Sunday, February 26, 2012

What is THIS thing called, Love?

For a moment, forgetting the challenge of reflecting intonation in writing. I attempt to ask, which is the proper question? "What is THIS thing called, Love?" Or, "What is this thing called 'LOVE'?"  I first heard the former question from a comedian pretending to allude to something private. The implication is that it should, of course, be the latter usage that is appropriate.  I still chuckle at the pun. Then again...

When I was in my late teens, I did some not-so-nice things.  In my late-twenties and early-thirties, I heard about Positive Thinking. Now, as a 'certain amount of time has passed,' I fully believe in the Lord.  I believe and trust that scripture is the Word of God as He chose to reveal Himself. I also came to believe that Positive Thinking isn't necessarily obsolete for a Christian.  Consider this...

We are encouraged to engage in a form of 'Positive Thinking' in scripture.  Take the book of Philippians, verse 4:8 (ESV), which says (enumeration mine):
"Finally, brothers,
1) whatever is true,
2) whatever is honorable,
3) whatever is just,
4) whatever is pure,
5) whatever is lovely,
6) whatever is commendable,
7) if there is any excellence,
8) if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things."

I must say it sounds lovely (#5) just to be told to think about these things!  Gladly!! You got it! But, as I began to ponder, I find the exercise is not so easy. Rather than immediately dreaming and beaming, I find myself asking:

1) What is true?
2) What is honorable?
3) What is just?
4) What is pure?
5) What is lovely?
6) What is commendable?
7) Is there is any excellence?
8) Is there is anything worthy of praise?

I find, then, that the question that is the subject of this post is, in fact, appropriate after all. "What is THIS thing called, Love?"  I would LOVE to solicit feedback from you the reader before I expound upon my ponderations. Any takers?

Friday, February 17, 2012

When I Don't Know What to Write, I Read What I Wrote

When I don't know what to write, I read what I wrote. When I read what I wrote, I'm amazed at how enthusiastic I was about writing.

Yet, I notice huge gaps of time between my posts on this blog. Huge gaps! My introduction to 'Write to Heal', for example, made it sound like I was going to write every few minutes. But, I did not, as evidenced herein.

Why not? Four reasons stand out:
  1. I don't know what to write, 
  2. I write elsewhere other than this blog, 
  3. I'm not making and taking the time to write, and 
  4. I'm embarrassed that my journey through life and Christianity isn't perfected and I will be judged by those who know me. This is a big one and a reason for the others.
I do believe what I have to say will resonate with a few. There will be those who appreciate what I've written and shared. Therefore, I'm encouraged and I write.

But, those few are not likely to be the ones most vocal in my life. Rather, it's my perceived judgment of this latter group that scares me. I fear being honest and vulnerable in my writing because I fear repercussions. It keeps me from writing personally and genuinely because I'm too busy validating my own shame based on someone else's opinion of me.

Yet, as time goes by, each day, I realize more fully that I am in Christ, and Christ is in me, and the Father is me, and I am in Him just as Christ is in Him and He is in Christ.

In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:20)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

The good news is I've gone through various worldly disappointments. I had hoped for deeper earthly acceptance and greater success, but I'm met with little, by worldly standards anyway. This is indeed "good news" because I've learned and still learn not to put my hope and trust in the world.

I've come to accept circumstances that were out of my control, instead of trying to force my preferred result. I've come to accept people for who they are, and acknowledge my inability to change others, instead of trying to force my thoughts, methods, and standards on them.

I thought I needed to be treated a certain way in order to feel loved. I needed to hear my love language spoken. The silence, however, has made me realize, more than anything, that real love comes from God, and I find love in what I give, rather than what I get.

Familiar with Psalm 23? If not entirely, I've pasted it below. 

I'd like to focus on just a tiny phrase of just one verse for now: my cup overflows. Here's the ironic thing I learned about love; I feel loved when I love others from a pure heart, and I am able to love others from a pure heart because God first loved me.

Therefore, I've learned, rather, am learning, imperfectly, to seek God first. Know Him. Pray to Him. Treasure His precious words of revelation to me in scripture.

Let His words be my, and your, 'Revelations For Life'. Amen!

Psalm 23:1-6

A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Reflection Time!

“It is not about me!” I found myself repeating that phrase to myself a few times on Saturday, my birthday. What a depressing weekend! It started off great at Men’s Bible Study, but went downhill fast when my wife and I started talking about budget-related items. Earlier, the Bible Study leader had invited us to attend a Couples Dinner at the church that evening. We went, almost reluctantly. Bruce McCracken gave an introduction to his Seasons of Marriage weekend seminar. It was convicting at a time I didn’t want it.

Sunday was even worse. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, and mostly didn’t. By nighttime, my wife thought I was mad at her, even though I told her how I felt during our little break between Sunday school and morning service at our church (a different one): depressed, like a huge disappointment to my family, and slight headache. I don’t know what to think now. But this is certainly not the time to bring up issues either. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. (This was written yesterday, 2/13.)

“Whether I feel like it or not…” is probably an applicable phrase for me in many respects. “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her… whether you feel like it or not.” “Be anxious for nothing… whether you feel like it or not.” “Pray without ceasing… whether you feel like it or not.” “Confess your sins… whether you feel like it or not.” “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect… whether you feel like it or not.” “Love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength… whether you feel like it or not.” “Love your neighbor as yourself… whether you feel like it or not.” Let feelings be the result, not the motivation. Let His love be the driver.

It complements my earlier statement, “It’s not about me!” But I should not leave it there. It is about Christ! His love will motivate me! Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, but be filled with the Holy Spirit. I love because He first loved me.

Therefore, I am able to love my wife, children, in-laws, regardless of the love I receive back from them. God has pasted the “Here You Are” label to my life and, just as the kid looking at the museum directory sign, I should be astonished that He knows this, and rest in the comfort of His provisions graced to me in my present circumstances.

I should also keep in mind how I would want to evangelize to others. I want to show my reasonableness, Christ’s love, and His assurances. It would be stupid to start with condemnation, commands, and judgments. Yet, that is exactly what I do with my own family: condemn, command, and judge. “Come to me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest for your souls,” says Jesus. Lead others to His gentle ways.  Let them find rest for their weary souls in Him.

Lastly, just because I don’t feel it doesn’t mean it’s not real. There was a time that His word did not make sense to me. But it was very real nevertheless. Be real. Be genuine. Be useful to Him. Do not bury my talent. Love others with His love, not my own. Soak and baste in His love, then I will have more than enough to give away, and find I love others whether or not I feel loved by them.