LOVE CARES MORE

I Corinthians chapter thirteen is a glorious hymn of praise in honor of Christian love.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul, from a heart burning with the love of Christ, eloquently expressed the characteristics of this special kind of love.   He tells us that it is absolutely necessary—it is eternal, and it is greater than anything else.

I just finished reading this chapter both in the New King James and in The Message.  I am captured by the poetry of Brother Paul, but at the same time, I am appreciative of the plain forthrightness of The Message.

In verse 1, the New King James says, “Love suffers long and is kind…” 

The Message puts it this way.  “Love never gives up.  Love cares more for others than for self…”

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I have experienced that kind of love, first from my mother, then from God.  God has always loved me, of course, even before I was formed in my mother’s womb.  But, I was aware of Mama’s love first of all.

Mama was the strongest woman I have ever known.  I believe her strength came from her suffering, for regardless of pain and sorrow she flexed her spiritual muscles, and determined never to give up.

At the age of twenty—one, Mama lost her firstborn.  Baby Levi, just shy of his third birthday, succumbed to infantile paralysis, and two year later she laid her young husband of six years to rest.  She went to work, chopping cotton, sewing, cleaning, and doing laundry—anything to take care of her two remaining babies.

Mama always cared more for others, especially her family, than for herself.  I know there were times she did without, in order that we have the necessities.

When I graduated from high school, I wanted so much to go away to Bible College, but there was no money, so I went to work.  Hour after hour, day after day, I sewed pockets on pajamas for Sears.  BORING!  I was guaranteed $ .75 per hour, but I was fast—I was good.  I could do twice my quota, so I made $60.00 a week.

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From that $60.00, I gave my parents $15.00 to help with expenses and I paid my tithes.  I saved $1,000.00 that year, and in September, I boarded a Grey Hound bus and zoomed off to Waxahachie, Texas.  After two years, my $1,000.00 was more than used up, and end of term, I came home owing a school bill.

I tried all summer to get a job, but nothing was available, and I couldn’t go back until my debt was paid.  However, I kept preparing for my return hoping that a miracle would happen.

One morning, My Mom disappeared and was gone for a couple of hours.  No one knew that she had walked to the bank.

She went to the bank to ask for a loan.  She had no collateral except our old house, and I know she wouldn’t risk our home.  On her good name alone, think of that, she borrowed enough money to pay my debt and to get me started on a new term.

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She put her arms around me and, with tears in her eyes, said, “Pack your bags, you’re going back to school.”

 I have no idea how my mother ever paid back that loan.  I know that it took a sizable chunk out of my parent’s limited income.  Again she had proven her love caring more for others than for self.

My older brother started preaching as a nineteen-year-old evangelist, but he had no money and no way to get to his first revival.  Mama sent him $50.00 from the cotton she picked or the houses she cleaned.  In 1949, $50.00 was a fortune.

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My brother preached and is still preaching, for sixty-eight years, and I served in active ministry for nearly fifty years largely due to My Mother’s godly love.  No doubt, my Mom will share in any reward we receive.

That’s the kind of love the Apostle Paul was talking about.

Now I am thinking of another debt I owed.  The song says,

“He paid a debt He did not owe.

I owed a debt I could not pay.

I needed someone to wash my sins away.

And now I sing a brand new song: “Amazing Grace.”

Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.”

When I started teaching school, I determined to send my Mama $50.00 a month for the sacrifice she had made.  I did that long after the debt had been paid.  In a sense, I paid her back, but she didn’t ask for it.  She didn’t expect it.  She did it because she loved me.

There is no way I can pay Jesus back for loving me more than He loved His very life, but I can follow His example.  I can quit pampering myself and allow His love to flow through me to a needy neighbor, a family member, a suffering world.

The sun will come out tomorrow

I CAN’T DO THAT!

