Category: Love


I Believe in Love

I have been painting a wall blue today. It’s a beautiful, deep, rich cobalt, so blue it’s almost purple, and it looks really good on my wall. It will look even better once I get the last coat on and it’s had time enough to cure. Painting walls is a familiar task. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to run my brush and roller along, shedding blue onto white, so I’ve had plenty of time to think about other things. Curiously enough, I decided to listen to Leigh Nash today while painting, and the album is titled Blue on Blue. I didn’t remember that until most of the album had played through. Funny how a mind works, hm? Many of the album’s songs talk about love. I’m sure that had nothing to do with my thoughts dwelling on love while painting.

Couldn’t be.

Pure coincidence.

😉

Love – in a state of reverie, I thought about love. The music, Ted Dekker’s Black, conversations with friends and family members, a coworker’s upcoming wedding, thoughts started as I moved from task to task at work yesterday, and who knows what all contributed to the thoughts drifting off the rhythm of my brush. I’ve been thinking about it. I’ll probably still be thinking about it tomorrow.

All these thoughts, some half formed or vaporous, intersected and coalesced into a single, strong, bold insight. I believe in love. I BELIEVE in love. I live for love.

I don’t mean a cute idea, a sloppy word, a nice sentiment, or even a verb. I’m not talking about ordinary love, like the love held for family, friends, communities, or a spouse. As wonderful as all of that can be, it is… inadequate. Insufficient. Pale imitations, all of them. Anemic shadows, too often selfish. These ordinary sorts are not enough, don’t last long enough, don’t fill me up well enough or long enough. They’re great, and I appreciate them, but they poop out. Those types of love get tired and stop, sometimes when my need for love is the greatest.

How about I Corinthians 13? Romans 5:8? Romans 8:38, 39? John 3:16? What about a love that never stops? That never quits? That gives? That is unending? That perseveres? That is transformative? Redemptive? What about a love that flows into and over, more than fills the need, straightens the crooked, and blesses the good? I believe in that kind of love.

That is how God loves me. That is how God loves you.

And it doesn’t stop there. The love God pours into me doesn’t have to stop at the edge of me, at my boundaries, changing only my life. It also pours into others. It can transform the love I offer from anemic to something more robust, something fueled by God’s love that can give more and go longer, something less concerned about me and more concerned about you. I can love others better because God loves me.

In that kind of love, I believe.

For that kind of love, I live.

I believe in love.

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Blessings Found in Brokenness

In my last post, I talked about my revelation that God is truly good. That sort of interrupted all my yakking about brokenness, but I think it was a timely interruption. When God asked me what I would if I stayed broken, I’d already realized that He was good. I had a confidence and trust in His willingness to care for me that absolutely helped me to consider His question with less defensiveness than I had before. Please note that I did not say “no defensiveness.” I was hardly free from it. However, I was much more willing to listen. God is not out to get us. He is good. Brokenness: my lack of perfection, my deformed limp, my pain, my weakness – it might not be the end of the world.

As a matter of fact, it isn’t. In some ways, it’s been good for me. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that God has worked good out of it for me. I could quote some Scripture (Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” with its claim that God’s “grace is sufficient” certainly leaps to mind!) to slap a coat of religious paint on, but I’d rather just tell you about what I know and am learning about living with a limp.

The funny thing is that there is some freedom in limping. I didn’t expect that. For instance, I don’t struggle as much with pride. Neither do I struggle as much with being afraid of finding pride within me. Both of those battles consumed a lot of effort. I’m a gifted individual, and the pitfall of pride correlates well with giftedness. So does the (sometimes false) accusation of pride. I used to get so tied up trying to figure out where my real problem was so I could fix it. Thing is that a lot of my pride was tied up in my “perfection” compared to other people. Having to accept my own brokenness and let God’s grace be sufficient slapped that one down hard. It’s great!

I learned more sympathy. This would be a no brainer, right? It seems like learning to accept, instead of rejecting and fleeing and shunning, my own pain would help me to be more kind to others experiencing hurt and disappointment.

