Category Archives: Relationships

“Love thy neighbor”

“And love your neighbor as yourself.”

The first time I actually thought about that verse must have happened sometime in middle school, because I remember thinking, “Huh, I can do better than that.  I don’t love myself, but I love others.  I can love my neighbor better than I love myself.”

I’ve heard quite a few sermons and theories about this particular verse over the years.  Everything from, “Well, it actually means to love yourself as you’d love your neighbor” to “You know, try to love yourself, try to love your neighbor” to “Love God, that’s what really matters”.

I wonder if loving ourselves is a uniquely Western culture problem (where very few people actually love themselves, actually are comfortable in their own skin – everyone just pretends) or if this is an age-old human problem.   I think maybe, if it were a universal problem, perhaps the scriptures would have been worded differently.  Maybe.

Because we pretend we love ourselves.  And sure, we’re selfish, we still take care of Number One before we take care of everyone else.  And if that’s what the scripture means – to take care of everyone else to the same extent that you take care of yourself – as some of my professors think – than it’s an easy scripture.  I mean, no not easy.   Taking care of someone else to the same extent that you take care of yourself, or protecting someone else as much as you protect your own well-being is never “easy”…but it’s rather surface-level if you ask me.

I have come to realize, over the years, that if I don’t “love myself”, than I can’t love others well.  And this gets tricky.  Because, yes, without fully being comfortable with whom I am, without liking my quirks, strengths and weaknesses, I can still be nice to people.  I can still be kind.  But…it is not the same as if I am fully embracing myself.  If I’m not a fan of who I am, I can only be nice or kind or giving or date someone so long before things start blowing up.  Whether I suddenly start showing my judgmental thoughts, or just stop showing up to hang out, or start getting super depressed (this is NOT the only reason for depression, mind you) or dependent on others or any number of super unhealthy things, something awful is going to show up.  Guaranteed.

But even bigger than that is the simple thing that love is generally meant to be reciprocated.  So, if you don’t love the person you are created to be, than how can you allow anyone else to love you (because yes, to some extent you have to allow and accept love from others)?  If you don’t love yourself, you can’t allow someone else’s love for you to really penetrate the depths of you that love is meant to penetrate.

The tricky thing is – that you can’t.  You just can’t love yourself, love the person you are, without God’s help.  Sorry.  It’s just not going to happen.   Only through the knowledge that you are Christ’s kid, and dearly loved by Him, specially created to have the quirks, strengths, weaknesses and passions you do, can you begin to really, truly, embrace the person you are.  And it is only by His strength in this world of brokenness that is trying to get you to believe the lie that you are never good enough and must be constantly doing something else; that you can even begin to accept the amazing being you have been created to be.

So, again, start praying.  Pray that God opens your eyes to see yourself as He sees you – as much as He’ll let you.  If we could see how deeply loved and precious we are in God’s eyes, than I’m pretty sure we’d be able to enjoy and hold close the person God is calling each of us to be.

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Moments

I have been troubled recently by how busy I am.  I am not proud of my busyness.  I do not think I am running from anything; I am not trying to avoid anything.  Yes, there is brokenness in me.  I experience acute loneliness, but I do not run from it, or ignore it, or deny it.  Not all of my relationships are what I would like them to be, nor are they all healthy, but I do not think I am running from them either.  If I have had one realization over the last ten months (I’ve had many, but one of the most obvious ones), it is just how very important relationships (family, friends, romance) are, and how incredibly crucial it is for us to enter into them as fully, as brokenly, possible.  We are to fight for them.

Not the point of today’s entry though, however.

My busyness bothers me.  When I picture who I want to be, the woman I feel called to be, my fullest self, I envision a woman with enough time to be spontaneous.  I don’t have that time, currently.  I envision many other things for that version of me, but living a slower life is the one aspect most incongruent with the current version of me (well, the part which bothers me the most).

