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Posts Tagged ‘Love’

My grandfather had no use for churches, but he paraphrased Jesus all the time, whether he knew it or not.  One of his favorite sayings was, “When you point your finger at someone, just remember that there are three fingers pointing back at yourself.” 

Jesus said that, too.  Not exactly like that, but He said it.

There has been a lot of finger-pointing going on at my house this week by all four members of my family.   (Is there a full moon?)  At our dinner table, fingers are pointing north, south, east and west.

And I think I might just go bananas over it.

My grandfather wasn’t much of a talker.  He preferred to listen.  Unsnapping the pocket of his western shirt to dig out a cigarette, he’d light up, then, elbows on the table and calloused hands clasped, listen to the conversation going on around him.  Occasionally, he would come out with a well-timed joke, but he didn’t give his opinion much, even if you asked for it.

There are plenty of opinions expressed at our table, and sharply at that.

To my knowledge, my grandparents never locked their front door.  The protocol was to knock on your way in, and shout, “Helloooo?  Anybody home?”

“None but us chickens,” came the reply, and the greetings, and the joviality, and the eating of Sunday morning pancakes would commence.

Our door opens by appointment.

How can I change all this – the finger-pointing, opinion-bellowing and guarded welcoming?

Oh, yeah.  Three fingers pointed back at me…

Great.  That means I need to look at my behavior at least three times before I look at someone else’s.  That means I need to remove that two-by-four sticking out of my eye before I can see well enough to remove the fleck of sawdust from another person’s eye.  That means I need to listen to other people’s opinions rather than being intent on defending my own.

And it means my door should be open, just in case Jesus drops by for pancakes.

 My grandparents

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  (Luke 6:42, NIV)

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Most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, would do just about anything to get it.  We’ve starved ourselves for it, eaten ourselves into oblivion for lack of it, chased after it, played coy with it, shut it out and shut it up.  And we have paid dearly for it. 

That we would both crave and reject love is understandable.  The world has perverted it from every direction.  We can so easily be distracted from the still, small Voice that speaks the truth of it by the seductive lure of shiny-but-ultimately-phony promises.

Perhaps we are afraid of it.  We have felt its power.  We know the cost of it all too well.  Easier, we think, to ignore it, to feign apathy, to pretend that we wouldn’t bleed for it all over again if we could only find it pure and trustworthy.

The one thing we don’t seem to be able to do with it is receive it.

Our savvy eye scans for the “catch,” the “hook.”  We reason that if we take the bait, we will be caught, hooked, gasping for life. 

We refuse to believe that the purest form of it is free for the asking, that He has done the bleeding for us, that despite all the false representations of it we have purchased, it cannot be bought.

It can only be accepted with open hands.  It can only be held by the letting go of it.  It can only be stored by the sharing of it.  It can only be understood by the heart.

Beloved, you are not the caught.  You are the bought.  Cease the feverish search.

You are loved.

Truly, madly, deeply.

Loved.

 loved

“The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17, NKJV)

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Sometimes a holiday break can be one day too long.  Such was the case at our house this Thanksgiving weekend.  One daughter had a bad day.  The other daughter provoked her.  The wronged daughter decided to show her displeasure by defacing a piece of our property.  A valuable piece of property.

My husband got “that look.”  His jaw was set about two inches farther outward than usual, his eyes narrowed, and his breath shortened.  I suggested that he take a moment to compose himself before responding.

Through clenched jaw and gritted teeth, he replied, “You handle this.”

Well, we handled it together.  After a coarse tongue-lashing, the offender was sent to her room so that we could discuss her sentence.

Once we had vented, we mulled our options.  There was so much damage done to the property that even if we held back her allowance for an entire year, it wouldn’t be enough money to fix it.  Oh there would be consequences, but we realized that this is one debt she cannot re-pay.  It is too big.

We went to her room to deliver said consequences.  She was utterly torn up with guilt and shame.  I was stomach-sick for her.  I know how it feels to wish with all your heart that you could take back something that you did or said.  We still had to discipline her, but we also told her that we love her, and nothing she could do would ever take that away. There was a tearful apology, forgiveness was extended and hugs exchanged.

So this is what it must feel like to God, I thought.  Maybe like me with my daughter, He is stomach-sick over what we’ve done and the pain we’ve caused ourselves.  We’ve done so much damage that there is no way for us to re-pay the debt.   It is too big.

This is it.  This is the reason for Jesus.  This is the reason He came. 

He comes now to blot out our mess.  He comes to make us right once again, to wipe our tears, to give us comfort and to extend forgiveness.  He has paid our overwhelming debt. 

Remember His gift as you enter Advent, and prepare with a grateful heart.

Remember to extend grace, love and forgiveness to all.

And if you are suffocating under a blanket of shame, throw it off.  The debt has been paid. 

Remember?

paid in full

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”  (Romans 13:8, NIV)

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I saw a quote on a church marquis this week that has stuck with me.  It read, “Thanksgiving is good.  Thanks-living is better.”  True words.  Am I thankful?  Yes.  Am I living my thankfulness?  Well, I’m going to have to examine that one.

Here is my take on Thanks-living:

Thanksgiving is being mindful of your blessings.  Thanks-living is being mindful of the needs of others.

 

Thanksgiving is thanking God for your bountiful blessings.  Thanks-living is sharing your bounty with others.

 

Thanksgiving is naming your blessings.  Thanks-living is naming the Giver.

