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Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Months ago I began writing a blog post. The title, above, was all I wrote. Though I do not remember what exactly I planned to write, I know that I planned to reflect on our anniversary, as we reached the milestone of 32 years married.

And here we are, 32 years under our belts and a title for a blog post.

So, what is a promise?

  • a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen (Oxford Dictionary)
  • a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

But, these are nouns, things like a piece of paper, a marriage certificate, a legally binding document.

A marriage is more than paper and ink, more than a one-time declaration.

Marriage is a living entity. A moving, breathing organism. So, to define a promise we also need to look at it’s verb definitions:

  • to tell someone that you will certainly do something (Cambridge Dictionary)
  • to undertake to do something in the future (Free Dictionary)
  • to give ground for expectation (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

It is here, in the verb definitions, that our understanding of what a promise is takes form and brings understanding … understanding not just in words, but with feet to put it into practise.

Let’s be quite honest here, promises are not easy.

To make this marriage promise-making even more difficult, they are promises made in ignorance … trust. For neither knows what events, challenges and decisions are to come, that will poke and prod us as individuals and as a couple, that will change us, that will change the face, behaviors and mind of the one to whom we make these promises.

  • to have and to hold from
  • for better for worse
  • for richer for poorer
  • in sickness and in health
  • to love
  • cherish

Hubby is not the man I made those promises to …

and I am not the woman who he made those promises to either.

We have changed. Changed in how we live and think. Changed in how we spend our time. Changed in how we spend our money. Changed our location of living. Changed in our perspectives about issues that are important. Changed in how we see the world. Changed in how we see each other.

yet …

(and I can only speak for me)

I made a promise to you …

till death us do part …

And a promise should not be kept with gritted teeth, but with intent to make good what was said.

For the promise I made did not come with a caveat … no conditions or limitations.

It was not a promise to our marriage if … but even if.

Marriage is the covenant that God chooses to show, to reflect his holiness.

This promise-making is what can bring us closer to understanding the love of God (the groom) for His bride (the church). His promise is eternal, unconditional, unwavering and has far more to do with the promise maker (God) than the one to whom the promise is made (the bride).

It is not promise making for the sake of our happiness, but to bring us closer to THE promise-maker!

We must continue to hold firmly to our declarations of love, of faith. The one who made the promise is faithful.

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I love a love story with a certain storyline:

We will call them one and the other.

One is in love with the other, who is not so sure about the first one. One pursues the other, relentlessly, despite all efforts being pushed away by the other. Not pursuit as in pushy, inappropriate or abusive, but pushy as in being willing to go to any lengths for the other‘s good, even if it is never reciprocated.

Basically, one does not love for their own good, but for the good of the other … the one values the other beyond their own needs and wants, for their needs and wants come to serve the other. The love of the one is so great that, if required, they will even stay away from the other.

You see this storyline in movies such as Love Affair (1939, 1994), An Affair to Remember (1956) or in the Francine Rivers book, Redeeming Love.

Of course, the premise of such a story is a tale as old as time ( 😉 ), for it is the premise of God’s love for His created, his bride, us.

He pursues us, endlessly, every day of our lives.

He is ever available, willing and wanting for us to receive Him … his love and presence and guidance. Yet, he is not rude, not pushy … for He knows that love is best, most sincere, when it is given freely … when we choose to love.

My most favorite poetic writing is by Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven. In this poem, the writer is equating God’s pursuit of himself to that of a hound. I think I love this ode because I can so easily see myself in the writer’s pursuit of life, with my back firmly in God’s face. Through much of the poem we read of fleeing Him, avoiding Him, Ignoring Him. Though I (we?) do not acknowledge His presence, we are always aware that he is there … here.

This poem ends with a not so classic happily ever after. The pursued turns to his Pursuer, takes his hand. But I think that he, like many of us, like CS Lewis, simply gave in … knowing that there was simply nothing left to run to that is better than who is chasing after us.

It is after we turn (often dejected) to Him, tired of our running, tired of our own pursuits, that that joy of forfeiting our life and will to Him begins to invade our souls, bursting through ourselves to reflect the greatest love story.

“I am He Whom thou seekest”

Francis Thompson – The Hound of Heaven

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So, what’s your main thing?