So this afternoon, I was given a gift of an inconspicuous realization.  With an adorable, almost-two -year old princess on my lap, blowing bubbles and watching them float above the curves of purple bell flowers that I love so much, I realized sometimes a slower lifestyle is not so much in how busy we are, but in the willingness to slow down when the unplanned moment presents itself.  Watching one large bubble in particular float extra gently, with more grace than you would expect for a mere sphere of soap, ascend above the tips of the twilight lavender fairy-skirt flowers, the iridescent magenta orb popped, and then ceased to exist, I realized that in that moment, I was given the gift of a reflecting a bit more of the woman God originally thought up when He thought of me.  It was a beautiful moment of stillness, of buzzing bees, of feeling deeply, intimately loved.

I might not be able to leave my life of busyness right now.  I deeply want too.  But, until that time comes, I am going to start searching for more delicate bubble moments.  Moments to witness the fleeting bubble lives.  Moments to watch the pearl clouds sing the harmony of a luminescent full moon.  Moments to watch the yellow butterfly flitter around, delighting in the freedom of wings after being mere mush, unable to even walk, let alone fly, not so long ago.  Moments to wonder if that flying thing is a gigantic moth, or a bat with antennae.  Moments to delight in the song of the hummingbird, or the enticing fragrance of pine in the early mountain air.  These moments are more valuable than gold, or knowledge, or anything else physical that I might try to hoard.   These moments whisper lyrics of the woman my heart strains for and is being, ever so slowly, whisperingly sung into being.

 

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Be STILL, and KNOW that I am God…

Abide in ME….

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Time Treasure

It is late, and I have had a very long day, and I am in the middle of saying “good-bye” to two very special people who have been a huge part of my over the last five years and “hello” to two others who I suspect will become incredibly special to me as well.  I am in the middle of a whirl-wind of emotions.  Planning a sermon and parties and photo books on top of “normal” life.
I’m ready for things to slow down.  I’m ready for this craziness to end.
But not really, because when it does, I’m that much closer to saying good-bye to my two dear friends.
I’m learning how incredibly precious each and every moment I am given is.  I am realizing that I need to get better at simply enjoying and treasuring life – the crazy times, the heart-wrenching times, the tired times, the wonderful times, the every-day times.  I’m not good at this.  This is something I need to get better at, a gift God has given me that I need to learn to treasure.

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Living in a material world

On Wednesday, I was sitting in the last class I would have of a course, (yay!  Summer is here!)  and we were talking about volunteers in churches, or more accurately, problematic volunteers.
This particular discussion was about what to do with volunteers who cause pain and division among a congregation – because, unfortunately, it happens.  People want to serve in the church for all sorts of different reasons, and often, those reasons are selfish or poisonous (not that the volunteer realizes this, or has even taken the time to reflect on why she wants to volunteer).  We joked about how it would be so nice to have a list of the people who moved from church to church, causing destruction (because that happens), or how maybe we should warn whatever church they are going to next (assuming they tell someone – which they usually do), or how we should maybe call their previous church to see what their impact was, before allowing them to serve in our church.  Like, actually having references (and checking them) in order to volunteer with your church…or maybe even join the church.
Someone in my class likened it to sexual predators, saying that if they knew the person was a sex offender, and was going to another church, she’d warn the other church.  And everyone in the class seemed to agree.  But, everyone quickly followed up, only warn the other church THEN.  Not if the volunteer was causing spiritual or emotional pain, or even a split in the congregation.  You can’t warn the next church congregation victim of the destructive volunteer is the volunteer does ONLY spiritual or emotional damage to their previous church.
WHY IS THAT?
I mention this because I think it shows a fault in our physically-aware Western culture.  If someone is going to harm the physical side of another person, we do everything we can to stop it (as we should).  But if someone is known for causing spiritual harm, or emotional harm, well, the victim should just toughen up.  Distance themselves, if they can, sure, but often we Christians encourage them to stay in the painful, awful situation.
SERIOUSLY?
By saying that, we are saying that the physical part of a person is the most important, or most valuable part.  At least, that’s how I see it. Protect the physical part of people from those who would do harm, but if we know of other harm – our hands are tied.
GAH!!!
Assuming you believe in an afterlife, than you probably believe that physical body is not the part that lives on.  It is not the most important part of you.  Is it important?  Sure.  Are all the facets of who you are (physical, spiritual, emotional, mental – just to name the big ones) somehow intertwined with your physical body?  Yes.  If a man rapes a girl, is he somehow also harming her emotionally, spiritually, and mentally (despite the fact he’s only touching her physical body)?  More than likely – yes.
We put so much emphasis, so much importance, on the physical world.  On our bodies, on our possessions, what we can see, hear, taste, touch and smell.  We call this physical world Reality.  But the thing is, this Reality, this physical world, it’s not going to last.  Look around, decay is everywhere.  Western Culture’s Reality is crumbling, and crumbling quicker by the day.  And yet we cling to what our physical bodies can experience, ignoring the fact that God created us with other, more long-lasting parts.
Why is that?
We get so trapped up in this immediate world, that we forget to prep for the next.  We forget to protect the spiritual and emotional parts of us and of others.  We forget (or get too lazy) to stretch the mental parts of us.  The parts of ourselves that we can’t see, we forget matter.  And so they sit, curled up in the fetal position, in the corner of our existence, starving to death with skeleton-like faces and twig arms, too emaciated to even cry out.
Something needs to change.  Our priorities need to change.  The way we see the world, the way we experience the world, the way we view ourselves, needs to change.
Only God can change our perspective.  Only He can help us remember that the world we live in is more than a physical one, that who we are is more than a body and a mind.  But the change of perspective, the realization that this physical world is not the only layer of our existence, is vital.  It needs to happen.  Has to happen.  So pray.  Pray that God will change how you see yourself and others, and that you can be an influence in changing what others think is most important.

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Faces of God

I met with a Catholic priest this last week.
And for that to mean anything to you, you have to understand that while I have had a few brushes with Catholics (babysitting, amazing passionate roommates in college, awesome friends) I have never had a theological conversation with a Catholic priest.  I grew up in a Christian home, sure, but as I grew up my family always attended non-denominational churches…except for Christmas and Easter when we went to the Lutheran church my grandparents attended.  I don’t think I was ever of the opinion that Catholics aren’t Christians – like some people who grew up as I did.   I mainly knew Catholics went to “mass” instead of church, prayed to Mary, and had pictures of people with shiny, golden halos.  Obviously, I was rather uneducated.
And so, as an adult, to hear another member of the faith’s view of God, eternal life, and life in general, was pretty eye-opening for me.  To be taught a very little bit about how a Catholic views life and redemption and sins, was intriguing, encouraging, challenging.  The things that caught my attention most though, were the reverence and total commitment.  The wonderful man I spoke to had such a very different view of God.  This man was definitely committed to God; I sincerely doubt that he was in it for the money, fame, or glory (because, you know, there is so much money, fame or glory in true ministry).  There was just something … deep and solid about him.  And while I did not agree with all of the theological points he covered with me, I still walked away with a greater understanding and view of who God is.
books                I think this is important, and I think we do not do it enough.  We read books whose message we agree with.  We are friends with those who think as we do.  How often do we actually engaged in conversation someone, who while having the same fundamental beliefs as us, disagrees with our view of God.  How much of God are we missing out on because we think we understand Him completely and correctly, that we have no room for new ideas, or different sides of Him that we have never engaged?
For instance, I know that each of my friends brings out different parts of my personality.   While my foundational character never changes, the kids I work with bring out the goofy in me that some of my “grown-up” friends never see.  Not because I’m trying to hide the goofy side of me, but simply because nothing in their personality calls out the goofy in me.
I think the same is true of God.  It is imperative that YOU encounter Him in your life, engage Him with everything you are.  But also talk to other people about God – especially those you don’t see eye-to-eye with.  Learn how they experience God, learn what He has done for them, and HOW.
I often am a victim of my own experiences.  In that, because God worked one way with me, I expect Him to work the same way with everyone else.  But that’s not how God works.   He works differently through everyone.
And so, figure out how God works in someone else.  Talk to them about how they seem Him, and why.
Learn to see the different sides of God.  Learn to know God better, that you might love God better.

