…but love cannot “win”

Love never failing, however is different than love “winning.” Indeed, I do not think love – real, actual love and not something else masquerading as love – can “win”. Love, at its very nature is uncompetitive, and wants what is best for the other person.

Love invites. It creates an atmosphere where the one loved can, if they so choose, have the freedom to figure out and express who it is exactly that God originally intended them to be. But it is the choice of the loved one to enter into that space; it is not up to the lover whether or not the loved one enters. This is what is scary about love – developing and opening up that space for another without the guarantee that the loved one will enter, or respond the way the lover expects or hopes.

Saying love “wins” is like saying ice cream makes an excellent public speaker – the two don’t even go together and are nonsensical when put together.

Love cannot “win”. Love, real love, however, never fails. It is always there, creating that inviting space, no matter what.

This means love looks different in every relationship. For a loving mother, loving her son means giving him the space and opportunities to figure out his strengths, passions, and desires without her forcing him to become the man she envisioned. For a friend, it means listening and go on adventures, helping that loved friend process who God created them to be. Sometimes it means telling a friend or a sibling or a teenage child that the way they are living is not helpful for becoming the person they were created to be. Love can be hard. Loving often is, actually. But, it has to be to be life-giving, life-calling.

And real love, no matter what, is always willing to create space for the loved one. A space where the love one – and hopefully the lover too – can continue in the process of becoming all that God created them to be. A space where there is room to heal from a deep wound, a space where laughter and tears and joy and adventure are welcomed. A space where risks are invited.

A space such as that will never fail a person. It will change the loved and the lover, but it will never fail.

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Love Never Fails – no, for real!

I was underlining verses in Bibles today, getting them ready to hand out to my youth group high schoolers, and as I underlined 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, the line, “love never fails” jumped out at me.
Sure, I’ve read that verse I don’t know how many times over the lifetime of being a believer, but somehow, before, it was always just words. Never a promise. Never a “this is how it should and can be.” Maybe because I’ve been thinking recently about love and relationships and how much God likes to heal them or maybe it was just something I needed to focus on, but “love never fails” hit me hard today.
I mean, if that is true, if we really believed and acted on that, if we didn’t give up on relationships when they were hard and painful knowing that, in the long run, we would pass through this hard time, than divorce wouldn’t ever really need to be a thing, would it? If love never fails, than all parents are forgiven for just being human and messing up. All kids are forgiven for being frustrated with parents. All workers work to forgive grumpy or unreasonable bosses.
If love never fails, than love, true love, changes the world. Unreasonable bosses are, over time and with a lot of prayer, tears and patience from their workers, changed. Children begin to understand that their parents are just broken adults. Adults release their children to be whoever God created them to be, and not the person the parent thinks they should be. Parents see their kids as imperfect humans too. They understand – a bit more – each other, and forgiveness happens.

If love really never fails, the world is changed. Not quickly, not easily, but through following the example of the One who loved best. Through blood, sweat, tears and lying down of personal rights. Through meeting people where they are, and not where we think they should be. Through prayer, so much prayer and faith that God hasn’t given up on them yet (Phil 1:6).

Love never fails, guys! Isn’t that so incredibly encouraging!!!!!

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Clamoring words

I have been overwhelmed recently – by words. Words to be written, words to be said, words spoken around me to be ignored, words spoken to me that must be remembered, words to be pondered, words to wound and words to heal. There is so much clatter and clamor that I have not been able to put down my own words. I have not been able to process. I am in desperate need of silence. Of Harry Potter’s Pensieve, or memory thing that holds your memories for you. I cannot form sentences to write papers, or blogs, or journal entries.

I need stillness. I need silence. I need it around me, but mostly I need it in me.

There have been so many words this semester, talking about God, about who I think (or should think) how He works. And the more I learn, the more arrogant about my knowledge I become, the louder the clamor of knowledge and words becomes, the less I hear.

This is something I need to work on – being still.

I don’t know what this has to do with Easter. Probably not much, except that because of what Jesus did for me on this day we celebrate, I have the gift of being still at times and simply basking in His presence. This is a gift I need to participate more often than I do.

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…of all shapes and sizes

I’m in a cultural diversity class this semester at seminary, which I have absolutely loved. And because of this class, I have simply been more aware of the people around me. And, of course, I have been thinking about diversity, and unity, and how humans can’t seem to help but to hurt each other in painful, identity-shaking ways.

Sometime in the last three weeks or so, someone brought up the end of the world,the fullness of time, and mentioned how they were looking forward to the peace that would come, because unity would be possible. We will all be unified in our love and worship of God. And then this person went on to say that they were looking forward to the time when we are all more alike, that there wouldn’t be as many differences between us.

