Wednesday, March 29, 2017

for when you are learning to love part 6: loving them all

You were hardwired for love, so everything you decide, desire, think, say, and do is an expression of love for someone or something. ~ Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies

One more thing on this love learning menu.  Then after, instead of just adding more to the list, it will be time to practice those same things over and over until they become specialties walked out only by Grace given and the growth that inevitably comes from the many failures and eventual successes on the wisdom road.

We spent a week in Romania sharing this verse, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt 22:37-39), and a somewhat comical portrayal of the Good Samaritan to children and adults in which our good friend was jumped by my husband and another guy, 'beaten' up, and left writhing on the ground complaining and whining in English with a couple Romanian phrases thrown in for good measure.  Stressing that everyone is your neighbor was the point of the story.  Everyone is your neighbor.  Not just the ones you like.  Not just the ones you who were nice to you first.  Not just the ones who can scratch your back if you scratch theirs.  

To me, it seems as if this final lesson of love is the most difficult because its the one that costs us the most.  Before now everything has been head knowledge.  Learning that we need to love, learning what love is, learning what love is not, learning that we can't love on our own, learning where that love comes from, can all be done internally, alone, without truly feeling the cost of what it takes to set yourself aside and extend that love we have so graciously been given to another, any other, every other.  But that is exactly who we are asked to love, everyone.

This is all well and good on paper until the time comes to put it into action.  

In ninth grade I took Geometry.  This was one of those classes that could turn the best of math students into the worst and vice versa.  it was a completely different concept that you either got or you didn't.  For whatever reason I got it, pretty well, and one thing that has stayed with me from that class more than any other were proofs.  As much as I liked geometry, I HATED proofs.  How was it that I needed to write 15 sentences to tell you the answer that I already knew.  Well if this then this, and if this then this, and so on and so on.  Little did I know at the time that that concept would guide my spiritual heart more than anything else.

We are given this Truth that we are loved, when we are His child we are loved unconditionally with Hope eternal.  And if that, then...  From that one point we can be taken to a future of loving, one step at a time.

Preparing your mind for action (1 Peter 1:13) is an absolute necessity.  Studying, memorizing, readying yourself is an integral part, but only if when the time comes you "walk by the spirit, and not gratify the desires of the flesh."  God is going to call you to love people you want to love, people who fill you with joy and hope, pleasure and purpose, and when this happens your heart will burst with the sweet Spirit inside and surrendering yourself to it will be one of the easiest decisions you can make.  

However, in just as many instances, God will present you with people to love in that same whole-hearted, spirit surrendering way and every part of your being might feel nothing but the opposite of a loving desire.   In fact, instead of walking by the spirit and not gratifying the desires of your flesh,  your flesh will boil and fight and inside yourself you will physically feel these two forces completely opposed to one another, keeping you from doing the things you want to do or, maybe more truthfully, allowing you to do exactly what you might want to do, nothing.

Let's be honest.  There are countless times you don't really want to love the people you love so why on earth would we want to love the people we don't love.  There is no earthly reason why we should love another if we do not want to, but there is a very heavenly one that tells us why we need to.  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this ALL people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

It's HARD, when it gets personal.  When you can list reason after reason of the why you should nots, the justified examples that can be spilled out and pointed at, but if the given in our loving proof is that we are loved then eventually, following that beginning, no matter how many sentences follow, we can reach the end with a loving heart for another.  When we remember that we aren't worthy of the love we have been given, why should we expect another to earn our love in return.

In his daily devotional New Morning Mercies, Paul David Tripp says this,  "You are a lover; we all are.  We love.  It's what human beings do every moment of every day, in every location, and in every situation.  You are never not loving.  It's in the very fiber of your being.  It's the way God carefully constructed you.  Why did he hardwire you to love?  Why is this such an essential part of who you are?  God created you with this capacity so that you would have what you need to live in a deeply loving, heart-controlling, motivation-producing, worship-initiating, joy-stimulating relationship with him.  Your capacity to love was created for him.  Your desire to love was meant to draw you to him.  Your heart was designed to long for love, and that longing was meant to find its final and complete fulfillment in him." 

