Sunday, August 29, 2010

In a world of love found, love lost, love hurt, and love broken, it's so hard to find pure, undefiled love. And I mean all types of love- family love, friendly love, romantic love. In part it is how we view love. How you view something is very, very important in the direction you go with it.

Suppose with me, for a moment, that you had a silver, slightly rusted spyglass (telescope for you modern type people) and the lens was distorted. It appeared that the island was to the right of you, but in reality, it was to the left. So you, trusting in your distorted view of the landscape, headed your ship off to the right. You continue on... you are suffering damage to your ship, for where you believed you saw an island, there was, in place, a patch of sharp rocks and reefs.

Growing weary, you become lonely, and you are tired of never finding the paradise you thought you saw coming. You continue, though. You don't stop a minute to think that you should check your spyglass for defects. But one day... one day you think it's worth a try. So you look. And you see a bubble in the glass. Well gosh gollee! You think of all the time you wasted on this defective navigation device. You sigh. (Go ahead, you can sigh). You're ready to give up... it seems so easy to just move on... forget the island.... die alone.

But wait! A dove comes- a pretty, pure, white, gentle dove. In its small talons it carries a velvet bag (just imagine, okay?). You laugh, because it really is corny that a dove would fly to you with a velvet bag in its talons, but you think "What does it matter? Anything is better than nothing." You take the velvet bag and open it. Inside is a new looking glass. You sigh. Will this one work any better? How can you know?

You stretch it to its full length, carefully inspecting it for flaws. It appears to have none. It's perfect. Solid gold. A breath of hope escapes your lips. What can you lose? Slowly bringing it to your eye you scan the horizon. There it is! Your paradise! It's a southwest direction now... you've got a little backtracking to do. But it's there! You can make it, there's hope now. You have a clear view of the island.

Suppose now, that you had had the gold looking glass from the beginning. Would you have been as likely to hit the rocks? Of course not! Now suppose with me again, that the silver spyglass was the world's definition of love, and the gold spyglass was God's. Who's view would you trust more? Speaking for myself, I'd pick God's!

To accurately understand what it is that is causing the missteps or the right hits, you have to understand the indiviual views of love- the world's and God's. The world's definition of love is as follows: "a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person". It is also defined as "a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection". So to love in the eyes of the world revolves around you. How you feel. It's all about the moment. Are you passionate about your husband when he comes home from work tired? Are you affectionate towards your wife when she nags you yet again? When your brother is annoying you do you feel warm and personal with him? Are you deeply affectionate towards your parents when they punish you? Probably not...

The world is based off of feelings. If you don't feel it, it can't be real! So many times we don't feel like doing things, but we have to do them anyway. Why is it not this way with love? When you don't make your job on time on a regular basis, whether you feel like it or not, you lose it. Why is it that love should be any different? If you don't continue to love, regardless of whether or not you feel like it, will your love not be lost?

This is such a distorted, broken view! Just think of it... a husband saying to his wife, "I don't feel passionate about you anymore, so I'm looking elsewhere." Or a father saying to his child, "I don't feel that we have an emotional connection, so I am going to let you live your own life, and I'll live mine." What if the sister said to the brother, "I don't feel that we have any affection towards each other, so I say we forget the other exists." Perhaps that seems dramatic, but it happens, and more often now, than ever before!

What is it that has changed? Well, numero uno (number one, for the unSpanish speakers), the connection of love and commitment has been lost. As we will see later on, commitment is a great part of love. Today commitment is at a low ebb. You can take what you want and don't have to worry about those said "strings attached". You can take a heart, shake a heart, and break a heart, and move on as if you were sliding down the back of a greased pig. But hey! It's all part of the game. It's understood. Nothing lasts, right? It's all for the here and now. What a desolate view! It's a view of "I'll take what I can get, and take the better things as they come along". I'll call it the pinata syndrome... it's a break the paper heart, grab all the candy you can get type deal. How... desperate!

So we've seen the view of the world... the pinata syndrome. But how does God define love? Well according to His spoken word, love is "patient, kind, not envious, nor boastful, not arrogant, nor rude; doesn't insist on it's own way, not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

So love in God's definition is not about us. It's about the other person. It's about what you can do for them. Not what you can get out of them, and how you can wring all you possibly can from their heart before moving on to the next pinata. When the husband comes home from work.... it's kind. When the wife is nagging again... it's patient. When the brother is annoying you again, it's not irritable or resentful. When the parent disciplines you, it does not rejoice at the wrongdoing, but it rejoices with the truth. Love bears the burdens of the other, it hopes with and in the other, and it endures all things.

