A Borrowed Post for This March 17

It is St. Patrick’s Day. I dutifully wore green and ate my corned beef and cabbage. I also watched Edward Scissorhands again (which really has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day or what comes next but is still one of my favorite movies).

I thought I’d share what I read this morning that spoke to me about the fellowship of the wounded and broken:

“Some of us tend to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say: “Well, I don’t have time to fix it, I might as well throw it in the garbage can and buy a new one.” Often we also treat people this way. We say: “Well, he has a problem with drinking; well, she is quite depressed; well, they have mismanaged their business…we’d better not take the risk of working with them.” When we dismiss people out of hand because of their apparent woundedness, we stunt their lives by ignoring their gifts, which are often buried in their wounds.

We all are bruised reeds, whether our bruises are visible or not. The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true community is a fellowship of the weak” (Henri Nouwen).

What do we do with those whose brokenness is more apparent than ours? How do we treat those who are less adept at hiding their weaknesses and failures?

I still love that Jesus didn’t just tolerate those who were outcast and broken. He often went out of HIs way to find them and bring them into His community. He laid hands on the lepers and spoke to the unmentionables. He loved those who couldn’t even love themselves, much less anybody else.

I still believe that these accounts of Jesus’ aren’t just for a lovely bedtime story or only to stir up sentimental feelings. It’s the ultimate example for all who follow after. It’s a blueprint for how to love those same people in our own lives.

Is it even possible? Not in my own strength. Not in yours.

It is only possible when we have fully received and embraced that same love for ourselves, acknowledging that we ourselves are broken and wounded. Only then can we truly love others in the unconditional way of Jesus’.

 

 

I Hate Goodbyes

I hate goodbyes.

Even though part of me knows that the ending of one thing often brings the beginning of something new and better, I still want to hold on to the old.

Even though part of me realizes that nothing on this side of eternity can last, I still want little pockets of my life to stay the same, for certain people in my life to always stay the same age and never get older. That’s probably the same part of me that still thinks fat ol’ Santa climbs down the chimney to bring me my presents.

Goodbyes are never easy. Tonight was no exception.

We said goodbye to Mike Glenn as Kairos pastor. I understand that it was time for a change. I understand that Kairos needed fresh blood and a new vision. I understand that you can’t keep doing things the same old way year after year and hope for different outcomes.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think it sucks.

People who have been out there in the dating world know how hard it is to say goodbye to relationships. Sometimes even to the dream of a relationship. It’s gut-wrenchingly hard to say goodbye to loved ones who pass away, like aunts and uncles and parents. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to say goodbye to your child.

The part that I keep holding on to when unexpected (and sometimes unwanted) change comes is that there is no goodbye in God’s love for me. There is no end to that enless love that won’t let me go. It even holds on to me when I’m doing everything in my power to let go of it.

I can’t envision a scenario in any future where goodbye will ever be an easy word to say. I don’t want to ever get used to saying goodbye.

I know when it comes to my Abba Father and His unconditional extravagent love for me, I never will.

 

 

What Love Is

“Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all” (Joni Mitchell)

It’s Valentines Day, a. k. a. Single Awareness Day. It’s great for those who are in relationships (or who still have great hopes of relationships). For those who are perpetually single who spend way too much time with their cats? Not so much.

Still, I’ve been around enough to know what real love is and is not. So I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the matter.

Love is not a feeling. Well, it is, but it’s so much more than that. I heard a pastor today say that love involves the head, the heart, and the hands. Love is primarily a choice, an act of the will– that’s the head. It’s also emotions– that’s the heart. It always leads to acts of selflessness– that’s the hands.

Love is not just romantic. There’s brotherly love and comfort love and– best of all– that unconditional love that always starts and ends with God.

If I say I love someone, that means more than a warm fuzzy feeling or a Hallmark sentiment. It is a decision to place that person’s welfare above my own, to do everything in my power to help that person realize all their potential and help them to become everything God created them to be.

That’s love.

If you want to define love, you begin and end with God’s ultimate expression of Himself in the person of Jesus. He gave up absolutely everything for you and me. His sacrifice forever set the tone of what true love should look like.