We are all hardwired for love, the question will come down to how it manifests itself.  Does it come out in a love of self, in being right, in wanting personal comfort, satisfaction, retribution?  Or will it come out in an inner disposition that builds others up and inevitably points them to Jesus because it's His love in us they see.

I pray that others will see God through our love, and I pray much more needfully, that He help us love others because we know how much He loves us.  Pray for me, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

for when you are learning to love: questions to ask

It's Spring.  Where life's changes are seen as much in our schedule as they are in nature.  There are two baseball practices on the schedule tonight which means dinner needs to be ready early which means I cannot do my usual afternoon class at the gym which means I 'needed' to go to the gym in the morning which means writing is happening during rest time which means that any other productive things that needed to be done had to happen first thing this morning which means after all the kids are in bed tonight a bathtub full of bubbles and epsom salt will be calling my name.

Basically from before first light until long after the light fades this evening the day's to dos have wound themselves into a weird and complex reverse version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie except that there will not actually be any delicious chocolate chip yumminess as a reward.  Or maybe...

This journey from the past weeks of learning to love started as a yes to a command but has continued with many other types of YESes as understanding has continued to grow and places in my heart either with known hardness or unknown places to begin with have opened and felt that warmth of our loving Father preparing it to love in return.

There are many ways that reduce you to a place of humility.  One is to take the time to truly search and study a specific part of your life and begin to see, as you go on, how much was unknown and misunderstood; how much mystery there was in the midst of all the knowledge.

However, there are many ways to build up thankfulness within your heart.  One is to take the time to truly search and study part of your life and see how faithful God is to reach down to exactly where you are, in all your mysterious misunderstandings, and grow and change and lift your knowledge to a place closer to wisdom.

Because of this brief time squeezed in between preschool and elementary school pickups, with Narnia and a 5 year old's commentary as my soundtrack, instead of finishing up these weeks of love learning there will instead be a few questions to ponder before the finale next time around.  Using your words to ask the right questions is a vital step to developing the wisdom we long to have.  Until you know the questions to ask, you might never know if you have found the answer.

Part 1.  We began with just the first step of wanting to love, wanting to learn to love better knowing that "wisdom does not come when life works out perfectly, it comes when you fall but when you get up and try again."  Have you tried during these past weeks and failed?  Lord knows I have.   What situation(s) did you recognize a need to love better or to even let love In to it to begin with?

Part 2.  Defining love was an integral part of this journey.  Love, is an inner disposition that produces compassionate acts that builds up the object of your love.  Constant reflection on this definition has no choice but to begin to change your heart and open it up to not just recognizing compassionate acts but building a desire to produce them within the lives of others.  Have your compassionate acts towards others change and how can they still change and improve?  Write down those ways that you can see that changing in your heart, the ways compassionate acts of have achieved the building up of others.  When you see the way God has achieved that in your so far it will be a blessed encouragement when you also recognize those places where growth still needs to come.

Part 3. Learning the truth that we can't love might be difficult to take but in time makes this whole process so much easier. Have you embraced this truth? Do you know that you, on your own. do not have the capacity to love?

Part 4. We are able to love for one single reason, we were loved first (john 4:19)  It's not us, ever. It's all Him in us.  Knowing this, when a failure at loving occur there is no doubt it had it's roots in not trusting Jesus and trying to love on our own but how specifically is the right question.  In what ways and with whom are you trying to love on your own instead of letting Jesus love through you?

Part 5. ...the beauty revealed through everything covered in Christ is beauty unsurpassed. It is possible to not just live through difficult situations but to LOVE through them as well. Using the encouraging words from Isaiah 7:4 we learned to 1. be calm 2. be careful 3. do not fear and 4. do not let your heart grow weary. Unfortunately in this sinful world in which we live, difficult situations, of all scheme and scope, are inevitable and much more frequent than we would like. What situations are taking their toll on you right now? Recognize them, label them, and lay them down to the one who will not just love you through them but will enable you to love through them as well.

I'm praying for you as you reflect on these past few weeks lessons and, like in the Spring, you see the beautiful changes already made and the ways He will be faithful to bring about more. Pray for me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

for when you are learning about love part 5: difficult situations

One of my greatest skills is creating beauty in my mind, deciding what would look the best in any given place or within any opportunity. Whether that is the deck and landscaping around our newly surfaced--and filled with water!--pool, decorating projects for friends, or carefree afternoons at homes, there is always an ideal in my head of how life, both the living of it and the visual around it, would look best.

On the flip side, one of my greatest triggers of frustration is when these lovely, perfectly imagined ideals do not play out properly. For anyone actually living in this world, it can easily be assumed how often the ideal does not occur. If things worked out perfectly was a question on a survey the answer circle would most definitely be the "not very likely" choice listed on the far left!

Even in this, my writing life, a weekly ideal attempts to create itself within the corners of my mind painting pictures of the quiet space, perfectly sweetened, creamed, and heated tea, the best music plugged into my ears, and the words swirling around captured and placed in the right order for maximum effect. And when, like last week, my writing Wednesdays are filled instead with the care taking of feverish boys and the never ending tasks of housekeeping that goes along with it, that temptation to succumb to frustration of a destroyed ideal begins to overtake the joy and thankfulness of my first job in loving the sweet ones God gave me.

Perfecting ideals can have their place. Planning, organizing, and imagining how to create beauty and give beauty to others is not just a responsibility as a steward of this world, it is loving as well, as long as perfection isn't the circumstance on which your loving acts are resting.

The perfect ideal you have conjured up inside can not mask over the reality that plays out.

We want an experience that is easy and euphoric but instead we are, through abundant Grace, given distractions, failures and frustrations that instead of breeding immediate love produce an increase in our unloving parts. Why? Because within the difficulties the hardness in our hearts is revealed, the deepest places of unloving are brought to the surface, and only then does light shine upon them and enable real love to grow.

A quote from C.S. Lewis that holds both number one spots on my favorite and least favorite lists is this, "We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be." My favorite because its true. My least favorite, well for the exact same reason. We like the best for us, but we do not like pain.

Some of the first words written in the journal that began after my husband's heart shattering confession a few years ago were based on James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its word so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

Written somewhat angrily in black and white was this, "After reading that, I wanted to punch James in the face. Seriously. I literally wanted to take James, brother of Jesus my savior and punch him in the face as hard as I could..." Violent? Maybe. True feelings? Absolutely. But then out of the most difficult of situations God taught me to cling to Him through anything, how to cling to His promises, and see the Love I have been given, the same Love He is continually teaching me to give to others. All others. He desires us to lack nothing. We can not lack nothing until we have been stripped of everything that is not of Him. (to read more of our story and God's amazing grace through it go here)

Learning to love with that gospel centered love is what is best for us, the sometimes painful mining of your heart and soul through difficult things is an inevitable part of that best being formed in you.

But do not lose heart, have courage, we are not left alone ever, and especially not during the hardest and darkest parts of our growth. Difficult situations come in all forms and on all levels. They will not all be earth shattering. They will not all require years of healing and continuous asking for and extending of forgiveness. Some will last only moments, but within each is the gift of grace and lessons of love that truly change our inner dispositions to those more like our Savior's and expands our ability to change towards others as well.

Weeks ago, while reading, I came across a verse in the midst of the needed but terrifying warnings of Isaiah that gave me such encouragement that it was jotted down immediately as something to share in the future. However hesitancy to do so increased as I began to fear that my lack of theological prowess and understanding of context would cause harm instead of the good intended. However with "His majesty as my protection, His glory as my motivation, His grace as my help, and His wisdom as my direction"--thank you Tripp again for your words--today is the day.

Whether in the throes of a difficult time of life, years out from one where healing might still need to be achieved, or in preparation for an inevitable one to come, take these words with you. Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these [whatever specifics are causing the hardness] Isaiah 7:4

Be Careful. However loved and protected we are, there is evil out there that definitely wants to destroy any chance we have of knowing, abiding in, and loving like Christ. Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise (Eph. 5:15), Do not believe every spirit, test to see if it is God (1 John 4:1), walk by His spirit (Gal 5:16)

Keep Calm. Ya'll I'm the queen of flip out first, think later. The times I've had to apologize to my children, husband, God, friends, strangers, and myself for losing my composure before thinking things through is a number higher than I even want to attempt to count to. But He gives us peace, not peace like the world, but perfect peace so that our hearts do not have to be troubled (John 14:27) and promises that He will walk through the raging water and consuming fire with us (Isaiah 43:2)

Do not fear. Flipping out has its roots in fear and we know that Perfect Love casts that fear out. (1 John 4:18) He did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us power, self control, and LOVE (2 Tim. 1:7)

Do not let your heart grow faint.  Friends, repeat this one often.  Situations will come that you will face head on, Truths all risen up in your heart, prepared for the painfully hard that exposes the incomparable Good.  But then, there will be those times that you feel as if you have no strength, you know the hard that is on the path to healing and you just do not want to do it.  Take heart, have courage.  This can not be done alone.  Remember we love only because He loves first.  His love fuels, fills, and overrides.  Your heart WILL grow faint otherwise the command to not let it wouldn't be necessary.  Let Him love first so that you can love next.  

However beautiful the schemes in my head, the beauty revealed through everything covered in Christ is beauty unsurpassed.

Praying for you to learn to love not just through all your difficult places but because of them.  Pray for me.

More in the learning to love series...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

for when you are learning about love part 4: Him first

The house we have called home for almost two years now sits on a corner and is surrounded by yard, yards in fact, full of trees to climb and hide under, grass for running and rolling, stone walls for jumping and upping the coolness of sword fighting and the occasional pretty flower that I haven't yet accidentally killed, but have no worry there is still time for that.

Three boys spend many hours using the space for exactly why it was created, to live and move and have their being.  Somewhere amidst the middle of disagreements, one on one on one basketball games, and too many ninja/knight/star wars battles to count an appreciation is being built for the beauty of the outside world while inside their hearts, the groundwork that can continually connect that love they have for creation for the love the Creator has for them is being laid and cultivated.

Surrounded by a fence, the only area blocked for every day play, lies a most favored part of the outdoor adventure space, our pool.  As soon as weather and water are warm enough gates are unlocked-with adult supervision of course- to this space where everything from relaxation to intense competition takes place.  However, if you were to walk out today and take a glance at this treasured spot, you would fail to see the inviting blue sparkly water begging you to put your toes in.  You would also fail to see the somewhat green-tinged not as inviting water that tends to spring up in the off season.  Instead, before you lies an empty cement hole, banged up a good bit, missing integral pieces, most importantly water, that makes a pool serve it's designed purpose.  Sure standing at the bottom of an empty deep-end is a semi cool experience and having a sword fight there did make a 5 and 7 year old boy giggle with glee but that fun is most assuredly short lived when you know what the full potential of the space feels like.

Without the essential element that fills it up, a pool is simply a hole in the ground; likewise without the love given through the Perfect Love, a heart is simply a lump of muscle pumping blood to keep your body alive but doing nothing for the Spirit within.  Both items are needed, but until they are filled to overflowing with that one key ingredient they will continually cease to perform their designed purpose.

While walking down this bumpy road of learning about love, we recognized the need to actually love better or at all, we have discussed what love truly is, and that we are not at all capable of doing it but hopefully you remembered, "do not despair because you cannot love, none of us can.  Do not give up because you have been hurt, we all have.  Do not fear because you are terrible at loving another, we all are.  Hold on to the Hope of the promises our Savior fulfilled.  Rest in the Peace he brings in the midst of your turmoil.  Rejoice with the Joy that he is above all circumstances."

So then, how is possible? How do we go about loving another?  How in the midst of our massive inability are we able to do anything?  Like all things we fail at doing, when we dig and dig to the root where we will find waiting the same Truth, the same wondrous reason for how "we can do all things" (phil 4:13)

We are able to love for one single reason, we were loved first (john 4:19)  

A simple statement that holds the heaviest of weight.  However quickly spoken, it is a thought and truth that can be unpacked and put away into every nook and cranny of your life each and every day.

Jesus is the beginning of it all; the beginning of our ability to see that we need to love, how we understand what love truly is, and the reason we can't, no matter how hard we try, love another on our own.

