Tag Archive: love


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

The boat plowed through the wave and then plunged into a trough, spray kicking up over the edges and plastering the men inside. They’d been out there for hours, waiting. Darkness had fallen. The night was nearly spent, and still they were waiting. They were tired. They were cold. They were wet. The contrary wind kept slapping waves against their boat.

The day before had been amazing. Crowds of people, thousands of people had tracked them down and followed them, had followed the man whom they were themselves following. So many other hungry folk could, like them, see something of what that man had to offer. Together the whole mass of them had witnessed him perform a miracle and feed all of them from almost nothing. What a rush that had been! But now? Just the chilled and fatigued few were out waiting in their boat.

“Did you see that?” one asked.

“See what?” another responded.

“Look!” a third cried. “Over there, out on the water, walking!”

All eyes turned to look and widened in fear. Someone’s terror put words to their fear. “It’s a ghost!”

Jesus heard their fear and, without hesitation, called out. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

One, bold Peter, answered, “Lord, if it’s you, the one whom we follow, tell me to come out to you on the water.”

“Come,” Jesus replied.

Peter leapt from the boat and began walking over the water toward Jesus. Away from the boat and its sheltering bulk, the wind snatched ever more greedily at him. He began to look around at the hostile elements, and fear took him. As it rose, his body sank. In panic, Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus immediately caught his hand and lifted him up, saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Together, they walked back to the boat and joined the disciples still aboard it. As soon as they had embarked, the wind quieted.

You might have guessed from my rewrite that I love the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water. I find it rich and thought provoking. It’s also cool. I mean, c’mon! They were walking on water. How COOL would it be to hop out of your boat onto the water and go for a stroll? Forget boats, bridges, and detours. Just walk across that liquid.

Another thing I like to do is think about how these people were real people. In some ways, the text is pretty factual. It tells us that the disciples were afraid, but it doesn’t say that their eyes widened in fear. It doesn’t say that they were tired, wet, and cold, but that there were waves, wind, and it was near dawn. I’ve taken a bit of liberty with it and drawn conclusions because these are people. The text does show that. Goodness, they thought Christ was a ghost! Do you think perhaps they’d been sitting around trying to take their mind off their surroundings by telling each other spooky stories? Then a mysterious figure appears, and they’re totally freaked. Christ is so kind. “Hey, guys, it’s me! Don’t be afraid!” I don’t know, but I can see stuff like that happening.

Because I can, because I can relate, it helps me see what a wonderful allegory this story can be. I probably will not find myself literally in a little boat out on a Middle Eastern sea, and I’m guessing you won’t, either, but this story is relevant and true for us today. We are still called to “walk on water” today.

Consider the greatest commandments, which commands us to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. That’s not easy to do. It’s not easy at all. We live in a world that’s not interested in holiness or righteousness. Holiness doesn’t do good things for instant gratification, and righteousness doesn’t sell. Can’t make money off of it. But still, this is what we’re called to do. On good days, it’s kinda like riding in a boat “buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” We’re out there, it’s dark, we’re wet, we’re cold, maybe we’re seasick, and there is a resistance to everything we are trying to accomplish.

Times like that, it’s easy enough to start wondering if Jesus is ever coming. It’s easy to start wondering if we’re getting anywhere or doing any good at all or even to forget whatever it is we were trying to do. Nausea can have that effect on people. 😉 So can cold and fatigue and darkness. They are discouraging circumstances which encourage us to focus on our discomfort while forgetting our purpose. Then, when Jesus does show, it’s not how we expect, and we don’t recognize Him. We freak out because there’s a ghost! “AaaaaAAAAaaaaAAAh! Oh, wait… Haha, Jesus, I knew it was you! I was just kidding!”

A moment comes when we have the opportunity to leave the boat and join Jesus out there on the water, you know, boatless. Think about that. Boats are constructs. They’re something made by humanity to allow us to cope with the instability of water and to use that water to accomplish our purposes. Boats are familiar. Boats are safe. Water is not. We can build and sail and row and drive boats. We cannot walk on water. It’s not safe for us, but there’s Peter jumping out of the boat to join Jesus. That’s insane, but so is a serious commitment to be a child of God. God has given us all kinds of tools (the Bible, church, Christian friends, etc.) to help us build and use boats of our own. However, sometimes those boats are not enough to overcome the opposition, and sometimes I think God just wants to knock our socks off, so we hear, “Come.”

Can you think how Peter must have felt? Excited, frightened, daring? He did fine, though, until he started looking at the wind. I can’t quite figure out how he saw the wind, but that’s the way the text describes it. He was afraid, a not unreasonable reaction considering he was engaged in something that he couldn’t possibly be doing, and that fear distracted him. The enemy got him all flustered so that he lost faith and started to sink. Smart man, though – he immediately recognized his situation and cried out to Christ for help. I have so done that. Haven’t you? Hasn’t there ever been something God has called you to do that you couldn’t possibly do, but out of love and faithfulness, you try anyway? At first there’s some success, but then there’s resistance that throws you off, and a horrid realization that you can’t do this comes crashing down upon you. I think it’s all good until I let my focus be drawn off Jesus and onto the impossible, the obstacle. I start to sink, and the only way I’m going to stop sinking is cry out to Jesus for help.

Have a good one!

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.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. It’s an American holiday set up to provide us with an opportunity to remember how blessed we are. I suspect in practice people get more excited about the food, the shopping, and the holiday movie debuts than giving thanks, but I could be wrong about that.