My friend and I arrived home from vacation on a sweet June afternoon.  I walked through the house opening shutters—surveying my worldly domain.  Opening the patio door blinds I was welcomed by a committee of one.  A snake slithered across the concrete, his head lifted high, his beady black eyes peering through the glass.  He was casing the joint, and I was beside myself.  I have never been on friendly terms with snakes.  I avoid them at the zoo.  I even refuse to look at a picture.  When my Cecil was ill, we watched a lot of Animal Planet.  Invariably, there were slithering, slimy snakes and various other reptiles.  I consider myself to have been very brave, though I watched most of it with my eyes closed.  However, I didn’t feel brave that June afternoon.

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I raced to the phone and dialed 911.  “What is your emergency,” asked the voice on the other end of the line.“There’s a snake looking in my house,” I cried.

“There’s a snake looking in my house,” I cried.

“That’s not an emergency, “she replied.

“It may not be an emergency for you,” I said disparately, “but it is for me and I don’t know what to do.”

I had no confidence in my ability to take care of the matter.

Laughing, she gave me the number of the local Serpentarium.   I didn’t know that such a thing existed, and I’m still not sure.  I can’t find it in my dictionary.

A few moments later, I opened the door to a grinning young man.  “Did you order apples,” he asked, and then, “where is the snake?”

“He’s in the back,” I said.  “I’m sure he’s a rattler.

I opened the patio door just a sliver, so this snake handler could squeeze through.  The snake was no longer on the porch, but in a matter of minutes, the man was back with the creature scrunched up, clutched in his hand.  I hesitantly let him walk through my living room and out the front door.  I’m sure he laughed all the way back to that weird place.

Sunday morning, my pastor preached about Moses and his unwillingness to answer God’s call to deliver Israel.  He had all kinds of reasons why he couldn’t do it.

“I’m no one,” he said.

“I don’t know what to do—I don’t know what to say.”

“No one will listen to me”

“Send someone else,” he cried.

Moses had a shepherd’s staff in his hand.  When he threw it down at God’s command, the staff became a snake, and Moses ran from it.

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God said, “Don’t run from it. Pick it up by its tail.”

Moses picked up the snake and it became a staff again.  Hats off to Moses!  I don’t think I could have done it.

Hats off to Moses!  I don’t think I could have done it.

In Exodus 3:12 and 18, God said to Moses, “I will certainly be with you…Then they will heed (listen to) your voice.”

The God of the universe—the God who is the creator of all things—the God who has all power—the God who existed before time, promised Moses that he certainly, no doubt about it, would be with him.

Most of us are tempted to run from the difficult things—from the hard assignments.  When, as a single young woman, God began to speak to me about becoming involved in full-time ministry, I balked.  I had always wanted to be in ministry, but I imagined that I would marry a preacher, iron his shirts, sing occasionally, and shake hands.  However, that was not God’s plan.

“I CAN’T DO IT,” I declared.

Oh, I was smart enough, well educated, even talented, but there were two big obstacles.

First of all, I was overweight—obese is a better term.  I was always well groomed and well dressed, but I was self-conscious and insecure.  People wouldn’t accept me.  I was sure of it.

“I CAN’T DO IT, LORD!”

Then there was the problem of being alone.  I didn’t want to be a single woman preacher.  People didn’t like women preachers.  I didn’t like women preachers.  I had seen and heard a few.  To me, they seemed too aggressive and unattractive.

If I wanted anything in life, I wanted everyone to like me—love me.  I didn’t want to be weird.

Ministry, in the 60’s, was an uphill climb for women, particularly single women, but in the confines of my stubborn, frightened little heart, God whispered, “I will certainly be with you.  I will enable you, and people will accept you.”

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No words can explain the joy I have had in almost fifty years of ministry.  A gentleman, whom I have not seen or heard from in several years, called yesterday just to remind me that I was instrumental in his salvation—a wonderful encouragement on a difficult day.

God’s great promise to us is found in Isaiah 41:10.  “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes I will help you.  I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

DON’T RUN FROM THE SNAKE.  PICK IT UP BY THE TAIL AND SEE WHAT GOD WILL DO.

 THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW