Archive for the 'Love' Category

31
Dec
10

Magic on Ice

As the year comes to a close, so does our holiday season. This year, the season settled in with disillusion. I resented the materialism and mourned the childhoods of my daughters, all the while seeking a spiritual connection that went missing some time in September. It was difficult to stave off cynicism, particularly after a Black-Friday all-nighter that left me feeling used and exploited like a night at a frat house caveman party.

Then I took Berlin ice skating.

Ice skating is like mainlining childhood for me. Growing up in Minnesota, I spent many weekends on the lake. If it got dark, my dad would turn on the Nova’s headlights and I would circle the lake, getting more and more bruised as I pursued a doomed Olympic career. The minute my feet are captivated by little white boots with metallic blades, I am eight again, and everything is possible.

So mother and daughter circled the ice, together in childish spirit, chatting about the latest pop stars and admiring our icy grace as we twirled around dodged wobbly grown ups and slow beginners. Most of these obstacles belonged to the same group. When we got cold, we left the ice to sit by the fire and we stopped talking long enough to notice these people. It was a family, reunited from lives that took them all over the country. Grandpa and grandma were there with thermoses of hot chocolate for the brothers and sisters they had borne. The cousins were scattered around the ice and the fire pit, according to age, and they chatted feverishly, distracted only by the effort of gliding around the ice. Remember that? The anticipation, the travel, the arrival, the hiding away with those so dear and precious for their absence?

Magic. I nearly fell off my skates. The season IS magical, there is no denying it. It is the only time we step back from living to make love a deliberate part of our routine. We have parties and gather, but even as we are alone in our daily routines, we think of others. We think of their needs rather than their demands…What to gift, whom to gift, charity, life changes as we catch up through Christmas letters and admire growing families. This season, despite the guerrilla tactics of retailers, exemplifies humanity at its best. I believe that love is our greatest emotion wrought with a power we cannot understand. The media has undermined love with manipulation and lust, but deep, platonic love is the closest we can come to a God who is Love. Perhaps the retailers are stealing Christmas from the Christians as we stole it from the Pagans, but there is a reason it is so sought after. It exemplifies the best of us and that is a perfect reason to hold on to it. There is a movement among Christians to give up the materialism and commercialism of the holiday and while I agree that these things are distracting, I think that the cost of letting them go is too great. Our material prowess is the result of a human spirit set free, and we ave a right to embrace it. If we do not, it becomes a controlling force and embraces us. We are commissioned to act as the Lord’s Hands and Feet, serving humanity. This means many things, but giving is a large part of it, the easy part. The rest comes in time as we learn to express love untarnished by a fallen mankind. We need to practice. We need this season. We need this magic that is really a miracle.

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22
Oct
10

Was Huey Lewis Right?

Tell me, just how powerful IS love? This question surfaces every. single. day. Love is what legends are made of. For centuries, there have been sonnets, poems, songs, novels, epics, and movies written about love. If the passing twitterpation didn’t do some damage, then surely the novelty would have worn off, right? I am not a romantic. If I happen to watch a romcom, it is simply because I was alone and tired of watching things blow up. If I happen to watch an epic romance, it is likely because of the leading eye candy or because of an interesting historical setting. The

    Titanic

brand of quickie gimme-72-hours-and-I’ll-die-for-you romance, however, makes me want to kick puppies and I am a pretty big fan of puppies.

As I (gasp) age, I am noticing certain truths about life. Mainly, love is powerful stuff. Our culture has made excellent progress in destroying this, weakening the power by obstructing the source, but still it prevails. It drives the human race. We live to achieve love, however misguided our efforts. It may manifest in our work, dress, knowledge, physique, or simple materialism, but love drives our society. The problem is, we strive for that which is undefined. We don’t even admit to looking for love, rather a “hook-up” or even “soul mate,” allowing the fates to intervene, but it is love we seek.

The media has taken full advantage of this definitive failure and lures us into a trap of pleasure and instant gratification. We fall victim to this at younger and younger ages, generation by generation. The media has sold us a confusing substitute for love – lust. I could easily argue that lust is even more powerful than love itself. Lust takes governors and presidents from their honored posts to darkened offices and hallways full of scandal. Lust misguides teens and leaves them huddled against their broken dreams. Lust divides families and sells hundreds of thousands of daughters into submission. Particularly tragic – lust takes a teen girls heart and mind and plays a dangerous game of keepaway, telling her who to be and how to act until she forgets that she started with a plan, a goal.

