Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Listen, Love, Repeat

  I had the privilege of receiving a preview pdf of a wonderful book, Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World by Karen Ehman that is officially available today. The title of the book immediately intrigued and attracted me. I know that I have a tendency to be selfish and self-centered and was hoping this book would help me to shift my focus more outwardly toward those around me.

  This is a very practical book with inspiring stories and examples that motivated me to try to be more intentional in looking for opportunities to serve those around me. I liked that the chapters were divided into different groups of people in our lives and specific suggestions on how to love them well. I pre-ordered a copy and look forward to using this book as a reference point as I seek to be more intentional in my relationships.

  I want to share some of the encouragement and inspiration with you so I will share some of my favorite quotes from the book. Enjoy!

Only when we love and share and serve, as Scripture commands us, can we live life on purpose, embracing the reason God brought us to Earth in the first place. As we reach out not only to friends and family but to strangers, the lonely, and the less-than-lovely, we will learn to mirror Christ and to let his light shine so that he gets all the glory.
  I have become increasingly aware over the years that my focus should be on loving God and loving others. A very high calling but also a very important one. When doing things, perhaps I should ask myself - does this show love for God and/or others? Only doing things that answer the question affirmatively would certainly save a lot of heartache.

  I enjoyed that Karen consistently reminded me that our reason for loving and serving is to point to Jesus. Our whole lives are supposed to be lived in a way that show Christ's love to the world around us. I know I am sometimes motivated by my personal glory or the approval of others. I appreciated this check of my heart to my underlying desires.
Paul instructs us to help to lighten the load of others, because when we encourage, cheer, help, guide, or simply do life with another person, we let them see a little snippet of Christ and his love. Our acts don't have to be complicated or grand. Even simple acts of service and offerings of time can have a monumental effect in the life of another.
  I like the reminder that we don't have to make grand gestures all of the time to show love and be effective in showing Christ's love. A listening ear can be a great blessing to someone who needs to share what's on their heart. I know how encouraged I am when someone takes a little time to reach out and let me know that they were thinking about me or praying for me. Being told that you are on someone's mind can be a huge lift for your spirit.
The pause and preparation were good for my soul. They reminded me that relationships require work, that remembering isn't always easy - and that sometimes sweat is involved in listening and loving.
  It is good to remember that we should be covering our desires to serve, and subsequent efforts, in prayer. God knows the hearts of others better than we do and can show us the most effective way to love and serve someone. If we will be sensitive to his leading, we can love in meaningful ways, even though it may seem insignificant to us.
Living a life of welcome - opening both your heart and your home - means your stuff gets used. And reused. Over and over again. Your items get nicked and scratched. Your carpet and rugs and linens get stained. While this doesn't mean we don't try to make our surroundings pleasant, it does mean we learn to accept some degree of imperfection. Well-used items often mean that we have loved well.
  I know that this is true, but sometimes it's a struggle for me. I like the things I have in my home and want them to continue to look nice, but if I am really going to love people (and especially families with young kids) I have to expect that some damage will be done. Perhaps I can remember that these loved people are giving my home more character. It is definitely worth losing a book here and there to people who might be encouraged by the message within. It's just stuff. And it's meant to be used to love others. Everything should have a use and a purpose (even if the purpose is just to look pretty or create a welcoming, peace-filled environment). If I can keep a love-focused attitude, then I can keep my hands open to sharing and using my possessions for God's purposes.

Jesus modeled upside-down living and loving. In addition to loving people who were socially marginalized, Jesus loved those who hated and despised him. Those who treated him terribly. He encouraged his followers to do the same, without excuse.
  This can be a tall order. We all love caring for those who also care for us. It's the ones that rub us the wrong way or are outright contentious or rude that cause us to struggle against what Jesus has asked us to do. We all have at least one person in our life we'd like to pretend does not exist. But if we are not consistently kind and present, how will they know Christ's love for them. Obviously we should not willingly submit to abusive relationships. We should be wise in our relationships.
The only way to go about loving the difficult is to expect nothing in return. If we do good in order to gain accolades or to receive praise, or expect to convert someone and have a great redemptive story to tell, we will quickly give up. We love others out of obedience to God. Then we leave the results to him. When your expectation bar is lowered all the way down, you will not have to fear being disappointed by their lack of response. So expect nothing in return. Zero.
  This is a big challenge for me, and probably many others. We are results oriented. We want acknowledgement for our hard work. We want others to know what we have done, to be raised up. But Jesus wasn't like that. He was seeking God's glory, not his own. And, if I really love God and others, then my glory should be the last thing on my mind. I can't say this won't be a constant battle, but it is one I am willing to wage.
If you long to be a person who scatters God's kindness, surround yourself with others who have the same desire. You can share ideas, pray for each other, and encourage each other during those times when you think the effort simply isn't worth it. Christian support is crucial if you wish to live a life that follows and reflects Jesus.
 I love this reminder that loving others should be done in community. We need people to encourage, support and inspire us or we will be tempted to give up when it becomes challenging or tiring. We don't need to be continuously expending energy and effort without pausing to refill and refresh ourselves.

I think this book is amazing. If you were encouraged or inspired by the quotes you read, I would highly recommend getting a copy of this book for yourselves.  

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