The Nature of Love

“The truth is the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their faults.”

I came across this quote on Facebook today. There are a lot of truths in this statement and flowing from it. It explains why so few marriages last, why family vacations are so tough, why you don’t want to get stuck in a crowded elevator, and why true love is so great.

True love doesn’t grow out of a satisfactory evaluation of the good versus bad traits of the person loved. If that were true everyone would love the perfect people and no one would love you and me. True love seeks and relishes intimacy. It’s not turned off by the faults uncovered because it’s overcome by the goodness discovered. It’s not a goodness that was alway present,  but one that is created. Love marvels at how the power of grace can both forgive and then correct imperfection. True love can only exist in the presence of Christ, because only He brings the miracle of grace which makes intimate relationship not only possible but marvelous.

True love is truly supernatural. Without Jesus and His grace, there can be acceptance and compromise. We can learn to take the good with the bad. With Him, we can have more. The bad can become good. Without Him, we can never have deepening intimacy because we know we will eventually stumble into darkness too deep to accept. With Him, we can become closer and closer and move deeper and deeper because we know there is no darkness His light can’t penetrate and eliminate.

Not only is true love not possible without Jesus, but being truly loved also requires Him. Without Jesus we are too self-centered, too needy for control, too hopelessly evil to be the vulnerable, accessible persons we must be to be intimately loved. The more we are truly loved, the more willing we are to grant access, to reveal the struggles, to join in the release of them to God.

God is love, not just because He embodies all that love is; but also because He makes love possible between the creatures He created to love and  be loved.

Renewed

Graham Smithzž·z ¸q–¯m“ä 5îA{

While scanning Facebook for no particular reason, feeling pretty low and oppressed, I came across an obituary of a man I knew. I can’t say I knew him well. He was a lawyer I had dealings with. I knew he was a Christian. His obituary is written in part in the first person. Here are some quotes:

“By God’s grace, I had a totally unexpected encounter with His love back in 1986. Life has never been the same since, for which I am deeply grateful. I’m a convert to Catholicism but first of all, a committed follower of the Risen King of Kings, Jesus Christ.  I spend a lot of time thinking, writing, and talking about how to introduce others to Jesus, the most important person they’ll ever meet! ”

It’s very significant to me that I always knew Graham as a Christian. He was an accomplished lawyer and broadcaster, but I knew him as a Christian. I know his obituary to be true in that he did spend a lot of time thinking, writing and talking about how to introduce others to Jesus. If you knew Graham, you knew about his faith. He wasn’t shy about it; but he wasn’t obnoxious about it either.

I pray that when I am called home I am remembered as someone who was a follower of Christ who spent time thinking, writing, and talking about Jesus. Graham, there were many times I thought of you and started to drop you an email or give you a call just to see how you were. I never did. I just want you to know that even in death you are still encouraging, witnessing and renewing. Thanks my brother. Enjoy your reward. I look forward to seeing you there.

In Memoriam

Pop's Marine pic

My dad was a war hero. I didn’t really know that until a few weeks before he died. He never talked about the war during most of his life. On his death-bed, under the influence of pain medication, he spoke of it to me for the first time.

When the flag was raised at Iwo Jima, the act which was captured in the most famous photo from World War II, my dad was at the base of the mountain. He told me the picture was actually a recreation. Guys were asked to volunteer to climb the hill again just so journalists could take the picture. There were not a lot of takers. There were still plenty of enemy around, still firing live rounds.

My dad never won a bunch of medals. He talked about being scared to death as he did his job running telephone line from one fox hole to the next. He talked of his high school buddy from Abbeville who ran with him and who was killed in a fox hole next to him. He talked about getting his high school diploma, also in a fox hole. He talked about lying about his club foot to the draft board so he could get into the Marines.

He was a hero just like millions of others who went, who fought, who did it scared to death, but did it nonetheless. He came back home, raised a family and worked for a living. He never talked about his experiences. It’s just what the greatest generation did.

Please join me as I honor Pop and those like him who just did what needed to be done. We can write blogs, and say prayers, and tell his story.  I think what would honor him most is just to do what he did – what needs to be done. There’s a lot that needs doing.

Thanks Pop.

 

No Regrets

18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

I came across a fascinating article by a nurse who took care of dying patients for many years. She listed five regrets that, she observed, were most common among her dying patients. I feel sure that the nurse accurately recorded the regrets as expressed by these patients. However, I really wonder if those patients really “got it” even after a long a full life, or if the nurse really correctly summarizes the basis for the “regrets” she observed.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

It’s truly sad to live a life trying to fulfill the expectations of others. It’s great to have dreams and try to live out at least some of them; but isn’t it most important to discover the purposes God has for our lives and strive to fulfill those purposes? On my death-bed I hope to feel that I spent enough time with God to learn His plan for me and to gain enough grace to fulfill that plan. I don’t know of any other way to be really “true” to myself.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

I don’t think folks so much regret working hard; they regret working too hard on things that don’t matter – that have no eternal significance. When we close our eyes for the last time, don’t we really want to do so knowing when we open them again we will be with the Lord who will have kept for us the treasures that we built up in heaven, caring not at all for the “treasures” we leave behind?