You know, the thing that you love above all else?

We all have a main thing, a love greater than all else.

Exodus 20:3 tells us:

“You shall have no other gods before me”

Are our main things like gods in our lives?

Are they the main things in our hearts?

What if they ceased to exist, to live? Could we carry on with just the love of God?

I ask myself these questions sometimes … wondering if the things, the ones, that I love most have become idols in my heart and mind. I wonder if I have elevated them above my reliance on the one who made me. I wonder if I love him above all else.

As I was pondering my God, my loves, my heart, I sought out what Jesus had to say about this first commandment, for, though he does not retract from the Old Testament commandments, he does provide further clarification (Mark 12:30)

Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.

It would seem that whereas the OT commandment sounds very much like a rule, the NT version would seem to sound sound like an act of choice (can love ever be anything but a choice?). To love with heart, soul, mind and strength is to love with every part of us, who we are.

Love is a pretty big deal in the ministry of Jesus. After expressing the greatest commandment (above) he left us with one additional commandment,

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

They really go together, for in our choosing to love God, we seek to be like him and there is no greater expression of our love for him than to love others.

Now back to the beginning … our main thing?

I think I have come to realize that God has to be my main thing. That I have to love him above all else, not just as a security blanket that keeps me safe for all eternity, but because I cannot love anyone else well if I do not first dwell in my love for my Creator. For it is in loving him that I am able to love others.

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It was overwhelming. Loving. Thoughtful. Lavish. Generous. Openhanded.

During a time of healing, my co-workers, colleagues, friends lavished love on my regularly. Each day I received texts with well wishes, updates on their lives, silly things, stories of students and queries as to how I was doing. Each week was a drop-off … flowers, meals, a puzzle, cards (even hand made ones), treats, soaps and more. They overwhelmed me with their thoughtfulness, their loving acts and hearts.

They lavished their love on me …

And that is our calling. Love is what we are … because we have been loved by the Father, we are to love others. My sweet friends showed this God-love so abundantly. They went so far beyond, beyond what I need, beyond what I deserve.

This is God-love … going beyond what we deserve.

His love exceeds expectation, it is extravagant.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God … We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:7, 19-21

What a model of God-love these amazing ladies have been to me. They have raised the bar of loving to such a height that I have a deeper understanding of the extravagant, lavish love of God.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1

Our calling
is to love the world around us
in such a way
that they will know him.
CW

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Three little words can really pack a punch. They can move me through memories, years and so many emotions. They give me that warm and fuzzy feeling, but one that lasts …

Jesus loves me

I hear the words (or write them) and the song starts to play in my mind. Learned in a tiny Sunday School, on Canada’s other coast, the words take me there, take me through the evidence of life and living that the words are more than just simple song, but solid theology lived out.

I know that others struggle more in their belief and understanding of who Jesus was and is. For me, I have always known the truth of his presence, the simplicity that my belief in him achieves, the sacrifice that he made on behalf of me, of my eternity. Learning to sing this song only confirmed what my heart knew, before it was taught,

that Jesus loves me.

It has been the song of my life.

Though I am no scholarly theologian, like Karl Barth, I would echo his response to the question to summarize his theology with :

“Jesus loves me, this I know.”

It was one of the first songs I taught to our children. As each one learned it, I would make a call to my grandmother, so that she could hear each one sing it to her. Though I am certain that they might have sung it in various church or camp related gatherings, I am also certain that it was rare, as other songs have taken it’s place.

but still, how does one replace the security and comfort of its message?

I recently saw those words, written on a screen, on a social media post … and the heart song began within.

Jesus loves me—this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to him belong,—
They are weak, but he is strong.

Jesus loves me he who died 
heaven’s gate to open wide. 
He will wash away my sin, 
let his little child come in.

Jesus loves me, this I know, 
as he loved so long ago, 
taking children on his knee, 
saying, “Let them come to me.” 

Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! 
Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so. 

I sought out the words, to see their message and realized how very valuable they are in how we see and know truth, ourselves, as well as how we see our place in relationship with our Creator, with our Redeemer.

This song is a reminder of how very loved we are, not because of who we are or what we have done (or what we haven’t done) but because of whose we are and what he has done.

May this song play in our hearts today.