The world became less black and white. One of my friends gave me an interesting tidbit about abuse survivors. After making it through a world of overly simplified values (like, kill or be killed; fight or flight; fight/flight or be thrashed; bad people or good people; it’s safe or it’s not – I’m sure you get the idea), former victims don’t know that the world is full of greys and even color. It’s not all an either/or proposition. I don’t know if that’s true of every abuse survivor, but it’s certainly something I’ve seen in myself and in my family. Where it can cause lots of trouble is in relationships. It’s a rare person who is an angel or a demon. Most folk are quite the mix, and I didn’t assess that well, not even in myself. It made me unnecessarily rigid, and I lacked grace. Enter ‘“My grace is sufficient,” right?

I am more able to live with uncertainty, which goes hand in hand with the world not seeming as black and white. The unknown is not as terrifying. Nor do I assume it to be populated only with bad things. Good things must be there, too. I have more hope.

One reason for that is I learned that brokenness is not necessarily pathetic or despicable. It’s not a disqualifier. God doesn’t hate me because I’m broken. People don’t always deal well with it, but God doesn’t have that problem. Although there frequently is pain involved, the pain is not a disqualifier, either. God still loves me even when I hurt. Brokenness is not leprosy or cause for quarantine. It is not contagious. Ain’t nobody perfect, folks. We all be broken.

I am more able to learn. Rigidity doesn’t lend itself well to the acquisition of new information, experiences, or opinions. Even when a person tries hard, rigidity greatly complicates the learning process.

I always have someplace to go. Brokenness cannot keep me from God and His provision, instruction, and comfort.

I’ve learned more patience. Please note that I do not claim to be a patient person! But I’ve had to learn some, because limping precludes getting anywhere fast.

It’s helped me to forgive. Oh, my, that’s a good one! That’s freedom! Once pride lost its grip, and I accepted that I, too, am broken, I realized that my dad and I have that in common. He’s broken, too. He took things to extremes that I have not, but that’s no reason for me to feel like I’m somehow better than him. I am not without sin. I am not perfect. Accepting that at an emotional level definitely helped free from my burning desire to start throwing rocks. Of course I was angry with my dad. I should have been. He did not treat me well, but living out my life hating his guts and everything about him was a horrible way to live, because, truthfully, I have more in common with him than brokenness. For example, writing is not my mom’s thing. It was most definitely my dad’s.

Happy Independence Day!

The Goodness of God

I’m afraid that I was far too distracted this week by things like fresh, Oregon strawberries to give much thought to another post on brokenness. I’ve got one still brewing, but it’s not quite there. In the meantime, I poked around my blog and couldn’t find something that I most certainly have meant to put up, even though I’m recycling an old post from the Well. It’s the post I wrote when my belief in God’s goodness coalesced out of the faint hope and intellectual void where the Spirit of God hovered over the deep of my soul. I had been struggling, trying to reconcile the idea that God could be good with the reality of pain, limitations, and the crappy things people sometimes do to each other, and I had a completely unexpected revelation that changed my heart. Man, through nothing I did, the light came on for me, and here’s my attempt to express it:

August, 2005

I woke up this morning thinking about one place, one time. Ever said that? I have, especially at work when I have too many people wanting me to be doing too many things in several different locations all at once. It’s really frustrating when all the needs are valid and more or less immediate. Makes it really hard to prioritize. “I can’t do that right now. I can only be in one place at one time.”

What I realized this morning is that my limited ability to be present applies not only to my body, but also to my soul – my heart, my mind or intellect, and my will. I am pretty small, and I can only live in one place at one time. I can only live for one thing at one time. I’m trying to think how to explain this. I woke up knowing something, but I’m not sure yet just what it is I know.

See, for several years, my life’s purpose has been to love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul, mind and strength. Jesus said that was the greatest commandment, and I figured if He said it was that important, that was what I wanted to do. I had no idea how that would work. There are so many good and important things in life, but God is telling me He wants my all. He says it over and over throughout the Bible. He must be first. I’ve had moments where I’ve resented that (and I’ll probably have more moments like that, too). I mean, if it were another human being who wanted that kind of attention, I would think they were being totally selfish. How could God not also be selfish in saying He wants it all?

I think what I realized is how kind He is in demanding everything. I am small, my resources are limited, and I am only able to live in one place for one thing at a time. Life, with all its problems, pains, people, loves, and answers – it is much too big for me. Life is at this point entropic (entropy, according to Merriam-Webster online, is “2 a : the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity b : a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder). It takes who I am and all I have to offer, my heart and soul, mind and strength, and reduces me to a “state of inert uniformity,” to a dead nothingness. The entropy effect within me is hugely magnified every time I choose to contribute my energy, to seek my validation in something besides God, to worship an idol. There is no living to be had from this life. It takes more than I have.