Because we are loved, we see the need to love.
Because we are loved, we understand what True love is.
Because we are loved, we can love, not on our own, but with the love given to us.

In Life Together, Bonhoeffer continues his look at human and spiritual love by saying "spiritual love comes from Jesus, it serves Him is bound solely to his Word...because spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as a brother" and if you remember, on any day, your enemy can even
be who you believe you love the most.

If ever I am given the honor of writing a book or multiples at that, one will be about this tricky topic of loving others.  It's title, already jotted down in one of my notebooks is "It's not me, It's You: loving because Jesus loves first" 

It's all Him guys, but He openly and lovingly gives it to us to then give away, amen and hallelujah.

Jesus is that Perfect Love, the water to your swimming pool, that essential ingredient to the heart, and we are told that Perfect Love casts out any fear. (1 john 4:18)  Yes, you may make a list of all your fears-if you want to see mine here it is-and see how that Perfect Love takes those fears away, lets you see the truth behind them, and ultimately just reminds you of who is holding you throughout everything.  Because of that, Do not fear.

Another thing fear does is keeps us from loving others because we fear the rejection of not being loved in return.  As that Perfect Love fills all your spaces it pushes those fears out and allows us to love others because we aren't looking for something in return.  If we are filled to overflowing with His love it's not the love of others that matters, but His and His alone.

In one of the most common passages about love we learn that love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. (1 cor. 13:4-8)

And if God is Love, then this is a description of His character towards us, His children, as well as an example of the Love we are capable of only because of Christ's Perfect Love in us.  Will we fail, yes.  Will His Love fail us, never.

However, the first four verses before those oh so familiar ones are not to be ignored.  Within them are wise words reminding us of what happens when we try to go forth on our own, love on our own, without Love within us.

Two years ago on our second trip to RO we studied these words in depth and were given the task to reword them, making them specific to our struggles, to our personality, to what our imperfect love could result it if not overwhelmed with the only Perfect Love.  I'd love for you to try it and share your results.  For me it looked something like this...

If I speak with kind words and encouragements but do not have love I am at best morally superior and at worst an annoying goody goody or hypocrite.
If I show empathy and understanding to a situation and give great advice believing all will get better but do not have love I am of no help or significance to another.
If I sacrifice my money and time for my children, friends, and strangers but do not have love I might as well have given them nothing.
Love is patient and kind, it doesn't show off and point at itself on instagram or facebook.  It does not assume its way is better or get mad when things do not work out perfectly.  Love does not enjoy when others fail but gives praise for the glory of God in everyone's life.
Love takes it all in, the good, bad and ugly, it believes in Truth and clings to Hope knowing whatever comes that love will never fail.

Our pool guy told me not to look outside until all the work was done because it would be a mess, it would not be pretty behold but all I could think was if I miss the mess in the middle, the ugly parts, the not so pretty in the midst of restoration, how can I fully appreciate the beauty of the end result?

Though that Perfect Love is indeed living in you, this loving thing still might look like a big ol' mess to you before it ever looks anywhere close to good, but without seeing your beginning and middle you can not fully appreciate the end God has already begun to reveal and will fully complete as promised.

I'm praying you will see His love first so that His is what you give away, pray for me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

for when you're learning about love part 3: we can't do it

"It is more difficult to love than to be confessional; it costs more to love than to be missional; and love calls for more humility and self-denial than piety."  ~Dr. Mike Ross

Last week, when sharing what Love really is, I spoke of the difficulty of truly showing love.  I hope you thought about it and I hope you experienced the hardness of it, not because misery loves company, but because experiencing something in a fuller and truer way does wonders for your ability to understand and transform knowledge in your head to wisdom in your heart.  And "from out of the heart your mouth speaks" Matt 15:18

Whether it is a lax in parenting, my cooking skills--which I always thought highly of before--, the knowledge that all children are different no matter how similarly raised, the predisposed condition of sin in our hearts, or a perfect storm of all of the above, we have been fighting some MAJOR food battles in our home.  All the preparation of our own hearts and his through planning and conversations in no way truly prepared any of us for the insanity of getting one child to take one bite of one thing that everyone else at the table finds perfectly acceptable and even delicious.