 

Tomorrow, as you enjoy time with family and friends, as you name your blessings one by one, as you reflect on lessons learned and wisdom gained, may you discover more ways to live out your gratitude in response to God, whose love and goodness never end.

Happy Thanks-living!

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”  (1 Chronicles 16:34, ESV)

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We were already late for church.  In two cars (because my husband was going to stay after for a meeting) we drove fast, trying to make up for lost time.  As we approached an intersection, something didn’t look right: an overturned scooter, a helmet on the ground, and a man sprawled on the asphalt.

Another man parked in his SUV was calling 9-1-1 on his Bluetooth.  My husband and I pulled over to see if we could help.  The SUV man didn’t get out of his vehicle, but spoke to the downed man through his window.

Suddenly, our priorities shifted from what was urgent (getting to church on time) to what was truly important (helping this man, who was in terrible pain).

I suppose because I am female, I could get away with this: I knelt next to him and held his hand.

Now, I am not a touchy-feely person.  Though I feel much affection for others, my physical boundaries are usually pretty tight.  But this time, something was different… 

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Darren,” he said.  “My ankle hurts.”

I looked at his ankle, and saw an angle where there shouldn’t be one.  “Darren, if you want to squeeze my hand, that’s just fine.”

We talked, and I held his hand until help arrived.

What is wrong with me? I wondered.  Why did it take an accident for me to step outside of my boundaries?  And what was so different this time?

Jesus showed up.

By myself, I am a miserable excuse for a Christian.  I don’t, can’t, or won’t love others the way I should.  I concentrate on my own needs, instead of those of others.  But there are times when Jesus ignores our selfishness, puts us on like a pair of work gloves, and gets the job done. 

What if we were “Jesus gloves” all the time? 

Would you hold a stranger’s hand if it were a different color than yours?  Would you ask his sexual orientation first?  Would it matter if she wore a burka?  According to Jesus, we are to love our neighbor – and if we are humans, we are neighbors.  Period.

That morning, we were no longer two people who wouldn’t normally hold hands: an uptight, middle-aged lady in church clothes and a younger man with machine grease on his hands and a busted up leg.  We were humans having an encounter with Jesus.

“The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Galatians 5:14, NIV)

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In my husband’s family, there are several people by the same name.  There is a James, a James Paul, a James Stephen, a Stephen, a Paul, and two Davids.  And that’s just on his father’s side.  The only way I can keep everyone straight is to play a mental game of “Who’s your daddy?”

I have been a member of this family for seventeen years, but this weekend at a family reunion was the first time I had met many of them.  Seeing their faces next to those of their parents helped me to understand who is who, based on their similar appearance.  (OK, the nametags helped, too.)

All the people gathered at this event were connected by DNA, or by marriage.  We were all related, either way.  There was acceptance just because we’re family.

My daughters made instant friends of their cousins.  Having the same last name meant that the awkward stages of friendship were foregone.  They all knew they belonged, so they simply went about the business of being friends.

Hmmmm…

I forget sometimes that we are all family.  I’m not talking about people with the same last name.  I’m talking about all of us in God’s family.    

This means that every single person I come in contact with is my brother or sister – even the people who cut me off in traffic, who talk too loudly on their cell phones, who look different than me, who are homeless, who have annoying habits, or who just make me mad.   God says they are His children, too.  Family.

I have to ask myself, do I treat everyone like family? 

I wish I could say that I do, but I probably treated the family members I just met better than I treat others – especially the ones that bug me.

I want to look like my Father.  I want the family resemblance to be unmistakable.  I want people to see His acceptance in my eyes, His compassion in my face, and His love through my actions.  Oh, I have so far to go…

Who’s your daddy?

Do you look like Him?

We are family.

family

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  (1 John 3:1 NIV)

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There is a dance we do.  It is one of beginning, ending, holding on, and letting go.  It goes on continuously, person to person.  One person’s beginning is another’s end.  They both hold on, they both let go.  Until recently, I didn’t know I was dancing, too.

I’ve seen other people dancing.  Two people I know lost their mothers this week.  Another friend took her child to pre-school for the last time before kindergarten.  One mother I know won’t watch her son graduate because she lost him to a car accident.  One friend celebrated the marriage of her son even as she released him to his new life. 

Holding on, letting go…

My daughter asked if I would please take her and a friend shopping – and then let them be alone.  I could almost hear the snip of the scissors as the first cuts were issued upon the apron strings.  Don’t laugh at me, but I was surprised.  I mean, sure, I wanted autonomy when I was thirteen, but this is different, right?  Ha.

So begins an ending.  If I’m to be a good mother, I not only have to accept this, but actually help her break away.  This is my job.

The beginnings and the holding on are fun; the endings and the letting go, not so much.  But it doesn’t have to be devastating.  The key is to hold onto the right things.

I used to think I could do everything myself.  I strove to be self-sufficient, independent, and beholden to no one.  (Don’t try this at home.  It doesn’t work, and it leads to more pain in the end.)  Now, I am absolutely dependent on God.  Because I hold onto Him, I am able to let go. 

I can begin the ending of my parenting.  I can release friends who move away.  I can let go of anger, grudges and bad habits.  I can give up expectations.  As I hold tightly to Him, I can begin, end, hold on and let go.

I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy.  I get in my own way a lot, and I do frequent battle with my control issues.  But when I am successful at letting go of everything else but Him, contentment follows.

So today, hold onto Him.

Let go of all else.

And don’t be afraid to dance.

a pre-school graduation

 

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  (Deut. 31:8, NIV)

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