…that there wouldn’t be as many differences between us…

I’m sorry, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case. I think, in the end, there might even be more differences. God is a creative God, and He LOVES diversity and variation. Just look at how many different kinds of everything there is on this planet – let alone different kind of stars in the universe, or planets, or stuff in space we have no idea is there. I mean, just here on little ol’ earth there are flowers in every color. There are how many different kinds of dogs, birds, cats, spiders (shudder), snakes (again, shudder) or squirrels. So. Many. Different. Kinds!!! God LOVES variety. He loves all shapes and sizes and types. He loves the spastic, and the calm, the crazy and the boringly-sane.

All that to say, I think when God restores His creation to His vision, I think there might be more diversity than there is even now.

Which means, I think, that true unity does not mean we all look alike or think alike or act similarly. I think true unity means not being afraid of the differences between ourselves and others. True unity means celebrating the differences and variety. True unity means loving others and simply accepting them exactly as they are.

Exactly. As. They. Are.

Love each other simply as God has made each and every one of us. Look at each other through God’s eyes, not through the tainted glasses of the broken world around us. Get to know the beauty in each person (because there is beauty in most every person).

Stop demanding that the world around you look like you. Learn to love differences. Differences, after all, help us see different sides of God.

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Focus, Breathe, Listen

Sorry I’ve been so hit or miss this year. I could easily pull the “I’m so busy” excuse, but the truth is, writing has always been a priority for me, and if it’s not happening, than something besides busyness is going on in my life.

As for the last two months (some might say last four?), I’m not exactly sure what that is, except that today it feels like I might finally be pulling out of it. Nothing has changed. I still have all of my commitments and potential distractions, but I sense a pattern emerging.

That, and I am learning a truth. For at least the last two months people have been telling me how they have so much filling their lives – school, activities, obligations, relationships – and yet, if they rest in God, if they focus on Him, if they give Him a bit of time each day, it all gets done in a comparatively unharried manner.

Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention the first, I’m sure twenty, times I heard this. I mean, it’s something you hear a lot of as a Christian.

“Focus on God; He makes all things better.”
“Give God your time.”
“Tithe your time too.”
“Are you doing your devotions? They’re critical you know.”

The thing is, traditional devotions have never done anything more me except make me antsy and feel guilty that I’m not having amazing, huge revelations. And so I’d spend time with God in my own way. Like, journaling when I needed to vent to Him. Or praying in the car on the way to any one of the many places I travel in a week.

But, the thing is, I need to be more intentional than that. I need to sit down, expectant that God is going to meet me in whatever fashion He desires. I need to quiet my mind and just listen. Sure, having a Bible nearby is a good idea, but having my journal near by or my ipod with music is just as important. And I need to be still. I need to remind myself that He really is my first Love. I need to treat Him like that instead of just taking Him for granted.

I need Him to be first, my motivation.

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Peace

There are days when I’m like,”God, what do you have for me today?”

And there’s silence.

And yet, today anyway, there’s also a deep, gentle peace. Peace like a momma holding her two-year old sleeping baby girl.  Peace like a man holding his woman’s hand and just watching the sunset.  Peace like  quiet.  Peace like flowers silently unfurling.  Peace like a hug, or cookies and milk, or a beloved stuffed animal (or, in my case, pillow) snuggled tight.

Peace.

Be still. Breathe it in.  Hold it close.  Rest.

God is good, all the time.

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Fanta and Mirrors

In the last week, there have been a couple moments of simple beauty that struck me.

The first, I was stopped at a traffic light, waiting for the infernal red light to turn green, when three boys around the age of 12 come out of the corner gas station.  They all wore t-shirts and long, baggy, teenage boy shorts, and were each carrying a bottle of orange Fanta. They walked across the street and into the neighborhood of houses, and I no longer could see them.  I don’t know what it was about that sight, except that it felt precious, innocent, and rare to me.  Three boys just hanging out.  Friendship.  No technology in sight.  It was almost like a moment from the past reached into the present.  I wish more of my youth kids had moments like those – moments of pure friendship.  Moments of walking to the corner store to buy a soda after school.  Moments of hanging out and having conversation without technology somehow infringing on their bond.  And sure, these kids were probably headed to some basement where they would blow bad guys up for a couple hours.  But even that walk, to the store to get a Fanta, that was moment enough to actually build friendship.

It left me smiling for the rest of the day.