Now, it needs to be said while I am all for engaging different ideas, I in no way believe the whole “everyone gets to god in their own way, there are many paths, all religions talk about the same God” thing.  Nope.  None of that.  The only way to God is through Jesus.  He said so; incredibly clearly (John 14:6).  However, once you have the crucifixion, resurrection, and salvation as the foundation of your theology, there are many other less-important ideas that need to be discussed. 

Now, THAT being said, I am NOT saying, “Never talk to someone of a different religion”, because that’s not the case either.  Definitely talk to them.  Be friends with them.  We need that sort of friendship, and they do too.  

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Make or Break

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Relationships make or break life.  I’m serious.

Think about it.  In elementary school – what ruined your day?  It wasn’t if you got an “F” on the spelling test (if it was, your momma and I should have a talk).  It wasn’t if hot lunch was taquitos instead of the French Toast that was on the menu.  It was if you and your friends had problems. (Okay, so keep in mind I’m speaking from a girl’s point of view.  I have no idea about boys.  It might have been earth shattering if you didn’t get to kick the ball at recess if you’re a boy.)  But if you’re a girl, than you know that the worst thing that could happen was getting in a fight with your friend group.  You would go home in tears and even Mom’s pudding wouldn’t make things better.  The same was true of middle school, except the fights got nastier and lasted longer and were generally more public…in a quiet, whispery sort of way.  High school pretty much was a repeat of middle school, except there was less fighting (hopefully).  But, in high school, there was the additional stress of “boyfriend”.  Or lack of “boyfriend”.

And then there’s college.  Your roommate (or roommates) make or break college.  If you and your roommate get along, if you guys know how to talk stuff out, and actually deal, and know how to give each other space, but also how to get into each other’s space when needed, your year will be awesome.  I don’t care if you have the worst classes ever.  You like your roommate, you two click, your year will be good.  On the flip side, if you have the best classes ever, and even make some good friends, but don’t get along with your roommate, your year will be incredibly hard. In.cred.ib.ly. Holding on by the white of your knuckles hard.

And then you get to  “adult” life and relationships take a different tone.  You have work relationships.  And church relationships.  And friendships that have miraculously hung on through the years from college or earlier.  And maybe, even, a husband (or wife).  And those relationships are crazy important too.  Your relationships will make life fun and wonderful, or incredibly stressful and hard.

So, all that to say, take care of your relationships.  Whether they’re romantic or really deep friendships , or even family – take care of them.  Life is SO much more enjoyable when things are going smooth-ish. (even good relationships have bumps – and they should!  Otherwise they don’t grow!)

So, today, on a day when stores are packed with haggard-looking men desperate for the last rose left on the shelf, and the slightly beaten-up box of chocolates, maybe broaden the subject a bit.  Sure, romantic love is fun, and necessary, and it’s not the worst idea in the world to have a day reminding us of that.  BUT, it’s also a good day to look around at the relationships of all types that you have in your life and appreciate them…and maybe polish them up a bit.

Send your friend a text telling them what a great friend they are.  Give your mom (and maybe even your brother) a hug.  Spend a few minutes in quiet, listening to whatever it is God’s been trying to say to you for the last week that you’ve been too busy to listen to.  Buy that single, red rose for the one your heart adores.  Take the time to have hard conversations, and to say you’re sorry, and to just listen.

Relationships make or break your life.  So take the time to take care of them.

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“Once Upon A Time” instead of “Happily Ever After”