It took about a week to hone in on a method that my husband and I both felt was equally helpful and necessary to get the deed done at each meal where a different food tasting was required.  The process was still not enjoyable but at least there was a consensus among the grown ups.  However, it took well over a week for either of the supposedly intellectually superior humans in the house to understand the real problem. It was truly not a picky eater we were at war against, it was a stubborn and sinful heart that wanted nothing but its own way.

This came clear one evening when the precious face sitting at the table expressed rather passionately "I just don't like doing what I don't want to do!"

Bless his heart, mine, and everyone else's.  He nailed it.  There in the midst of his current turmoil, he spoke straight to the heart of each of ours.  We just do not like doing what we do not want to do. 

There are so many reasons our heart does not love, does not produce an inner disposition full of compassionate acts to build others up.  Never once will you hear me say that your reasons, whatever they might be, are not very real to you and therefore important in understanding your actions and your heart.  And if you do, please throw these next words straight back at me (in a loving way of course).

Our inability to love others, whether as a whole or a specific individual, stems from real life, below the surface struggles.  The actions and consequences produced may be completely visible above the surface, but there is an iceberg hiding underneath that can take down any size relationship no matter how seemingly unsinkable.

The lack of love can come from a lack of compassion and empathy, not being able to understand another's emotion.  It can come from a lack of forgiveness, a wall in your heart between you and another built through unforgiveness that love can not permeate.  The lack of real love felt in one's own life keeps you from being able to love another.  The saying "Hurt people hurt people" poetically wraps up the cycle of unloving prevalent in every relationship that has existed since the fall.

And in full disclosure, all honesty, transparency, and vulnerability, getting back to the lessons five year olds can teach you about what is going on in your own heart, love is often something we just don't want to do.

But no matter how hurt we may have been, no matter how justified we may feel in our unloving, no matter how much is below the surface, down deeper, beneath the places we have even thought to look, stands a Truth that goes far beyond not wanting to love.  It is the fact that we CAN'T love.

It his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when talking about community, spends a good deal of time comparing humanity to spirituality and in that includes the ability and inability to love another.  He tells us that "human love is directed to the other person for his own sake.  It wants to gain, to capture by every means; it uses force. It desires to be irresistible, to rule."  Because of this "Human love cannot love an enemy...where it can no longer expect its desire to be fulfilled, there it stops short--namely, in the face of an enemy."

If I'm understanding his reasoning, than I have to assume when he uses the word enemy he is not referring, or just referring, to someone who has hurt you in a monumental way.  He is encompassing any and every person that keeps you from getting what you want at any specific moment.  On any given day your enemy could be those you love the most.

Of the millions of lessons learned from these past thirty five years of life, twelve years of marriage, and ten years of parenting it is that as much as I think I love my family and friends, as much as I think I would do anything for them at any moment, I on my own will never live up to my own expectations.  I will fail to love them in countless ways, every single day.  Sometimes its because I just don't want to love, I am loved out.  Sometimes its because I'm hurting, physically, mentally, spiritually, and hurt them in return.  Sometimes it's because of a lack of understanding of what they are truly feeling and going through.  Sometimes it's when I am giving them the very best of the love I have but have forgotten that my humanity can not truly do the job Love is required to do.  My very best is still the filthiest of rags.

BUT, "right here is the point where spiritual love begins..." ~Bonhoeffer

Up next, will be How we love and just in case you were wondering it starts with Jesus.  If you will forgive my rudimentary paraphrasing of Colossians 1, He is the beginning and the end of it all.  In Him alone do all the things in this crazy, beautiful, divinely created, full of sinful-hearted human world hold together.

Until then, do not despair because you cannot love, none of us can.  Do not give up because you have been hurt, we all have.  Do not fear because you are terrible at loving another, we all are.  Hold on to the Hope of the promises our Savior fulfilled.  Rest in the Peace he brings in the midst of your turmoil.  Rejoice with the Joy that he is above all circumstances.

I'll be praying for you,  pray for me.

Other posts from the Learning about Love series
*  getting started
*  what is love?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

for when you are learning about love part 2: what is love?

There have already been tears this morning.  Tears over inexperience, frustration, lack of understanding, risk of humiliation, fear of disappointing myself, others, someone.  Tears over venturing forth into a topic I have not and honestly will not, if lessons so far have been any indication, master. Why is there this need (desire, push) to try to tackle it?  Seriously people, this is hard as heck already!  Why in the Sam Hill am I doing this!?  --sorry my southern tends to elevate when emotions are, who is sam hill anyway?--

Surely there are classes about this somewhere, which are taught by much more qualified, educated, and theologically trained humans.  Am I just reinventing the wheel? Or more like remaking a much shoddier wheel that could bring the whole car down?  Lord Jesus, protect the passengers.

(I really wanted to say "Jesus take the wheel" right there, but the sarcasm might not have come through and instead it would feel like the cheesy factor had been pushed up to uncomfortable levels.)

Love is a huge topic. Love is something that could be written about daily and still never truly unpacked. Love is the reason "the word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14) because "God so LOVED the world..." (John 3:16). The massive quantity of verses, interpretations, the ways it fits into every single aspect of life is what starts the knots in my stomach. There's a meteor shower of thoughts in my head, which all have the potential to be beautiful if seen, but moving so fast it instead feels like a 360 degree fireworks show and you're not sure where to look.

So why write about Love?

The answers that come are, for one, because I am supposed to. I'm saying another scary yes on the road to obedience and faith where swerving will most certainly happen.

Two, because chances are, the majority of you are also feeling unqualified, uneducated, and untrained on this subject, and by sharing my struggles, it will encourage you to try to tackle yours as well.  Together, we are learning, taking on topics, and searching our souls to try and change our inner dispositions to be more like Christ, and walking alongside another in the midst of it makes all things better. 

Three, because there are just some subjects you can't take a class on, score a 100 on the test, and then move on to the next thing--I'm talking to you every geography map quiz I ever took.

Some information is so important you HAVE to seek, gather, put on lists or in bullet journals or note taking apps, or just let soak into your mind. By whatever means necessary for you, it must be done to become part of your being, mixed in with the knowledge already gleaned, and play itself out with the rest of the wisdom gained through practice and experience, failures and successes.

Yes, much more qualified people can explain it better and understand it better than me or you, but the question is, do we understand it, and if not, well, let's ask for guidance and go forward and try.

Tuesday is piano day on our family calendar. Two of my three boys are in lessons now, and while they both really enjoy lesson day, there is more than one occasion during the week when the reminder or command to practice causes less than acceptable responses. "It's hard", "I don't know how to play this one", "I don't know what these notes are", and a few others are the phrases whined to me while I stand in the kitchen trying not to grit my teeth or roll my eyes but to instead give the appropriate grown up response.

Whether it is Tuesday piano, math homework, or the numerous sports all the boys love, there is often a push back when time comes to begin practice. Doing the basics becomes boring. Repetition can crush your exuberant spirit with its monotony. In their little hearts (and in ours as well) there is a desire to just be good at something. We want to succeed, to excel even, but when we see the amount of work required to get to where we want to be there is either a pause to ponder, or even a decision to quit before we start, because the goal seems so far out of reach we doubt that it is even worth trying.

Funny thing is, that initial step is what keeps us from moving. Once we get going, once that practice begins, once our body starts to feel the familiarity of what it has learned and shows the signs of improving and of gaining skills, we see the goal getting closer, we see the need to keep going even when we continue to battle the desire to give up, and we look to see the hand of our Creator pulling us through, reminding us of His faithfulness, and calling us to just Trust and walk.

Basics come first, but they lead to big things.

So here we go. Small steps. First things first. When you are learning about love you need to know what love is.

Love is laden with misconceptions. It is forced to take on roles it was never intended to take on, required to fill gaps it isn't fit for, misinterpreted and pronounced nonexistent when really, it is right there ready and willing, trying to pour itself over the hurts and needs of people waiting for it. When love is waiting arms wide open for us to fall into, we reject it, misunderstand it, because it doesn't look the way we think it should look or act the way we want it to act.