God’s not being selfish in demanding everything. He’s offering to die so that I might live. He knows that left to my own, life will kill me long before I die, especially when I give myself to that which resembles life. By demanding everything I have, He’s ensuring that my life is preserved for release to abundant living and not to entropic living. If you want to save your life, you have to lose it. God is love. No greater love exists than a man lays down his life, and when He tells me, “I want it all, Rebekah. If you want to live, I have to take it all,” that is love speaking. Hm…

As I sat down to write this, I had Nichole Nordeman’s “This Mystery” album playing. The first song up was “Please Come,” and the chorus had this to say. “There is room enough for all of us / Please come / And the arms are open wide enough / Please come / And our parts are never greater than the sum / This is the heart of the One / Who stands before an open door / And bids us, ‘Come'”

God’s not stuck in one place at a time like me. He’s got room enough, His arms are wide enough, His heart is big enough, and He says to please come. I think I’ll take Him up on it.

Focus on Worship

Having last talked about Focus and where I think it’s best to keep it, it seems appropriate now to talk about worship. Keeping our eyes on Jesus for salvation is great, but the Bible does make a case for moving beyond the panicky “save me!” approach. In fact, having something else like worship makes it easier to keep eyes where they belong.

What is worship? What do experience and culture teach us? Ever drive by a church and see their board telling you the time of their “Sunday worship?” Gathering together for corporate prayer, sermon, music, and other rituals has been classified as worship. With the increasing popularity of music during services, I’ve also heard worship further narrowed to simply that segment of the service. Music pastors are sometimes even relabeled as “worship pastors.” Occasionally, that’s because a church body is trying to incorporate other forms of art, like dance, into their time of worship, and they want the pastor to oversee that ministry.

Worship with a church is all well and good, but with the possible exception of those committed to monastic life, nobody lives in church! In fact, most of us spend a lot of time in other places. What happens to worship then? Is it relevant outside of a group? Can we practice it on our own? Does a church service actually facilitate worship? So many questions! Do any of them even matter? 😉 I don’t pretend to have any definitive answers, but I certainly have thought about it and do have some ideas.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary tells us that when we worship something, we have something or somebody that we “honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power” or “regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.” Personally, I think that definition is a bit dry and removed for such a powerful concept. It’s too intellectual without enough life. Digging deeper is definitely needed.

The apostle Paul, in Romans 12:1, says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Paul isn’t limiting worship to intellectual assent or a service. He tells us to present our bodies to God, bodies which come with us everywhere we go.  I think the greatest commandment, to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, also applies, because I’d say that to whatever I love enough to give it my life, that’s what I worship.

How I worship it – the methods – changes depending on me and the what. If I was all about Mother Earth, I might be a committed environmentalist. If football was my one, true love, it’s glued I would be to news of it, especially during the season. If I really believed life was all about me, I’d undoubtedly indulge myself terribly and spend far too much time admiring my wondrous attributes. Worship is not, in my opinion, limited to the religious arena, especially since most of us don’t live at church.

We always have the chance to worship, throughout our days, even as we go about our everyday activities. Never mind that those activities frequently feel about as far from spiritually uplifting as the bathroom (just don’t look) does clean. Life is so often a monotonous grind full of tedious tasks. That, or it’s just plain hard, and sometimes, it’s both. What place does worship have there?

I’d like to share with you a fantastic chapter in the New Testament, Colossians 3. The whole chapter is well worth a few moments of study and meditation, but here are two verses particularly pertinent to this discussion. Verse 17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Verse 23 repeats it, saying, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” This could get hokey, I suppose, but accepting that even the most boring or challenging jobs can be presented as an offering to God has certainly made a difference in my life. For example, I work as a nurse’s aide. I got into it because I badly needed a job, not because I wanted – AT ALL – to work in health care, and especially at first, it was really hard. It’s not a job anybody who knew me 15 years ago would have pictured me doing. And there I was, starting a job guaranteed to push many of my easily accessible buttons. I hated it, but I needed to work, and somewhere in there, I ran across Colossians 3. It took a while, but eventually I accepted that what I was doing wasn’t all about the people around me. It was for God, and the… ahem… difficulty of it didn’t have to crush or ruin me. Instead, it was an opportunity for me to grow and practice some of that other stuff we see in Colossians 3, like getting dressed up “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” It pulled my focus off myself and my struggling and put it on Jesus.

