Never give up (on the people you love)

Two things this week have me camping out on the fatherhood of God and his dogged–relentless, even–pursuit of our hearts.

The first thing was the inauguration of U.Va.’s 9th president, Jim Ryan.

(And I know, I know. Some of you are like, “U.Va. again? Why does she always write about that?” To which I would say:  Hello? Did I write even ONE WORD about our victory over nationally ranked Miami, or last week’s road win at Duke? Feels to me like a U.Va. shout out is a bit overdue.)

(But this is not a U.Va. shout out.)


In his inaugural address (which was fabulous; if you missed it, click here), Ryan likened teaching to parenting. He noted that both endeavors were based on the faith that the job–despite being a sometimes messy process with unfinished and imperfect results–was worth doing, and that as both a parent and as a university president, he would “never give up on the people I love.”

Which brings me to the second thing.

The second thing that happened this week was that I started reading Genesis.

You know the story. God makes Adam and Eve. And then they eat the fruit that they shouldn’t. And when they realize what they’ve done, they get scared and try to hide from God in the garden.

God knows, of course, that his kids are over there in the trees. And when he says, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9), he isn’t really after their physical location. He is asking where they are, spiritually–as in, where Adam and Eve are in relation to him.

I read that line and, as a parent, I thought back to the times when I felt like my own children were hidden. The times when they felt far away. Emotionally distant. Out of reach (even if they were just across the table, at dinner). The times when I watched them pursue relationships or activities or ideas that, I knew, would not produce good things in their lives.

The times when family life felt a little bit messy.

And then I thought about God, and how he must sometimes feel the same way towards us. Over and over again in the Bible (just as over and over again now), God’s children go wandering off, turning their backs on his love. And we see what God does in response.

Sometimes, we see his desire:  How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37)

Other times, we see his promise: My people are determined to turn from me…my compassion is aroused…I will roar; they will come…I will settle them in their homes. (Hosea 11:7-11)

Always, though, we see his pursuit. From the “Where are you?” Genesis question all the way to the “I stand at the door and knock” of Revelation 3:20, we see God calling to us. Wooing us. Inviting us into a life marked by purpose, passion, and joy.

And demonstrating, always and forever, that he will never give up on the people he loves.

So…that’s why President Ryan’s speech, taken together with the Genesis story, made me think about God. With one major difference.

Ryan’s presidency, like our parenting, can’t help but yield (as he freely noted) imperfect and unfinished results. But it’s different with God. With God at the helm, we can be confident that, having begun a good work in our lives, he can be counted on to complete it.

He will get the job done, and the results will one day be perfect.

(Which, even though this is NOT a U.Va. blog, is a promise that I would dearly love to see fulfilled on the field, as we take on the Tarheels tomorrow…)


Heavenly Father,

Thank you for being the embodiment of love. You are patient and kind; you keep no record of wrongs. You protect, you hope, you persevere.

You never fail. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Let us never grow weary in doing good, especially to the people we love. And when we feel downcast or discouraged, remind us that you know just how we feel, and that there is a promised harvest, at the perfect time, for those who never give up. (Galatians 6:9)


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We Can’t Quench God’s Love

(Note: Robbie and I are in Canada this week. We’re enjoying some good “unplugged” time, but here’s a quick post–along with a pic of the evening view from our dock. This place isn’t fancy, but if you don’t mind a few snakes, mosquitos, and a composting toilet, it’s pretty much paradise.)

“Here is a theologian who puts the hay where the sheep can reach it.”

That’s how Elisabeth Elliot describes J. I. Packer in his timeless book, Knowing GodAnd I have to say that one of of Packer’s most encouraging messages (at least for bottom-shelf sheep like myself) is that nothing we do–and nothing we have ever done–comes as a shocker to God. And none of it can keep him from loving us.

Here’s how Packer puts it:

There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.

We can’t quench God’s love. Or (and I love this part) his determination to bless us.

That’s good stuff. But Packer didn’t make it up, of course. I suspect he got it from places like Romans 8:38, which is where Paul says that nothing–neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell–can separate us from God’s love.

Maybe just take a moment right now and let those words settle over your soul.

And if you, or someone you love, needs a little help when it comes to receiving the reality of God’s limitless love, here’s one way we can pray:

Heavenly Father,

I pray that _____, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that _____ may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)


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The Grasp of God’s Love

We missed having our daughter, Virginia, home for Easter. She lives in New York City and couldn’t make the trip, but we did get to enjoy some FaceTime with her on Sunday. She called us during an afternoon walk.