Love is tough. It's work. But the rewards.... are amazing. The rewards are eternal. Sure... love hurts. Even when we are doing it God's way, sometimes, it hurts. When the spouse/parent leaves you. Imagine how hard it is to love them! And yet, God doesn't ask us. He says to love our enemies. Love the one's that hurt us the most. Why? Because Jesus did. So yes, God's love hurts, too, but the difference between this hurt, and the afore mentioned hurt, is that one leaves you torn, desperate, and with no alternative... this hurt gives you hope. It gives you the hope of a Savior, the hope of a coming salvation, the hope of a God who is love, even when you don't think you can take that next step. The hurt from this love reaps rewards eternal... it is the complete opposite of anything the world can ever offer. It's filled with grace and mercy.

But God's love doesn't always hurt.... sure it's hard, but it's fulfilling, too. It's courageous, selfless, astounding, and captivating. It changes lives, and knits hearts together, rather than tearing them apart. It glues the broken hearts back together, and gives you strength and energy when things get hard. It thrives in tough spots and stays steady through the calm. God's love is not possible by man's power alone. Thats what is so unique about it. The world's love puts power in the hands of the man, but God's love puts man in the hands of power. It's not about how you feel at the time. It's active. It's something you do. It's a workout. But because you are so in shape, you can stay strong. You can stay on course. You can head towards the calmer waters when the storms arise.

God's love see's that love is commiting. It's saying, "I will love this person, whether I feel like it or not. I will choose to love them."I don't think that it's possible to have love without commitment. God commits to us, and we commit to Him, too. Without a commitment we are not His. It's simple. And God sticks to what He says. He does not forsake His word. It should be the same for how we love others.

The other difference between the different views on love is the strength by which each stems from. Love in the view of the world is all about the strength of the man/woman and his/her feelings. Love in the view of God is that God gives us strength by which we love. It is not about us... it's always about Him, it's always about the other person. It is never about us.

The Bible says that in our power things are impossible, but with the power of God all things are possible. We cannot love correctly in our own power. That is the beauty of it... we have to rely, trust, and commit on others to love properly. It's so beautiful when it's not about us! When we can trust and rely on the almighty God rather than our constantly fluxuating feelings, then there is so much more stability and fulfillment!

So in closing, I say, that you have to decide for yourself what looking glass you choose. No one can pick for you. It is your decision, and it is an action you must put it into play. You can get by with the first, and deal with what comes, or you can work for the second and enjoy eternal reward. It's an important choice. One you need to make now, and stick with forever.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Just Live Simply

So to follow up on "Just Simply Live", I'd like to share my thoughts on just living simply. Because while life is more complicated than "simply living", it is important to live simply. When we make it complicated, complications arise (quite obviously).

Oftentimes we get so caught up in things, and time, and what we can do to occupy that time. We prioritize things in the order of significance that feels right for us at the time. Mowing the lawn before family time (after all, family time can be anytime), PTA meetings before picnics, and errands and chores before Saturday relaxing. While it is all well and good to have these things, we cannot let them take over our lives. If every waking minute is spent doing something active, we will wear out quickly. There has to be some pattern to the chaos; some time to take off. We have to take those sweet, happy, silly, and sad moments of life, and make the most of them. Rather than rushing through everything you do, (here it comes) take time to smell the roses. In other words, TAKE A BREAK. Take it a bit slower (us Southerners are real good at that), and enjoy what you do. The Bible says to pray without ceasing. Do it! Pray as you go about what you do. Sometimes there will be rushing, sometimes you will need to hurry up and get somewhere or do something, and that's okay! But it is still good to take some time to slow down.