Love, on the other hand, doesn’t leave anybody wanting more. Instead, it leaves us able to give more. This is amazing, all we can share when we walk in the comfort of true love. True love can come from a parent, a friend network, even a spouse or significant other, though I believe that offers nearly insurmountable challenge. Love is divine. The Bible says that God is Love. When we truly contemplate the transforming power of love, it stands to reason that it is supernatural. Yet, in the world we live in, love is hindered by human frailty. While we look to spouses for this deep, committed, emotion, we fail to admit that the person we look to is limited by his own frailty. Particularly a spouse, who would look to me for the same validation. I think this is exactly why God says to love Him first, with all my heart with all my soul. God’s love, once realized is everlasting and unfailing. God will never shut me out because of a bad day. He will always love me and treat me objectively in that very love relationship. My spouse may try, but realistically, the world is going to impede his ability to do so. If I hold God in the highest esteem, though, and love Him first, what is reflected in my soul is eternal and divine and my love ceases to fail.

Eternal, unfailing love. It moves the world. Nations go to war. Nations come in peace. The addict finds healing. The abused are transformed. We need the fortitude to love without condition, without self-interest. We truly need the power of love.

26
Apr
10

My Crisis of Faith – From Seed to Blooming Tree

It started in church one Sunday. There was a technical difficulty during worship, a missing piece. The worship pastor asked us all to bow our heads in a prayer he eloquently led. Amen, heads up, eyes open, order restored on the stage.

It was a seed.

How often are we led in prayers that are less of a plea to the Lord than they are curtains for a very human pastoral staff to rally behind? I began to wonder about the humanity, the efforts they made for the appearance of seamless perfection. It is not the imperfection of that humanity that nurtured this seed. It was the effort to cover it up. Mistrust began to grow from my church’s inability to admit imperfection.

I love my church, and the pastoral staff has always exhibited the utmost wisdom and integrity, so it’s possible that this little plant rooted in such shallow soil could have quickly died, but then Pat Robertson spoke. If you remember, he blamed the Haitians for their sorrow after the earthquake, saying that it was God’s judgement. My little plant sprouted so fast, the economy turned green with envy. Then missionaries went to Haiti and stole children, assuming they were better fit to raise them, apparently. More leaves on my little plant.

Then I watched a debate unfold over a Super Bowl ad. Christians fired off in support of Focus on the Family, decrying everything that had ever stood in their way. I love the American Family, but it’s time to take note that married parents, 2.5 kids, and a golden retriever is not realistic for most Americans. Though the ad itself was positive and not controversial, the message was lost in the debate. Both sides were cruel, but there is a real problem when Christians are cruel in the name of the Lord. My little plant leafed out all over the place.

Then it grew a branch. The Catholic Church chose to stand with those priests accused of the most heinous crimes of pedophilia. What cruelty from an institution that should be based on hope and love? Jesus Himself said that the punishment for a man who leads His flock astray is beyond that which anyone else will experience. If the Church stands behind these “men” in the name of forgiveness, I appreciate that. But forgiveness and trust are very different. Forgiveness does not imply restoration, as illustrated by the way this same church treats divorcees, homosexuals, and those of other faiths. To allow these priests to continue to represent what is right and holy uncovers gross dishonesty that I simply cannot abide. It has become nearly impossible for me to watch a public display of religion without skepticism. The branches are in the way.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches,“ but I’m pretty sure he meant something entirely different. He meant that we should feed from Him and grow like Him, strong and fruitful. But an interesting thing happens when a person accepts Jesus as his Savior. Nothing. Loved ones still get sick. There still isn’t enough money. Tragedies still headline the nightly news. When we hear of salvation, the message is confusing. It is disheartening and discourages real growth in faith. We have fed from soil polluted by humanity and grown into weak hybrids. Then, we have taken it upon ourselves to save the world, to fuse it to our hybrid trees. Since we recognized that the tree didn’t look right, we tried to coerce everyone into being like us. We forgot about the branch entirely as we promised our own cross-bred salvation borne of judgement. This judgement and coercion is coming back to us now as our great nation dies from within, suffering from the fatal wounds of deep division.

