love

Lillee bounces down the aisle and slides into the pew like she comes to this church with us every week. She pulls a hymn book out of the rack. When time comes for the children’s sermon, she beats everyone to the platform steps and takes a seat next to Miss Jeannie, then stands up on the top step.

“I love you, Nama!” she yells.

Lillee is my littlest grandgirl. She’s three. And almost a half.

Miss Jeannie reads from Joshua 24:15.

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

“We all have choices,” Miss Jeannie says. “Like when someone says something mean, we don’t have to say something mean back.”

“I’d just walk away,” declares Lillee.

“And maybe,” Miss Jeannie goes on, “if someone is sick or needs our help . . .”

Lillee leans into the microphone. (She may even grab it). “My great-grandma fell in the bathroom, and I had to help take care of her.”

(Afterwards, some people ask if I’m okay. I reassure them it was Lillee’s GREAT-grandma who fell.)

“Okay,” says Miss Jeannie. “Let’s say a prayer.”

And Lillee jumps up again, closes her eyes, folds her little hands and exclaims, “Thank you, God for loving me. And I love you, God!”

(I’ve reconstructed Miss Jeannie’s quotes because I’ve totally forgotten her exact words. I’m pretty sure her “sermon” didn’t go exactly as planned. And I know she didn’t expect the “help.” But I remember how I smiled big and wished I was as uninhibited in expressing my love.)

How I wish I could grab hold of that childlike faith. How I long for a heart so full it bubbles with uncontainable, unashamed love.

The kids trot off to children’s church.

And our pastor speaks on loving even our enemies.

**********

Thank you, God for loving me.

And I love you, God!

Jesus, love through me.

**********

May you be comforted by the burning

protective strength of your Father’s strong and stormy love . . .

May your heart thrill at the awesome God

who held nothing back that He might hold you close,

who poured on His Son what He never deserved

that you might receive forever

what you would not have desired

but were created for.

Then may your own heart become an altar

aflame with fiery love and exclusive zeal

to bring Him glory and expand His praise

among all peoples and nations–

among your friends and enemies, too.

~Timothy J. Stoner in The God Who Smokes