The book of Psalms offers a couple of other helpful nuggets. 119, verses 9 – 11, say “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. There’s also Psalm 1, which tells us that “Blessed is the one. . .whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.” God, in the Bible, has given us so much direction and advice into getting our focus off ourselves and the other distractions and onto Jesus. It’s not enough to simply read it or listen to a sermon on Sunday, though. It must be practiced and tended until it becomes not just words, but a Word living in us.

Now that I’ve blathered on, do share! What is worship to you?

Relationships are funny (as in funny = peculiar, not as in funny, haha!) things. They come in a huge variety. Marriage, family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances all generate relationships. So do enemies. A relationship doesn’t have to be good in order to qualify as a relationship. 😛 It just requires some commonality, which conflict can provide. Relationships can also be extremely casual or brief, like people sharing public transportation or a checkout line in a supermarket. We aren’t limited to relationships with other people, either. We have relationships with things like political parties, churches, governments, and even food. To be clear, for the purposes of this post, I’m thinking about people.

Not only do relationships have a huge diversity in their external structure, they present us with all kinds of diversity in the effects they have on our lives. A single relationship can, throughout its course, be enough to send a person on a trip through every emotion possessed by humanity! They can have a very powerful effect on us, affecting how we feel, what we think, our expectations, and even what we believe about ourselves and those around us.

It makes me think about the purpose or maybe the consequences of relationships. I suspect that much of the time, people are so accustomed to relationships that they’re more or less invisible, kind of like oxygen or gravity. Relationships help form part of the, oh, foundation of human experience. Why on earth would God do that to us? I’ve certainly wondered that. Often enough, it’s been followed by, “Didn’t He think about the kind of vulnerability that would give us? Or the power?” I’ve certainly had some… er… negative encounters that caused me damage, and I’ve doubted my own trustworthiness with any sort of power. I’m not exactly a saint, hey?

I don’t s’pose damage and pain was really His idea, though. What did Jesus say? “I am the Vine. You are the branches.” Sounds like a relationship to me, so I’d guess it’s safe to say that the original Idea was for us to have a relationship with God, and that the painful bits are a consequence of humanity’s own, not-so-bright ideas and subsequent fall.

As for why God would give us relationships with each other, I think part of the answer can be found in Hebrews 10:24 – 25. Hebrews 10:25 is a verse often used when a pastor wants to remind people that they ought to be showing up at church on Sundays, but I’m quite sure it has broader applications. I first learned it in the good, ol’ King James (classic Awana), so I think that’s how I’ll share it.

Hebrews 10:23-25

23Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

I forgot. Verse 23 is also great, so I had to add it. Let’s see what we have here.

Bekah’s perspective on Hebrews 10:23-25

23) God is trustworthy, so let’s trust Him. Duh!

24) Be deliberate and considerate. Look for opportunities to promote love and good works in the people around you.

25) Don’t shun community. Don’t be a chicken livered coward who flees redemptive relationship or one who is foolish enough to underestimate its value. Time is short. We are to be here for each other to, if nothing else, earnestly remind and even goad one another into living like we believe that God is trustworthy.

Verse 23 makes me laugh, I do have to say. Writing all that out like that was pretty fun, and it seems pretty clear, too. I think one good reason to be in relationships with other Christians who are also determined to love God is because we are intended to help each other along the way.

One last thought occurred to me. I said that we’re intended to help each other out. It’s not just be helped. Nobody is so pathetic, so broken, so useless that they’ve nothing to offer, not even me. I am not saying that I’m worthless, but I have certainly gone round and round with it at times. We have something to offer to each other. We’re told to “consider…how to provoke unto love and good works.” God doesn’t break legs and then tell us to walk. He doesn’t demand the impossible without making a way, so if He’s telling us to do something, we can do it. I find that so encouraging. It’s not merely a command, a responsibility, a duty to discharge. It’s a privilege. What’s more, it’s often an opportunity for God to strengthen my own faith and trust as I see Him make yet another way for me to “exhort” another. Makes sense, though. Branches don’t stand up well by themselves. They need the support of the Vine.