From the long, flowing, perfect hair that looks gorgeous even when wind-blown, to the teeny-tiny ten-inch circumference waists, to their dashing princes that come to their rescue and fall deeply, madly, head-over-well-shoed heals in love with their fair damsels, Disney Princesses have it made.  Or, we think they do.
As young girls we in the Western World watch their stories over and over, memorizing lines and songs, learning from a young age to dream of or wait for a Prince Charming that will come, rescue a girl from whatever her current trial is (cleaning her bedroom, doing homework, escaping from an emotionally unavailable father) and whisk her away on his white horse into the sunset – into their “Happily Ever After”.  And life will be perfect.  Any troubles will be gone – forever.  They will love each other perfectly.  He will fulfill any desires and expectations she has, and she will, of course, do the same for him.
In the Christian world, we dream that any sins we struggle with will also be instantly erased the magical minute Prince Charming or Disney Princess walks into our own story.  And so we create our own fairytale-endings, complete with white dresses, expensive parties, snappy clothing for our princes, and elaborate ceremonies with our kingdoms watching.  Because, after all, what’s not to celebrate?  Everything’s going to be grand now!
If only.
I think it’s about time we recognize that dating, engagements, aren’t an indicator that “Happily Ever After” (aka The Wedding) is about to happen.  “Happily Ever After”, folks, is when we’ve completed our time here, and we enter through those pearly gates (for the record, I have NO idea how gates can be made out of pearl; I’m pretty excited to see those.  Maybe it’s more like mother-of-pearl.  Either way – Gor-GEOUS!!!!).  The wedding is more like “Once Upon A Time”.
“Once Upon A Time” is the beginning (shocker, I know).  Once Upon A Time means there’s a story ahead.  A story full of frustration, hardship, obstacles to overcome, characters to get to know and to say good-bye to, character development, and love – much love.  Any good story has love at its center.  Maybe not romantic love, but love (for something OTHER than self) just the same.
I think maybe, if we start looking at weddings as “Once Upon A Time” expectations would be different, and maybe, more marriages would be saved.
Just sayin’.

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Wimpy King Arthur

Guinevere stood facing the audience, back to her husband, King Arthur (of the Round Table).  In other words – the air was thick with awkward tensions between the two, and the audience was holding its collective breath, waiting to see how King Arthur would respond to Queen Guinevere’s challenge.  She had just told Arthur that she would NOT do as he asked (give Lancelot her handkerchief as a token of her good wishes for the tournament tomorrow), unless, as her King, Arthur commanded her.  And then, she begged him, to not command she give her token to Lancelot, but to him, himself – Arthur (even though he would not be fighting).  The audience could see on Guinevere’s face that she wanted Arthur to admit he was jealous (an accusation she’d previously declared and he’d denied) and command her to give HIM the token of her affection.

Arthur stood there for a moment, staring at his feisty and attention-loving wife’s back and all the air that was puffing up his angry chest, left him as quickly as if he’d been punched in the gut.  You could see the pain and conflict on his face.  He was Arthur, King of the Britons, Leader of the Knights of the Round Table, the most chivalrous, civilized man around.  He was a leader, a manly man.  But when it came to women – most notably his wife – he was a coward.  He could not tell her that he WAS incredibly jealous; he could not command her to only give tokens of affection to him.  He told her to do as she wished, and then walked off.

And Guinevere’s heart broke.

And, in that moment, Camelot began to fall.

There’s a reason women – especially the good ones – have this stereotype of going for the “bad guys”.  It’s because there’s this sense about them that they’ll fight for us, and for their relationships – and that desire was built into women.  We want a man who will fight for us (dragons and school-yard bullies and the man behind the counter who is being a jerk to us while we’re in the process of renewing our driver’s license).  And we want a man who will fight for our relationship (even if that means the occasional fight WITH us).

Unfortunately, there aren’t many men out there like that.  Some hide behind “manly” jobs – like firefighting or being a policeman or fighting for someone else’s rights in the courtroom…but when it comes to something closer to home, like their own relationships, they don’t fight.  They don’t say what needs to be said, or do what needs to be done.

And this breaks our hearts.

Now, not EVERY man is a coward.  There are some out there that will say the hard things (gently) in a relationship, in order to keep it healthy.  There are some men that will fight our dragons (whether they’re actual dragons, or simply stubborn whimsies in our heads).  But those men are few and far between.  But they are worth waiting for.

So wait for them, women.

Don’t give up, he’s coming for you – in God’s perfect timing (that’ s part of fighting for you too).   But make sure, before you hand over your heart to him, that he’s not faking being an actual man – hiding behind a manly career or a great relationship with God.  Make sure he’ll fight for you, and for your relationship.

And men, speak up.  Fight!

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