Jesus promise of salvation is simply to save us from ourselves, a need we don’t always recognize. When God created us, he granted us the greatest gift, far greater than anything He gave even to the angels who dwell with Him in Heaven – Free Will. But, like anything great, it is this gift that leads to our demise. Within free will rests ego, greed, self, and everything else that divides the human from the divine. Thus, it is that very free will that Jesus asks us to lay down for Him in obedience. Not a popular pulpit message, bu to be free from the trappings of humanity is a gift, indeed. What we do with it is where our free will lies. Do we continue to live the same lives, resting on the laurels of this forgiveness? Or do we accept the brevity of our salvation and walk alongside others, trudging through the furrows of humanity?

22
Oct
09

Aahhhh…Seventeen Again

The plot may be Hollywood’s most worn out cliche, but I can’t help but love the movie “17 Again.” Regardless of the overdone plot, it is fresh, witty, and heartfelt with a message that is almost foreign to Hollywood.

Plus, the cougar in me is quite taken with Zac Efron (eewwww…that was my outside typing).

Beyond the young, young hottie, though, is an interesting contrast between youth and maturity. Youth is bombastic. I wish it were contagious. Children are nurtured and encouraged and in these conditions they flourish. As they hover near adulthood, they are full of bravado and really can take on the world. Pepsi has an amazing commercial right now that portrays the spirit of youth as that which moves a nation and I don’t think that they are far from the truth.

Then it happens. It happened in the movie when Zac’s character made the very grown up choice to raise an unexpected family. I’m sure we can all remember when it began for us. First, Adulthood lures us away with the freedom to make some choices for our selves, but before we know it, it has us tangled by our feet. One choice leads to another, then we have to take responsibility. Then comes the most vicious assault, the point of no return, self-doubt. This is where the adult falters and what steals the bombast of youth.

While a solid self-check is a good thing, self-doubt is destructive. It steals the confidence we had to make dreams come true and even to stand for principle. Choices that seemed simple from the protection of our youth become more and more difficult when the mortgage is stares us down from the first of the month. We trudge through adulthood with the tattered memory of youthful verve.

What if it were different? If we could hold onto that hope and the uncompromising innocence that comes with it, would we be better off as a society? I think that we would. I would never suggest that we walk away from personal responsibility – ever – but I strongly feel that if we can hold onto something inside that is empowering, we will be much better for it. It is detrimental to allow our youth to be ripped away from us; instead, we have to let go, making decisions along the way. We have to mature with intentionality that gives us the control we thought we had when we were young. Only then can we protect ourselves, the id, according to Freud, with the love and care that we deserve. When we make the effort to care for ourselves, we can extend this to those around us. If we fail and our lives are in tatters, it is impossible to live in true selflessness.

20
Oct
09

Joy is in the Journey

Sometimes just sitting in church is overwhelming. I go to a church that nearly 10 per cent of my city attend. It’s huge and I never know who I will see…the mayor, presidents of banks, scandalized newsmakers, teachers, friends, and even enemies and convicts. Once in a while, I glimpse a moment for one of these people – a tear or a hug more emotional than just hello – and I realize that we are all journeying together. Regardless of station, good or bad, every one of us is a human being with very similar feelings and struggles.

Sunday was one of these days. There is genuine concern in these times. Children are at war, homes are being lost, and the future is uncertain. Pain is everywhere. Then I wonder how many people walked into this church, hanging their hope on a Sunday school promise that God will take their troubles away. Because of this pretty and simple package, how many will leave this building in a bitter sadness, defeated and even angry at a God they have never met?

I hold the church responsible, in “recruiting efforts,” for painting this simple picture of a joyful life lived with the Lord. I believe in this picture, but it stopped being simple the first time life got hard. When life got hard, I discovered that the Lord Himself does not just hand us a colossal aspirin and pain-repelling umbrella tied up in a red ribbon of exuberant joy.

What he does do is reach out a hand, often times from across a chasm, and promise to take the walk with with us. Unfortunately, when we have been promised a fluffy cloud will carry us along – over the hard parts – it’s hard to understand a God who still makes us take the long way. I worry that this is where people are lost, when they hoped to float over the chasm so they don’t take the hand and make the frightening leap.

Real life with the Lord is exactly that – real. The joy part of it is learned, through trials that are conquered because our faith is placed in a God who is unchanging. He never promised to remove the trials, he promised to make them smaller. Feeling the Love of God on my life reminds me most of being a child. There were scary times and sad times and so many times that I didn’t understand. In those times, there was my dad. He would pick me up, or put an arm around me, and nothing around me changed, but I felt safe. Somehow I knew that whatever came of us, at least something would be the same – my dad.

My dad was certainly not capable of fixing all the trouble that found its way into my life, but he made it more bearable. God cannot remove trouble from our lives, either. If He did, it would mean taking our free will, which is a dangerous but crucial blessing He gave us. He gave us rules to make the climb a little less painful; our obedience is up to us.

That is why there are so many severe warnings against sin. It is not to make us feel guilty or give us restrictions. As adults, we understand that there are just behaviors that are destructive. It would be miserable, if not even impossible, to live as eternal beings in a pattern of sin. And that’s where we got the provision, through Jesus, to give us the opportunity to live as was intended. God grieves that any of us perish, surely grieves in a way we cannot even comprehend. His love for us was the original first love. It is fully passionate, exciting, and hopeful. It never goes away – it may be put away, stashed comfortably in a recess of our heart, but it is never gone. He carries a torch for the world as we carry a torch for those we first loved, a torch that will never be extinguished.

29
Jul
09

Life is Steadfast

My daughters make me miss my grandma. She was an amazing woman who always had time to share something sweet with me. In those moments she told me what it was like to live through the depression, how she felt when her husband built her a house in town – away from the farm, and how she cared for four children by herself after he passed. Then she would tell stories about life on a Minnesota farm and she’d even pass on the stories her parents told of their journey from Norway to that very Minnesota farm. Nobody could accuse my grandma of being rich, yet anyone who spent an afternoon with her came away knowing something about the richness that life holds. My grandma understood, above all, about the twists and turns of life and how to make the most of the few things that remain constant. Like children. She would have been just “tickled” to see my girls.

Even as a little girl, I understood the wisdom my grandma had earned. She shared what I was ready for and I appreciated what I could. My mom looked to her grandma the same way. She was quick to dispense with great advice and engaging stories and the small tidbits that made my mom think things out for herself. I remember being hesitant to say too much to my great grandma because she always knew what motivated me and that scared me just a little. Now I think she would be a much needed mirror for my soul.

Many cultures recognize this. They revere their elderly and are honored to care for them with respect and adoration; but Americans seem to have a somewhat different view. We weigh the value of a life against the cost of sustaining it. We consider whether it is worth caring for the elderly and if their quality of life justifies such care. Then, as we pursue our busy lives, we consider where to put them so they will be out of the way.

With the elderly neatly tucked away, we are forced to find counsel in sources we consider relevant to our lives. We have turned our backs on Grandma’s years of life experience for the more appealing package of Tyra Banks, which begs the question, when did we begin to equate beauty with wisdom? We hang on Madonna’s every word, wait with bated breath for Brad Pitt to speak, and take Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental advice as law. We call their voices relevant in a world foreign to our grandmothers. We are so wrapped up in the image that we shut our grandmothers out, refusing to look at the soul-mirrors they hold.

That soul-mirror just may tell us we are faltering, reinforcing the voice calling out from the backs of our minds. I know that the only thing that would impress my departed grandparents and great-grandparents is my character. There is nothing material that can impress someone who survived the Great Depression. There is no vacation or even party that would impress a woman whose fingers bled from her chores on the farm, the chores she did before her children woke up and she made them breakfast. And I can just imagine how these departed people would shake their heads at my morning road rage, which reminds us just how easily we forget our character as we carry on with the busyness of “keeping up.”

As we fear the opinions of generations refined by hardship, it is not hard to imagine that we can find comfort accepting “non-advice.” That is, the pleasure that comes from watching Jerry Springer and his guests, knowing that we are not that bad yet. We ourselves have turned our worlds upside down with this thinking. We say that we cannot get away from the trappings of the world, yet we consistently invite these trappings into our living rooms, bed rooms, and even our children’s rooms. TV has given us the visual entertainment that we crave, with none of the admonition we fear. Programmers are certain to avoid anything that may convict or cause discomfort, so we watch beautiful people living lives we covet and slowly but surely, our priorities turn inside-out. Grandma is sent away to a nursing home and we are free from burden, not the burden of care, but the burden of introspection. With Grandma away, we are free to pursue these lives of the rich and famous regardless of cost. Unfortunately, worldly pursuits will always leave us wanting, for as vast as they are, they are finite so somebody keeps changing the goal, just to keep us interested. It is defeating. To find fulfillment, we must remain steadfast in character and priority, following the legacy of the generations before us.

11
Jul
09

Naivety in Disguise

She was a little high school cheerleader when we first met. I was about to trust her with the life of my child for about eight hours. My firstborn survived the eight hours and I found myself inviting this little cheerleader in more and more often. Soon I had two children and she had graduated high school. Before I knew it, my two children and I were going to her college graduation. Then she left to go to grad school. Then, in an excited instant message, we got the news…”I’m getting married!”

Unlike her peers, this precious pom-pom shaker had never really dated, something I found strange because she was so adorable. News of an upcoming marriage was somewhat startling. Over the years, though, I had learned to trust this girl with more than my children. She grew into a pillar of strength and wisdom. I knew that this man she met must be something special if she was willing to offer her life to him. Then I got the rest of the story, the kind of story that reminds us what is good and what is right.

On Easter, she was cooking dinner alone for 12 friends and said that she missed Mark and all the good times they used to have in the kitchen. I immediately panicked, concerned that this man had broken her precious heart. I was completely wrong. “We have decided that we cannot be alone until the wedding,” she confided. I will paraphrase and say that she explained by saying they could no longer keep their hands off each other, so they would not be alone until they become husband and wife. Both of these young people had made a commitment years ago to remain chaste until marriage and they fully intended to honor each other in that.

Oddly, abstinence has become controvercial over the years. Even more oddly, we parents, educators, and authority figures have all but given up the fight. When did something so precious as pure love become not worth fighting for?

I was in no way chaste before becoming a wife and I do not feel hypocritical for wanting better for this generation. The pain and suffering wrought by my previous escapades still shows up today. Most recently when the boy I handed my virginity to showed up as a potential FaceBook friend and he is really a stranger to me – a stranger who has had the privilege of seeing me naked. My entire life changed my first year in college when I was kissing the man of my dreams. After being together for years, he was the one I was sure I would marry and he definitely had my heart. Until this moment. Wrapped in each other, he whispered, “I wish I were first. I wish you hadn’t have done this already.” I knew what I had lost at that very moment. Everything. He and I did not get married. From that very moment I knew that no matter how much he loved me, he would always see me differently than I looked at him.

Luckily, I was still able to marry a wonderful man, but there are scars from this previous life. We essentially married into an adulterous situation. There was jealousy. There was fear. There were comparisons and threats. Hovering over all of this was a shaky level of commitment. Mark and Cassie have already done more to prove their commitment for each other than my husband and I had after 10 years of marriage. They have proven that they are willing to sacrifice for the good of their family, even now when it only numbers the two of them. These two have shown that they can work through the very first issue a married couple faces with level heads and loving motivation. That sets a high standard for the care of a marriage and immediately elevates it to the priority it should be.

My daughter has taken a purity pledge and through her I have seen aspects of this that had never even occurred to me. It is a display of lifetime commitment to a marriage that has not yet begun. It is respect for a spouse who has not yet arrived on scene. Perhaps most interesting and selfless is the concern it shows for others. It is concern for the future wives of discarded boyfriends, a statement that she wants them to have the same opportunity for purity that she has reserved for herself. I had never considered abstinence as a way to show deference to one’s peers, but it most definitely is. It is a more subtle version of not taking a bite out of every Hershey Bar at the checkout line so the person who is willing to sacrifice the .68 can have the whole thing.

This is good. When did we forget what is good and decide to settle for less so easily? I do not want my daughters to be naive about sex. I don’t think that they are. I know that they are not, in fact. But I really don’t want them to be naive about life. Unfortunately, nobody would have called the teenaged version of me naive. I daresay, though, that I most definitely was.

Oh – and congratulations to Mark and Cassie on not only the new life you began today, but on the profound blessing you have managed to offer to one another.




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