When understanding and recognizing love, looking at it in a worldly sense will always skew its original design. There are many words the world uses in one way, but viewed through the lens of the Gospel take on a much different meaning. One such word is Joy.  In the world, we think of joy as happiness that comes from success or good fortune.  With a redeemed heart, we know joy can be found in the deepest sorrow, because joy is not circumstantial - it comes from being in Christ. 

Love is one of those such words.

In the world, 'love' is a greater level of 'like'. It is an 'amped up' feeling of fondness towards a person or an object. If you do not like something or someone, love will never be present. If you stop liking someone or something, love will cease to exist as well.

The best definition I have been given for love was from our former pastor during our hardest season of marriage, and it is one I will not attempt to re-word. Instead, I'll use it, with his blessing, and share it to as many people as I am able.  His definition radically changed the way I love, understand and respond to others, and inspired the title of this little space here on the interwebs where I can share with you.

Love, gospel driven-inspired by God LOVE, is an Inner Disposition that produces compassionate acts that builds up the object of your love.

Love, real and true love, starts inside yourself - your inner disposition - in your heart overtaken by the Spirit. If it doesn't start there, it is not love.

Love produces, not just anything, but it produces compassion. Not just thoughts of compassion, but acts of compassion. If you are not inspired and overwhelmed by the need to feel compassion for another, and to extend compassion to another, then you are not feeling and showing love.

Love builds up the one you are showing love to. To build is to put together, to develop and gradually form, slowly even. Love does not mean puffing someone up. (This is where things can get sticky).  Loving another does not mean telling them what they want to hear, just to make them feel better about whatever they are doing or what is happening. Truly loving is to build, to renovate, to take out parts that are not helpful, so that the parts that are can grow and climb closer to the sun.

Learning what love is will help us see it everywhere, in big ways and small, and will give us the confidence that it is always there to help us place it correctly in the spaces and ways it is intended to be and go.

Later down the road we'll tackle those times when even our best attempts at love will still cause hurt and rejection from another. But, for now, know that when love starts with a pure heart, when its desire is to show compassion, when its goal is to build up and not tear down, then LOVE will shine! Because in the end, it's God in you, not you, who is producing it.

When we understand that Love was not created by us, but put in us by our Creator, the knots in our stomach unravel. Our understanding of it is fine-tuned, and a huge amount of untrodden places are opened up to practice, show, and see love in its desired form.

Please pray for me, for yourselves, for others to truly understand Gospel driven love and the ability to pass it along to the ones around you. I'll be praying for you.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

for when you are learning about love: sunday song

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth, AS IT IS HEAVEN...

Children killed, sold, lost, and stolen
All races
All ethnicities
The Church
Religious leaders
Everyday citizens

We are a mix of thoughts and desires.  Our opinions overtake our compassion.  The desired end for our own goals supersedes the goals for the good of others.  Even the most outspoken for others battles selfishness along the way.

Not us, but you Lord.  Not our will, but yours.

Help us see that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.

Let that fuel our words and actions more than just help us "survive" the present.  If we know none of our sufferings can compare to the coming glory, we have strength to sacrifice our comfort, our safe cocoons, to live out the gospel in word and deed.

There are those who can not fight for themselves right now.  Let us each find that group that has been placed on our hearts, the ones who at this moment can not fight for themselves. and let us carry their burden; not of our own strength and for our own glory, but with the power of heaven and for the glory of our Father.

Share the Well
Caedmon's Call

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well, my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well, my friend

Do you think the water knows
Flowing down to the mountain thaw
Finally to find repose
For any soul who cares to draw

Some kindred keepers of this earth
On their way to join the flow
Are cast aside and left to thirst
Tell me now it is not so

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well, my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well, my friend

And all God's creatures share the water hole
The blessed day the monsoon comes
And in His image we are woven
Every likeness every one

From Kashmir to Kerala
Under every banyan tree
Mothers for their children cry
With empty jar and bended knee

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well, my friend

It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well, my friend

You know I've heard good people say
There's nothing I can do
That's half a world away

Maybe you've got money
Maybe you've got time
Maybe you've got living well
That ain't ever running dry

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well, my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well, my friend

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well, my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well, my friend