The second I again was in my car (I spend quite a lot of my time in my car these days).  I was driving by a small lake (pond in any other part of the country) and noticed how absolutely still the water was.  When I say it was a mirror, that there wasn’t a single ripple on the water, I’m not being metaphorical; I’m being quite literal.  I have never seen such still water.  I could see the reflection of every single tree and bush that graced the edge of the lake.  I could see every single cloud in the sky perfectly reflected in the water.  It was as if some giant had carefully placed a mirror on the ground.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  And I was reminded that I was made to reflect my savior as this lake was reflecting its surroundings.  I wondered how well I’ve been doing that recently.  Am I such a reflection as this pond?  Or am I a more stormy or muddy pond that is too anxious or contaminated to reflect His beauty well?

It was a pretty sight, and one that has challenged me.

I love when I notice the little moments; they are usually the ones that dig into me most, the ones I remember and stick with me.

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Come Thou Fount

A couple weeks ago I talked briefly about “ebenezer”s, and how we all need things (physical things) in our lives to remember what God has done.

Well, I think maybe “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” might be a theme for a while in my life. I’ll post the lyrics at the end, just in case you didn’t grow up in a liturgical church and have never heard this particular hymn.

Anyway, I say that because it has been an interesting week. It’s the week before I start back to school. There have been some absolutely fantastic and fun moments in it. There have also been several honest moments. And more than a few that left me emotionally drained and just finished.

But as I was driving home from work last night, briefly headed toward the mountains, the last glow of the sun leaving the mountains a pointy silhouette on the horizon, I saw a shooting star. You don’t see shooting stars much in city bounds, but I saw one last night.

And it reminded me that no matter what, no matter what was going on in my week, good or bad, memorable or simply ordinary, God is good; God loves me, and that is enough.

So, as I go into school and my already full schedule flexes to take on more reading and class attendance and paper writing, I need to remember that God is good.

He is to be our focus and motivation for everything. And as long as that is true, all might not be easy or comfortable or make others happy, but it can be good.

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

2.            Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

3.            O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

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Fog

I’ve had to drive in the fog a couple times in the last week. Which, in Colorado, is weird. I usually drive in the fog MAYBE once every six months; to have driven in the fog several times in the last months is completely weird and slightly global-warming-end-of-the-world-the-dinosaurs-are-going-to-return ish. Weird.

The point of me saying that though is that about the fourth trip into the mountains with fog clouding my view I began to wonder if God was trying to tell or teach me something. Rule of three – if three times something is mentioned, out of the blue, in some sort of weird circumstance, God’s probably trying to communicate something. I’m just not used to the rule of three applying to nature as well. Probably why it took me more than three…and someone mentioning fog in conversation completely separate from my driving experiences for me to take notice.

Anyway, as much as I love fog during the day, it can be rather intimidating at night. Fog during the day you can’t see stuff. Fog at night…well, you really can’t see trees looming at the side of the road or the occasional deer on the road or even the car one hundred feet a head of you.

And lately, this is how my life has felt. I have seen maybe a half step ahead of me, and while I take that step, it is kinda scary, and makes absolutely no sense and a tad bit unsettling.

But, as much as I might complain about my life being in the fog, I think I prefer it to being able to see everything. For instance, sometimes if we see how far we have to walk, if we see how far we have to go, we become paralyzed with how much we have to overcome before we reach our goal. Like climbing a tall mountain. We can see the summit, and it feels so far away and like we’ll never reach it.

And honestly, God works both ways. Sometimes we see the end, but not often. Sometimes we’re in the fog and have to trust Him about the next step on the road ahead of us.

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Here I raise my ebenezer

Ebenezer. I type that most people reading will think of an old, skinny dude with slightly used clothing who is always grumpy and grumbling about the cost of coal (thus, heat) and undigested potatoes. Or you think of a duck counting money.

But today is not about Ebenezer Scrooge, but about his name which, I suspect, Dickens might have given to him on purpose.

See, the word “ebenezer” is an actual thing. It’s a thing that you keep around to help you remember what God has done for you, or in you. So, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the promised land, and God had each of the 12 tribes pick up a stone and build an alter to remember what He did that day – He was asking them to build an ebenezer. He was asking them to remember what He had done for them.

God knows just how easily we humans forget things, especially during times of hardship or pain. And so, having things around to help you remember what God has done in you is incredibly important. Otherwise we begin to doubt God’s goodness.

No bueno.

As you begin this new year, think over last year. Where were you a year ago? How has God helped you grow? And then, figure out something to keep around to help you remember where He has brought you from.

For me, pictures are a big deal. Every year for the last four years (if you count this one too) at the beginning of January, I have gone through all the pictures I took of the year that just ended, and put them together in a memory book. Memories are important. Our journeys are important. The stuff God does in our lives – the big and the small, mundane everyday stuff that we might not even really notice – is important.

This year, take some time out to remember. Figure out an ebenezer – you’ll need it in the coming year. God is good, but sometimes we need reminders of just how good He is.

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