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The feeling of being in love is euphoric, but it is not necessarily intimacy.

Intimacy is (poorly) defined in dictionaries as close familiarity, an intimate act, sharing secrets, knowledge of another.

The thing about intimacy is that if it is to be authentic intimacy, is cannot occur in isolation with just one person.

Nor is intimacy necessarily physical. Sex is often viewed as intimacy, but it cannot truly be intimate unless both individuals feel safe and share a connection beyond just the physical experience.

My definition would be :

intimacy is a deep, unexplainable connection between two or more individuals who attend to each other in their sharing of time and space

I have to say I think there cannot be a more intimate relationship than that of prayer, between a mere mortal and the God who created them.

In a comment on a blog post the other day (A Prayer of Trust) a dear friend left me the following (names changed) experience she had in prayer, not for herself, but for another :

The other day I got an email from Tammy. I had promised to pray for her one day a week and I had forgotten! So I started to pray and then asked him if he took retroactive prayer into consideration (I love the honesty 🙂 ). As I was muddling through this concept I got this feeling, like he was looking at me. Jesus was looking at me. Not at Tammy and those I was praying for but looking at me. Seeing me with such an intent look. Like while I’m praying he is interested in me and not all those other people I’m concerned about. Then I realized that that is what prayer really is. Just talking to Jesus with our eyes fixed on each other like lovers, holding hands,not saying much. He loves ME! He accepts me like I am and he will deal with those I care about in the same way.

As I read her words, specifically those which are underlined, a feeling of familiarity came over me … for I knew exactly of what she was describing.

Moments in prayer when the words I speak fade into the background as the eyes of my soul meet his, when I know that I am present with him, that he is present with me. When everything and everyone one else disappears into the background. When prayer is not about praises, and confessions, and requests but about a relationship of intimacy.

when it’s just the two of you and you know you are loved beyond measure

Early mornings, no interruptions, out in the middle of nature, in the middle of a sleepless sleep, standing in the shower with the water beating down, sitting on a city bus, standing on a beach … the place doesn’t matter, plans don’t matter, failures don’t matter, even prayer requests for others don’t matter … just the intimacy between you and your God in shared time and place.

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The day of love has arrived … so says our calendar.

Flowers, chocolates, lingerie, jewellery, cards and more are purchased as declarations of our love. Dinner reservations (or home deliveries) are made, candles are lit, chilled drinks poured into stemmed glasses … all to show and celebrate love for someone close to our hearts.

I’m kinda lucky, because my special guy got me freshly fallen snow … could there be a better Valentine’s gift?

The following three verses about love are probably the most frequently quoted love verses in the Bible.

1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Matthew 22:37-39
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

John 13:34-35
A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

The first, written by Paul to the Corinth church. He is instructing the believers in this community on what is important in how to live as followers of Christ.

The second are from the lips of Jesus. He reminds us that we are first to love God, then others. It is through our love of God that we have the capacity to love each other.

The third were the words of Jesus on the night before his death … after the foot washing, after Judas left the room. These were his closest followers, who would build his church on the foundation of these words.

The thing is the word love in each and every use in these verses, is the Greek word agape.

agape is the love to die for …

more specifically,

it’s the love that would die for you

Agape love is unconditional, self-sacrificing, never-ending. It is the highest form of love, the most difficult love to give, the most innately sought. As humans, I believe we were created longing for that love … it is in our DNA to seek it … for it is how our Creator-Father loves us.

Agape love costs nothing, and everything.

It takes no time, yet all of our time.

It requires that we just be ourselves, yet, in our own strength we cannot love like that.

It is the sum total of the reason for the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus … for his Father (He) loved the world so much that he gave so that we would live (John 3:16).

Agape love is to love as does not come natural for us, as humans, for it requires that we say and do things that we do not want to … because someone else needs to receive … and their need, seen through the eyes and heart of agape love (God’s eyes and heart) trump our own.

As we declare our love for those around us, today, may our words and deeds be in line with the unconditional, self-sacrificing, never-ending love that God has modelled for us.

love, as I have loved you

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February … the month of love …

As I drove to work yesterday I voiced three voice texts, one to each of our adult kids. It has become a (mostly) weekly ritual, so that I am being intentional about connecting with them, wishing them a good week and reminding them they are loved.

