An unexpected blessing that I have received from First Place is becoming aware of the tremendous love God has for me. I don’t think I will ever fully understand it any more than I understand how He made all those stars, but I believe it. When I joined, I did not love myself; therefore, it was very hard to accept love. I hated the way I looked, the way I felt and what I thought. I hated my own body and was mad at God for what he had given me. Recently, I received a testimony from a new friend in First Place that could have been my own words.
Kathleen wrote; “In January 2000, I watched from my living room window and I could see Ray and the girls playing football outside. I visualized them better off without me. Crabby, fat, sad and miserable was how I saw myself, and it just didn’t go with the beautiful family I saw outside my window. As I began to cry, I fell to my knees and begged for God’s help.” Tears fell on my cheek as I read the next sentence in Kathleen’s testimony, “Today I accomplished a very special goal that goes far deeper than pounds shed. I have lost seventy pounds to date and gained the most important gift that exists. . . a relationship with our sweet Savior, Jesus Christ.” Kathleen has been blessed as I have been in First Place with the gift of love.
Each morning I begin a quiet time with daily scripture reading, Bible study and memorizing the scripture, just to check off the square on my CR; however, something wonderful happens. Being faithful to those commitments allows God the opportunity to personally reveal His love to me, personally. It has been said that “love” is the oil to the wheel of obedience. I realize now that I am motivated by this love to continue on a journey that seemed so impossible.
Dr. Couey, a professor at Baylor University and a speaker at many of our First Place Conferences, often quotes Luke 2:52, “And, Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” He then tells us that if we want to improve any area of our life, we need to put an overload on what we have previously been doing. I was very active in a church before I joined First Place, but I did not have consistent quality time alone with God. First Place helped me put an overload on that area of my life. The positive results were then seen in all areas, emotional, spiritual, mental and physical. Love became the oil for the wheel of obedience in my life.
Time spent reading the Bible put an overload on my understanding of God’s love. I John 4: 8, 16 declares that “God is love,” the personification of perfect love. His love is everlasting, (Jeremiah 31:3), and free (Hosea 14:4). It is sacrificial (John 3:16) and enduring (John 13:1).
I also experience another type of love through First Place. The love and support of my fellow class members. I remember the night I sat down and a member said, “Oh, Kay,” “How was your week?” “I have thought about you so many times this week.” I had been in many weight loss programs, but never experienced another class member who was so concerned about me. This group became my personal cheerleaders. Whether I lost weight or not, these people showered me with love.
As we attend our weekly First Place meeting, it is an expression of love and support toward the other members. Most of us live very active lives where just “showing up” is an effort. The love and support we extend is also a reflection of the emotional growth we are experiencing in this journey that is not just about me. . . I am here for you. I begin to focus less on myself, and more on how I can help others.
I received another email from Kathleen today. She updated me on the Gasparilla race that she and her husband ran in two weeks ago. She said, “There was a sea of people and excitement filled the air. Running across the finish line was like “pressing on to the prize and winning a race for God. Tears were flowing, and I made 3.1 miles in 31 minutes. Looking into my husband’s eyes, I saw the reflection of what I was feeling (now that is love). God makes miracles happen everyday! Tonight is the first time I will be leading a First Place meeting at our church. It blows me away to see that God is using me, considering two short years ago I felt that I was dying and there was no way out. Our Father is so wonderful and good.” Kathleen is right, He is love.
Ask God to reveal His love to you and through you to others. I think the words, “I can’t do this!” must be music to His ears; just like in Kathleen’s life, He will get all the glory. Remember that love is the oil to the wheels of obedience. It enables us to run the way of God’s commandments (Psalms 119:32). Without such love we are nothing (I Corinthians 13:3). Such Spirit-inspired love never fails (I Corinthians 13:8) and always flourishes.
May God Bless Each of You, with an Abundance of His Love,