As I looked beyond her face and saw the bustling city, with all of its people and traffic and noise, I couldn’t help but wonder: Did anyone know it was Easter? Were people thinking about the Big News of the day? Did they care that He is Risen?

“I don’t know,” Virginia said. “But I kind of doubt it. Like, it looks pretty much like any other day in New York.”

I don’t know why, but that hit me. All of these people, walking around, going about their business, seemingly oblivious to the depth of God’s sacrifice…the height of his resurrection power…and the immeasurable breadth of his love. How could they not know?

And then I felt God whisper something gentle to my heart. “Jodie,” he said, “You don’t really know, either. You have not even begun to grasp the full extent of my love.”

Okay then. That was kind of an eye-opener, and it’s really stuck with me this week. I want to know more of God’s love. I want to take hold of it. And I want my children, my husband, and my friends to grasp it, too.

Which is why I am borrowing some words first written by the Apostle Paul as the basis for today’s Friday Prayer. And if that’s where your heart is today – if you are longing for more of God’s love – I invite you to join me. Pray this one for yourself, for someone you love, or (if you’re feeling like you want to go big) for every single person in New York City.

Heavenly Father…

I pray that _____, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that _____ may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)



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The Love Blanket

After reading my Garden Tour post last week, a friend texted to say she was sorry she’d missed it – except that maybe it was just as well, since looking at other people’s potted ferns and five-burner cooktops can just make you jealous. I get that. I came away from the tour with more than a couple of new items on my covet list, starting with a machine that makes crushed ice.

Like they have at Sonic.

Only in your house.

(How am I supposed to be content in all circumstances, now that I know those things are out there?)

Anyhow, the tour hostesses could not have been more gracious, but they did not offer to open any closets. Which was a good thing for me, since there is probably nothing that fuels my admiration (or envy) more powerfully than the sight of someone else’s storage skills. Especially when it comes to linens. I love the promise of crisp white sheets, freshly folded towels, and blankets that still have their bindings. My neighbor Molly has a linen closet that would make Yves Delorme drool. (I saw it, once. And ever since I have been wondering if there is a polite way to ask a person, when you go to their house, if you can maybe just take a nap.)

My linen closet does not look like Molly’s. My linen closet looks like this:


Ugh. I don’t know why I’ve kept half this stuff. Like, what houseguest would seriously want to dry off with the 30-year-old monogrammed towels that Robbie and I got for a wedding present? And who on earth (except maybe my pal Colleen) is ever going to want that “designer edition” camouflage Snuggie? I mean. Everything in here got rejected by my college kids. That right there tells you something.

Honestly, it’s embarrassing. And I wouldn’t even show you this picture (I wouldn’t even open the closet) except for something I read this week, something that just cried out for a photo of blankets. Here it is:

Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before him covered with his love. (Ephesians 1:4, TLB)

Oh my gosh. Do you see what God did there? He didn’t tell us to “straighten up” or “get it together” before we could come in and say hi. Instead, he took the initiative. He wanted to make us holy, and so he took all our faults, pushed them together, and covered the whole pile with his love.

What this verse means is that when God looks at me, he doesn’t see a gal with threadbare guest towels who can’t keep her closets straight. He doesn’t see me coveting my neighbor’s crushed ice. He doesn’t once look at me and say, “Oh gosh, what a mess. (Did I make that?)”

Instead, thanks to what Christ did, all God sees is love. His love. I’m covered in it!

And so are you.

And here’s the thing. I would love for my linen closets to look like the ones you see on Pinterest. I’d like for my life to look that way, too. But that’s not gonna happen. I know, because I’ve spent more years than I care to admit trying to whip myself into shape. I might get things to look presentable for a day or two, but it doesn’t last. Sooner or later, the Snuggie in me starts to fall out.

If you’re like me and you’ve realized (again) that you don’t have what it takes to succeed, spiritually (or, if you’re one of those rare people who thinks that maybe you do), hit the pause button. Because nothing we could ever do (or not do) will render us holy. Nothing we could ever say (or not say) will make us faultless. All of that stuff is up to God, and he’s already done it.

So let’s not spend another minute worrying about the linen closets of our lives. Instead, let’s snuggle up in the blanket that is God’s love, and rejoice in the fact that he has us covered.








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