As I finished the third voice-to-text, I laughed out loud. Our son’s text was longer than to our two daughter’s for it included, and don’t forget to clean your bathroom.

I love you and don’t forget to clean your bathroom …

This is the struggle of loving each other up close and personal, under the same roof. It is where my business is your business and love is often interpreted as putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, making a B+ (or higher) grade meal (family joke), not letting the dog on the bed, spraying the bathroom before you leave it and don’t forget to clean your bathroom … because we have to cohabitate together.

Living together means love isn’t just heart-warming words, kisses in the moonlight or sharing an episode of the Mandalorian together … it is living out our love as respect and service to each other.

And that’s the tough where the rubber meets the road truth.

Loving words are important, are good to share. They can be the gas that keeps love on the road. But our daily deeds, done in love are the oil which reduces the friction of bumping up against each other everyday. No love vehicle can stay on the road without both.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18

… by the way, I came home to a sparkling clean bathroom

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The Apostle John wrote Jesus’ words, concerning love :

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

John 15:13

This is a verse that we pull out when one has done a sacrificial act to save another, when one dies in battle, when one jumps in the line of fire to save the life of another.

This is the depth of love that we remember on this fourth Sunday of Advent. It is the John 3:16 love,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The God of Creation was so desperate that our lives be redeemed, he committed the greatest act of love, sacrificing his own Son, so that we might live.

When I focus on this greater love, in these ways, it would seem that most of us do not even have opportunity to show this greater love. For who among us encounters opportunity or reason to give up our lives for another?

What if,
perhaps,
greater love means something more?

What if greater love means sacrificing beyond our physical lives?

What if we are given opportunity to express greater love when :

  • we make efforts to befriend the less popular, less appealing, prickly person in our class, in our workplace … in our church pew
  • we respond with loving-kindness, rather than setting people straight, when
  • we leave the coffee shop, see a man begging just up the sidewalk and we take out coffee to him (and go on our day without … feeling the sacrifice personally).
  • we listen … rather than speak
  • we make the time to make the meal, write the note, send a gift to one who is grieving, lonely, one who simply comes to mind
  • we say yes, when we want to say no
  • we offer grace and forgiveness, when revenge might be a just response
  • we believe what we are told, rather than reading in to what we think is meant
  • we keep persevering … investing even when relationships poke and push us
  • we get out of our comfort zone to love others in ways that communicate love most to them

This greater love is the anthesis to what our world preaches today about cancelling friends, relatives and groups of people because they haven’t lived up to what we believe they should say, how they should live, what they should think.

It is up-side-down thinking. And this is exactly the kind of thinking … living that Jesus modelled. There is nothing he spoke more of in his recorded lifetime than love. It is through this virtue that he gave the first and second greatest commands (“love God, love others” Matthew 22:38-39)

This greater love, is the love defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 :

Love is patient, 
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud. 
It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking, 
it is not easily angered, 
it keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects,
always trusts,
always hopes,
always perseveres.
Love never fails …
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. 
But the greatest of these is love.

This is the greater love of sacrificing for another.

May we be found loving other as Christ loves us.

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chocolate, and sunrises, and beaches, and writing, and lilacs, and red leaves, and piano music, and doing new things, and getting groceries (really, I do), and math (uh ha … you heard that right), and my husband, and my wonderdog, and lazy days, and snow, and …

love …

a four-letter word.

the four-letter word …
love.

It is a noun, a ‘thing’ … like pizza, or a flower, or my dog. It is a verb, an ‘action’ … like a hug, washing the dishes, sticking with ’til the end of the movie.

It is a word, made up of letters, equal doses of vowels and consonants. One vowel whispering not a peep, the other masquerading as another. No one letter taking the center stage, but all four working together to hold itself together as one. complete. word.

This word, like the word, in the beginning of the story of humanity. Like that silent ‘e’, which is never spoken … but always there … always … here.

He said “where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3) …

who is He?
God is love (1 John 4:8)

where is He?
he (the Spirit of God) lives with you and will be in you (John 14:17)

why?
as I have loved you, so you also must love one another (John 13:34)

how?
live in me (love), and I (love) will live in you (John 15:4)

how he loves us …

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