When we are still and quiet we can hear the handiwork of God, in the wind, in the chirping of the crickets, in the whisper of little children in their homemade living room fort. We can see His creation in the little tiny veins of the leaves of towering oaks, redwoods, sequoias, and in the uniquely marvelous color of a person's eyes. We can feel it in the warmth of the sun (it's amazing that something that far away can provide light and extreme heat as it does!), and in the soft fur of a kitten or a bunny rabbit. We smell His love when we breath in the fresh breeze of the country, or the smooth scent of a freshly blossomed flower. Have you ever thought of the majesty of God as you eat fresh fruit, or catch a snowflake on your tongue? He made it all! But if we don't stop to hear, see, feel, smell, and taste, how can we truly appreciate the beauty, the complexity, the wonder of God's creation? Sometimes we are more blessed by stopping to thank the God who created these things than by rushing to the fourth mid week church service. Perhaps it's not as productive in tangible things, but by taking that time to praise Him for His creation, you are glorifying Him by your praise and satisfaction with the wonder of His work.

Sometimes we are so focused on what we are going to do next we haphazardly do what we are doing at the moment. It affects our entire attitude and life. You might be spending your whole Bible reading focused on how you have to go grocery shopping, to work, to school, etc. How can you then take away anything beneficial other than a "refresher" of sorts? We need to focus on the task at hand, but above all focus on Jesus Christ. Jesus never rushed. He never hurried. He took things one at a time, and thus many opportunities that potentially could have been missed had he been on any agenda but the Father's. Strive to have his attitude when the little child stops you in the middle of washing dishes to ask you a hard question (in the child's eyes). Don't push them off for later. When you see the elderly woman struggling with her groceries, offer to help her and don't worry about how you'll be a few minutes late getting home to get dinner started. Live your life with the same simplicity and willingness that Jesus Christ did.

So, in concluding I will say that while it is true that life is somewhat complicated, and that we can't just "live", we do need to make sure that the complication isn't ruling our lives. We need to maintain a correct focus and make sure that our priorities are lining up with what the Father wants of us and asks of us. In doing so we can avoid a lot of stress and discontentment. We can have that sense of fullness and satisfaction in knowing that our lives really aren't our own, but are subject to the will of the Father, and therefore much more productive than by our own sense of priority and importance.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A fellow Rebelutionary, Holly Hutcheson, and I were discussing the Attic topics on the Rebelution forums, which then led to a concern that branched out into other areas of our lives. We were noticing a distinct pattern and trend that was somewhat hard to detect, though it was before our very faces. We talked for a while on it, and came up with this story to present it to you. We hope that it accurately portrays what we are seeing, though in metaphorical light.

The Path

She tossed and turned. A frown pulled at the corners of her lips, her brow creased with anxiety. She teetered between deep sleep and seeming consciousness. One moment she knew she was in her bed, the next she found herself in a strange dark place.

Where am I? She groped through the dark. She knew there had to be a way out. What is this? Is that a light? How do I get out of here?! She slowly groped towards the pinpoint of light. She was drawn to it; she instinctively knew it was her only way out. She felt herself growing closer… she began to run towards it, clawing for the light. It was what she wanted more than anything else; she knew it. There it was. She grasped at it, tumbling forward into the darkness, but landing in the light.

It was dim, but to her weak eyes it was painful. She scrambled to her feet. Before her lay a wooded forest; it stretched for miles. Running straight and true through the middle was a narrow path. On either side, it was mud and quick sand. What do I do from here? Where do I go? She need not ask. She knew she was to walk the path ahead. She knew the light was her salvation.

Looking over her shoulder at the pitch black cave behind her, she wanted it more than anything. She ran towards it at a sprint, the light around her growing. A mile down the path she slowed to a jog, slowly bringing herself to a walk. She was weakening. The light was growing brighter, hurting her eyes as she went. She stopped. Turning around she stared at what was behind. It was a mountain with a large black cave, its mouth staring ominously at her. That was what she had escaped from. She was awed. What was that? Did something just move? Her breathe caught in her throat. She saw it emerge from the trees.

It was a black, hooded figure; burly and tough, it began grabbing and clawing inches from her throat. The light. I need the light. It was a fleeting thought, but she turned and ran, stumbling as she did, towards the light. The trees. I can lose it in the trees. I’ll hide until it passes. She stepped off the path, mud oozing up to her ankles. She grabbed onto a tree and held onto it until she saw it disappear on the other side. Pulling her feet out of the sticky mud, she stepped back onto the path.