I believe love isn’t Romeo and Juliet dying for passion, but the old couple down the street growing old together. it’s the man with arthritis painting the toenails of his wife who has Alzheimer’s and can’t begin to repay him, much less express thanks for what he’s done.

Love is always sacrifice. Ultimately, love means you give without expecting anything in return. The final word on love is Jesus dying on a cross for people who would ultimately reject His sacrifice and many more who accept it and then take it for granted. Yet, that love perseveres.

That’s love. I don’t completely understand all of it, but I know that I can only love someone else if God first loved me and His love in me flows out to the other person.

I definitely know I want more of it.

 

 

That Mr. Irrelevant Again

I watched some of the NFL draft today. It’s interesting to see who gets picked where and when and by whom. Plus, you get the joy of seeing the experts’ predictions blown up. You see people who stay up late at night worrying about these kinds of things prognosticating on how these players will either be a great pick or a bust.

As always, the very last pick, around number 256, of the very last round of the draft is called Mr. Irrelevant. Usually, players who don’t get picked up until that point don’t make the final roster of the NFL team that picked them.

I love the fact that no one is Mr. (or Mrs.) Irrelevant to God. God loves each person as if he or she were the only person in the whole world to love. And yet He loves every single person that way. I can’t fathom that, yet I’m nowhere close to being infinite. I can’t even love the very few (in comparison) people in my life with anything close to complete and unconditional love.

At times, other people may make you feel irrelevant. It may or may not be intentional, but the hurt is the same either way. You may feel that what you do and who you are don’t matter to anyone and that maybe the world would be better off without you in it. The feelings may not be true, but that doesn’t stop them from feeling real.

Try this. Read John 3:16. Where it says “the world,” insert your name. For me, it would go something like this, “For God so loved Greg, that He gave His one and only Son, that if Greg believes in Him, He shall not perish.”

Remember that Jesus thought you were to die for. You matter to Him immensely. That’s something to remember on those nights when you feel alone and unwanted.

 

Real Love

“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

Love. It gets talked about quite a lot these days. We talk about how we love our spouses and children. We also say how much we love oreos or vanilla ice cream. We use the same word for the people whom we pledged to spend the rest of our lives with as we use for food groups.

The Greek language has four words for love. I won’t get all technical on you, but basically those words in English are companionship (between people or even between a person and his or her dog), friendship, erotic/sexual/romantic love and unconditional love. The last kind is a kind that only originates from God and while we may say we love others with this kind of love, it’s really God loving those people through us.

Love is more than a feeling. It’s definitely more than the sappy lyrics to any of the multitude of syrupy love songs you’ll hear on the radio. Real love is an action, a choice, a verb. It means you always act toward the best interests of the beloved, whether you feel like it or not.

If love is a feeling, then it won’t last, because no feeling lasts forever. But if love is a choice, then you can always keep choosing to love and keep choosing to act lovingly even when you don’t feel love.

 

 

In His Own Words

image

I thought it fitting on a day set apart to celebrate the legacy of one Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I shouldn’t try to speak for him, but instead let his own words speak for themselves.

I found this excerpt of a speech he gave in accepting the Nobel Peace award in 1964. I hope it resonates with you like it did with me:

“I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. ‘And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.’ I still believe that WE SHALL OVERCOME!”

The Love of God Revisited

“Take your human feelings, multiply them exponentially into infinity, and you will have a hint of the love of God revealed by and in Jesus Christ.  With a strong affirmation of our goodness and a gentle understanding of our weakness, God is loving us – you and me – this very moment, just as we are and not as we should be.  There is nothing any of us can do to increase his love for us and nothing we can do to diminish it” (Brennan Manning).

Tonight at Kairos, I got a much-needed reminder about the unconditional love of God for me.

It’s easy for me (and I’m sure you as well) to get caught up in the trap of a performance-based view of love and then transfer it to God. It goes like this:

If I live right, God will love me more.

If I read my Bible more, God will love me more.

If I tithe more, attend church services more, treat people better, and so on and on. . . .

The truth is that if I never read my Bible one more time, God’s love for me would remain undiminished (thanks to Michael Boggs for that gem of a reminder).