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

I guess we all feel like people really don’t know us, at least not the real us. It is truly sad to think that so many live life and never let down the walls enough to allow others in. I don’t think it’s so much a matter of wearing our feelings on our sleeves. It’s more about vulnerability and honesty. We don’t have to alway say things are “great” when they are not. We don’t have to be silent when we know there’s something eternally significant we need to share, even if it’s not politically correct. We are created to be in relationship both with our God and with the people He blesses us with.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I don’t think the problem here is so much losing touch with friends, but failing to recognize who our friends really are. There are people whose influence and presence is positively life-changing. The problem is they aren’t always the best looking, most popular, or financially blessed. In fact, they usually are politically incorrect, socially unacceptable, and really plain. They just love Jesus. That gives them to the power to be life-changers. “Hooking up” with them helps us to be life-changers as well.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I know it’s a popular belief that we can choose to be happy.I don’t know about that.  I do know that we can experience joy through our choices. They aren’t the choices that are popular or the choices we are encouraged to make by television or movies. They are the right choices and, deep down, we know what they are. It takes real grace to make them.

I believe it is possible to lie on our death beds free of regrets. I think the nurse missed the truth. She wrote, “ Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.” The way is much narrower than that; but it does exist. There is a way, just one way.

 

 

Point of Dependence

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

We have had an interesting nature lesson this spring. A cardinal made a nest at the top of the umbrella over our patio table. We watched with interest as the baby birds grew. One day they were gone. We’re not sure if they matured and flew away or if one of the many creatures that haunt our back yard got them.

One of the most difficult things for a parent is moving from having our children dependent on us to a point of independence. Many family problems can be traced to a failure to parents and children to execute this change from dependence to independence.

With us as children of God the problem is different. Our proper place is a permanent point of dependence. As His prideful children, we struggle to be independent. Our safety and place of growth is under His wings, but we work to be free only to discover that the world is dangerous and we are ill-prepared to live safely on our own.

I have found in life when I get to the point of “success” and start to be pretty proud of what I’ve done, that God will readjust my circumstances to make me aware that real safety is in that place under His protective wing.

Learn to enjoy the proper place of safety where we can grow and flourish and be everything we are meant to be.

Renewed Day by Day

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4

It’s a bit disturbing to look in the mirror these days. There’s skin where there used to be hair. The beard doesn’t really cover the wrinkles. That’s just looking in a face mirror; I avoid full length mirrors at all cost. As we age, we are certainly wasting away, even if the scale denies it. Spend a few minutes watching television or thumbing though a magazine and it will be clear to you that our biggest industry may be fighting the effects of aging. It’s an expensive fight and a losing battle. It’s easy to lose heart.

What the young don’t understand and what is one of the great frustrations of aging, is that inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Our minds aren’t wasting away, at least not yet. We have the same love and passion and hopes and desires as we have always had. Much more our experience adds to our knowledge of the goodness and faithfulness of God. This, too, renews us day by day. We have so much more experience of seeing God present and active in our lives with each passing year.  We are also renewed by observing the young ones we love. We are excited by the promise of their lives and the energy they bring to each new day. Age brings the time and wisdom to live outside of ourselves and to appreciate and love the lives of others, sometimes more exciting and more active.

Perhaps our greatest waste is in failing to recognize and use the assets which are our older brothers and sisters. The most active folks at church are usually the oldest. The wisest in the room are often ignored as the younger prance around and cackle incoherently.

As each of us ages and experiences daily renewal, let’s grow in our appreciation of those who have experienced even more and are even more renewed. That wisdom and renewal is harder to see, and for that reason, all the more important to recognize.

Someone to Worry About

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

Yesterday I had a colonoscopy. Everything turned out fine.  A few years ago I had one in which a growth that the doctor described as “the kind we worry about” was found. I spend a week waiting for the growth to be tested. It turned out to be non-cancerous, but this put me on the fast track for more frequent testing. I have to admit to being a bit worried before the test. I found out that a couple of folks who love me were also a bit worried.

I suppose the quality of your life can be measured by how many folks you worry about and how many worry about you. I see movies and read book about people who are loners, who don’t have anyone to worry about or to worry about them. They are usually portrayed as happy in their circumstances. I can’t believe that.

We would like to be like the birds or flowers and never worry. We are not. The great thing about us Christians is that worry, even for our loved ones, is something that we just visit temporarily. We don’t live in worry. We move from love to a difficult situation, to worry, to prayer and finally to peace as we place the loved one in the hands of the only one who loves them more than we do.

If the cloud of worry crosses your life, let it move on through, go to prayer and place your worry at the cross, blessed peace follows. That’s a very good thing.

 

Behind the Scenes

I am not a meeting person. Eleven years in the military and many years in a law firm groomed me to be a meeting hater. I can’t get into the “getting everyone on the same page” agenda. I have no patience for the need to smooth egos and set up pecking orders which seem to come with meetings. I nevertheless recognize the need for meetings. I usually try to push them to as quick an end as possible.

Meetings are part of the behind-the-scenes activity that is necessary for the success of any organization. As meeting hater, I was reluctant to accept a place on my church  board. After a year of service, however, I have to admit that the board meetings are among the best I have every had to endure. There is a sweet spirit of fellowship and coöperation in each meeting. Everyone present seems intent on finding and advancing God’s intention for our church.

There is much behind-the-scenes activity in church. I know we all tend to think of church as something that happens in a couple of hours each Sunday morning. There is so much more to it and so much more than we can expect a greatly underpaid staff to do. Churches are essentially volunteer organizations. The most successful ones are blessed with energetic, willing and humble volunteers.

There is much that needs to be done behind the scenes at our church. There is probably something that you are called to do. The easy excuse is that you are not qualified to do anything that needs doing. That’s where the wonder of church life comes through. God specializes in calling the unqualified and guiding and energizing them to success volunteering.

Be prayerful about what needs doing at your church. Then step up. You will be surprised at what God will do through you and the blessings it will bring.