She walked briskly along, still heading towards the light. Did I hear something? Where is it? Should I go back into the trees? Maybe if I work through the trees it won’t catch up to me. She stared at them, pondering the wisdom of such a thought. It made sense. She side-stepped into the trees again and began making her way forward. Progress was hindered; she wasn’t making good time. Her feet were sticking in the mud, each step a laborious trial. But I’m safe here. I’m avoiding the figure and making progress. I’m doing well. She couldn’t see a burly shadow behind her, following her, and content to let her try to reach the light by this route. With a little guidance, she’d never make it there.

She peered over her shoulder. Nothing. She forged ahead, her breathing becoming slow and heavy. She rested herself behind some trees more than others. They were comforting. She was escaping the black-hooded figure; she was forging ahead. It was time to gain some more ground. She headed towards the path. I was farther from it than I thought. The light… it’s hurting my eyes. Her eyes readjusted. She was on the path again. She turned.

The mountain was farther away, but she still had miles to go. She was weakened from the strain of drudging through the muddy woods. She attempted to jog, but was slowed to a walk. She looked yet again over her shoulder. There he was. Again. He was farther away this time, but she was still horrified at this thing, this monstrosity. Diving into the trees, she broke into the equivalent of a run, sloshing through the mud and clinging to the trees. She didn’t pay as much attention to where she was going; all she wanted was distance from this hooded figure. It was getting darker; the figure was getting closer.

The farther and faster she ran, the closer it got. The path, the path- The light! He’s scared of the light! Making her way back as deftly as she could, she arduously moved closer and closer. The path came into view. She saw light, and welcomed it, though it hurt. It took time; her eyes didn’t adjust so quickly, but she needed to move towards the light; she was nearing the end. She could feel it. Just a mile farther; then a half mile.

She looked over her shoulder; there it was, far behind her. Her feet grew stronger. She began to run. There it was; the edge of the forest, more beautiful than her mind could have dreamed. She finally passed the last tree, her feet bringing her to a stop in an open field. She had reached the light. There was no darkness. Looking down, where her dirty, mud splattered clothes should have been, she was clothed in white. She was safe. The race had been run.

She shot up in bed, gasping for air, groping in the dark. She wanted to write it all down; she wanted to forget nothing she had seen. She knew what it meant. She was sorry. She never realized it. The light of truth was hurting her eyes. She prayed. I’m sorry, God. I see it now. I thought I was doing right. I thought you wanted me to focus on the trees. I thought I could stay away from sin by focusing on escaping it. I know now… I need the light. I need you.


Hopefully this clearly illustrated for you what we are seeing. We feel that it is possible to become so focused on how to do this, or what not to do in that, that we lose focus on what really matters- Jesus Christ, the Cross, the sacrifice. As we grow closer in a relationship with Him, the rest will fall into place. As we continue to fall more in love with your Saviour, all the questions on how to do this, or how to handly that will be answered.

Some questions for ya’ll:

How do the trees (our thoughts and actions that are not necessarily bad) help, but also hinder our progress towards the Light?

Do you think it is possible to become so focused on avoiding sin that we lose our true focus (Jesus Christ)? Why or why not?

What should be our primary motivation for staying focused on the Light and remaining on the path first and foremost?

Friday, August 13, 2010

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, you catch me when I'm falling,
And you've told me who I am.
I am yours.
I am yours.

This is the chorus of the song by Casting Crowns "Who am I?". I thought it was a beautiful song, based of a verse that is very close to the one this blog is based off of. The passage it is derived from is found in James, and I find it to be an amazing piece of Scripture. This song captures the amazement I feel when I think about the fact that the very God who spoke the earth into existence also loves me enough to count every hair on my head! He knows everything. He knows how many freckles I have, He knows what I like, He knows what I don't like, He knows what things and words will speak to me the most. He knows everything about me. Who am I to deserve that? I deserve naught but Hell, but the hands of God, those awesome, inspiring, nail-pierced hands, caught me when I fell. And they gently molded me more and more in the image of my Savior. And they still are. And they still will.

This wonder never ceases to amaze me. I don't think that any words that I could write, nor amount of words that I could write, could accurately describe just how... glorious God is. How just, how merciful, how forgiving, how loving, how caring, how jealous, how humble, how majestic He is! God is worthy of everything, all the glory. He's above all things. But He calls us His own. How humbling, and awesome is that? When I picture it in my head.... I see myself bowing my head before Him, the gratitude showing itself in the form of tears wetting my face. Because truly I cannot sum up in words what it means to me. God took me from the hands of death and offered me a life I do not deserve. Who am I?