get up before dawn and do the study together, while her other two grandchildren sleep. Tears of humility filled my eyes; pride for my beautiful friend filled my heart. Thinking of Emily’s devotion and determination to keep her life going beautifully when things she has faced could send her into a tailspin, I had to ask a burning question. “How do you go forth with a smile while dealing with hurtful hardships? Her smile widened while speaking words that surely pleased our Lord and pressed upon my heart. “I just praise God each day and He keeps megoing strong. I don’t understand it Becky, but I feel happy in my heart, like something good is going to happen that I can’t explain. The hardships I’ve faced have drawn me closer to the Lord. I look forward to each morning when I rise up and praise my Father.”
Recounting Emily’s story reveals inner beauty talked about in the Good Book. The message in 1 Peter 3:4 gives evidence of such beauty admired by God. “Your beauty should come from the inside. It should come from the heart. This is the kind that lasts. Your beauty should be a gentle and quiet spirit. In God’s sight this is of great worth and no amount of money can buy it.”
Do hardships bring you closer to Christ? Would you work out your schedule to rise up before dawn to study the Bible with a loved one? Do you live in love? Pondering these questions and Emily’s story provide the perfect opportunity to look deep inside one’s heart for inner beauty. This special song shares words we long to hear from one we love, “You are so beautiful to me, you’re everything I hoped for, you’re everything I need, you are so beautiful to me” Are we beautiful to God, are we everything He hoped we would be when He gave us the gift of life and sacrificed His Son for our sins? God looks inside. We hide nothing. He sees the heart. He knows our story, every single detail. Let us rise up and recount our love for our Lord and loved ones with an inner beauty that money can’t buy. May Emily’s story inspire you to rise up in love, wearing a smile and possessing an inner beauty that pleases God and lasts forever.