Myself? I tend not to get too excited about Thanksgiving Day. Many years finds me working, as I should be doing tomorrow. I do think it’s one good way to spend the day. It’s a practical way to demonstrate gratitude and a great way to give back some of what I’ve been given.

As a matter of fact, I was getting ready for work this evening when a random iTunes choice reminded me of one thing for which I am profoundly grateful. iTunes plucked Barlow Girls’ “I Need You to Love Me” out of the thousands of songs it had available. I stopped in my tracks and just about cried. I don’t have words to explain how grateful I am that God does love me. It’s amazing, you know?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent His Son not to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16, 17

Not condemned, but saved to life everlasting, because “God so loved.” Let me take a deep breath and sit with that for a moment. Can you imagine what kind of love that must be? How vast, how deep, how unchanging, how… incomprehensible… unfathomable… It’s beyond my ability to grasp, which might be why I find it overwhelming. I don’t really have any thing that I can relate to it.

You know, I’ll never have to sit with a flower, plucking petals and intoning, “He loves me.” A petal falls, and the next is plucked. “He loves me not.” He always loves me. His love is unwavering and certain. I’ll never be handed a stone with which to sate my hunger instead of bread. His love doesn’t play games. He may provide for my need in some unexpected fashion, but the provision will be ample. I’ll never be able to escape or be so stinking rotten that my stench will frighten off any loving advance. His love is always present no matter the height, the depth, the time, or the opposition. I’ll never be so broken that I’m disqualified. His love can find the smallest fragment and fuse a person whole. I’ll never not be worth His time or effort. I’ll never be too much work for Him. His love is everlastingly patient and kind. His love bears, believes, hopes, and endures. His love never gives up on me.

To make imagining a likeness even more impossible, I am not the only person whom He loves like this. He loves the whole world. He loves YOU.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a great day.

The Best of Us

A few weeks ago during a break, I saw a blurb on the news about a new blood test being developed. Can’t tell you what it was called. What I do remember is that it’s made to test for Down Syndrome. The reporter had all these great things to say about the test’s accuracy, about how it has the potential to reduce the number of amnio procedures (which carry some risk to the baby), and then, tacked on as an afterthought, mentioned that some folks are concerned that this test may lead to an increased number of abortions.

Out of curiosity, I’ve done some looking around. If you pull up the Wikipedia page, it does mention that many Down syndrome diagnosed pregnancies are aborted. The percentages quoted were over 90%. I didn’t check around enough to see where they got those numbers, because I got distracted by an old NY Times article that talks about rising parental concern in 2007. It also helpfully provided a link to a Pub Med abstract, Termination rates after prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, spina bifida, anencephaly, and Turner and Klinefelter syndromes: a systematic literature review. European Concerted Action: DADA (Decision-making After the Diagnosis of a fetal Abnormality). Isn’t that a mouthful? It was done in 1999, and it says Down syndrome abortion rates were 90 – 92%. It makes me feel a bit sick to read on the National Down Syndrome Society myths and truths site that “one in every 691 live births is a child with Down syndrome, representing approximately 6,000 births per year in the United States alone.” The operative words in the NDSS statement would be “live births.”

The Wikipedia page offered another interesting piece of info. It said in its history section:

Most individuals with Down syndrome were institutionalized, few of the associated medical problems were treated, and most died in infancy or early adult life. With the rise of the eugenics movement, 33 of the (then) 48 U.S. states and several countries began programs of forced sterilization of individuals with Down syndrome and comparable degrees of disability. “Action T4” in Nazi Germany made public policy of a program of systematic murder.

How about this little gem?

Plastic surgery has sometimes been advocated and performed on children with Down syndrome, based on the assumption that surgery can reduce the facial features associated with Down syndrome, therefore decreasing social stigma, and leading to a better quality of life.[90]

Or this?

People with Down syndrome often encounter patronizing attitudes and discrimination in the wider community.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not all bad, and there is a lot of good being done for and by those with Down syndrome. I’m cherry picking out some of the darker bits because of a thought that occurred to me. “Why,” I’ve been wondering, “do people sometimes have such a hard time with those who must cope with disabilities, handicaps, and other unusual challenges?” It’s certainly not confined to those people who have Down syndrome. Mistreatment of the unfortunate and weak is a common theme in human history. Why? Why is that?

I’m sure there are lots and lots of reasons, some of which, like bullying, leap to mind. I’m not a fan of bullies, people who want power over others, so when it’s done its leaping, my thoughts go something like, “people stink. There are lots of rotten ones out there.” I do think that’s true, but I also think I’m being a bit stupid when I leave it at that.

Last week, my eyes lit upon the jacket of “Forrest Gump,” and I thought, “You know, he did okay. He just needed a lot of help, and he got it. People who wouldn’t take care of themselves even would help take care of him.” Oh… oh… wait, is that an idea? He just needed a lot of help. That’s something I’ve noticed about Kimberly. She can do so much, but for much of it, she needs help, and she needs more help than “normal” people.

Sometimes, people are pretty rotten and selfish. We like power. We don’t want to inconvenience ourselves to help others, but I really wonder if our profound antagonism toward someone like Kimberly who has unusual and profound need isn’t more than simple selfishness. I wonder if people like her aren’t meant to bring out the best in us, if their need should not invite exploitation but rather call out of us love, compassion, humility, steadfastness, service, patience, and other virtues. I wonder if we shrink away not out of greed, but out of fear of measuring ourselves against that yawning deficit and finding our own selves lacking. I wonder… I wonder… are the needs of others a mirror into which I am afraid to look?