The truth is that the nature of God as love means that He cannot love any less than perfectly anymore than He can be anything less than 100% holy or 100% righteous. So He is 100% loving toward you and me.

The catch is that He chooses to love me when He doesn’t have to. He chooses to love you simply because it is His pleasure and His delight. It’s nothing that you and I bring to the table or anything about us that makes us lovable. Only the love of God in us and for us can make us lovable.

A dangerous prayer to pray (that may not seem dangerous) is to ask God to show you just how much He loves you. Your mind won’t be able to contain the answer. After all, it is beyond human comprehension or understanding.

As always, let that love be what defines you, not what your friends say or think, what your annual job performance review tells you, what your level of success and influence tells you, or anything like that. You are not defined by marital status, career, finances, popularity, or even religious standing.

Only God’s love has the power to define (or redefine) you, heal you, save you, and transform you into something worth loving.

Oh, and one more thing. I’m not loved this much to hoard it all. I’m loved so that I can receive it and turn around and love those around me the same way. In fact, the true measure of how I’ve really received the love of God is how well I share it with those around me who need it most but deserve it least.

Just think about that for a while and see if it doesn’t blow your mind.

Stardust and Thoughts About True Love

 

I’m no expert on love. At least not the romantic kind.

I do think that while movies often get love wrong, sometimes they hit the nail on the head when it comes to what true love really looks like.

In Stardust, one of the main characters talks about love. She says that true love is unexpected, uncontrollable, and very often can be mistaken for loathing. I don’t know about that.

She also says that true love should be unconditional. You shouldn’t have to earn it or prove it. I think she’s right.

True love is when someone loves you for just you. Not who you might one day become or who you hope to be. True love doesn’t wait until you measure up or get all your flaws fixed.

I know enough to know that love isn’t all moonlit walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Love is work, because love is an active verb that requires action. Love transcends emotions and does the best for the beloved, regardless of whether it feels like it or not.

Love is God becoming a man to take my place in a punishment my sins deserved to die a death that should have been mine. Love says that I was worth it. Love not only said it, but backed it up on a cross.

Sometimes, love isn’t pretty. Sometimes, love means laying down your life for someone else. Even if that means a gory death on an instrument of torture. We romanticize Jesus’ death on the cross to make it more palatable, but it was anything but. It was messy, it was shameful, it was horrific.

And it was for us. That’s the ultimate example of true unconditional love that has been or ever will be.

That’s the kind of love I want to receive. That’s the kind of love I want to show.

The Kind of Friend I Want to Be

I get it. I’m an idealist at heart. I have good motives (most of the time), but lousy execution (some of the time). On the way home from Movies in the Park, I got to thinking again what kind of friend I want to be. I apologize in advance if some or all of this is a repeat.

I want to be that friend who never gives up on you. I want to extend forgiveness and second chances to you as many times as God did for me. Which is quite a lot, I can tell you.

I want to be that friend who believes the best in you even when you can’t see it yourself. I’ve had those friends who did that for me. I have a God who does that better than anyone else.

I want you to be better because of me. I want to do everything in my power to help you become every part of who God made you to be. I want to see you realize all of God’s dreams for you. And believe me, His dreams for you are bigger and more amazing than anything you or I could come up with.

Maybe it’s selfish of me, but I do this out of my own need. These are all things I long for in my friends, so maybe the first step is me becoming all of those things to the people I call friends.

Obviously, the most healthy relationships are built out of wholeness and completeness, not neediness. But I do think we help each other to become whole and healthy and complete by friendships based on forgiveness and unconditional sacrificial love.

If I try too hard sometimes and get a bit Steve Urkel on you, I apologize. Like I said, my good motives are sometimes executed poorly. Sometimes, I get carried away with the posts and texts and messages. But it’s from a good place of wanting to encourage and bless you, so just remind me to take a pill and give me grace, ’cause I always stand in need of it.

I’m getting better. I am learning that you can’t fill my needs and validate me as a human being. Only God can do that. Once you learn that, you are free to be the kind of friend you always wanted.

As my friend and fellow blogger always says, “You think about that.”