Posts Tagged ‘Christianity

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.

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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.

27
Jun
09

Forgiveness, Evil’s Parasite

The University of Miami recently released a study comparing the hunting habits of the Great White shark to those of serial killers. This is not a surprise. In fact, I believe that this proves a long-standing hypothesis: sharks are pure evil. They are behemoth killing machines, not evolved or adapted since their beginning, meaning that they were perfectly created for their grisly existence. I contend that serial killers may share basal instincts with the shark, not the other way around.

I briefly stated my position on FaceBook and I was told “Ponder this…If you believe in true evil, you have no room for forgiveness.” I pondered this. I have spent a lot of time pondering forgiveness. I am forgiven. I have forgiven some dreadful things. I live with a man who is bi-polar. Forgiveness is a big part of my life and it is a big word. We throw it around fairly easily, but how often do we mean it? More importantly, how often do we genuinely seek it? When we throw out a hapless “I’m sorry,” do we really hope for forgiveness or are we sorry we are in the situation and we want it to stop?

As a Christian, I have to take a very honest look at what forgiveness means because my entire faith hinges on it. There is not a person on the planet God would not forgive, but we have to ask for it. It has to be different from saying “sorry” as though we bumped into God with a shopping cart at Target. When we seek forgiveness from God, it has be sincere, heartfelt, and indicative of a major willingness to change.

The same is true for seeking forgiveness from each other. We are not charged to forgive someone who is not asking us to. But when we are asked, that is the test. That is when we have to turn our backs on the past and step ahead, leaving the hurt somewhere on the road. There has been a misconception among us Christians, though, as we assume a need to forgive everyone who has wronged us. This dangerous misconception fills the Christian walk with potholes.

I turned an ankle in one of these potholes about a year ago. I had just begun to really grasp unconditional love as a matter of faith and I made this assumption that forgiveness is inherent in that. Enter the Bad Relative. This man exhibits deplorable behavior that only gets worse as he nears 70. He has done irreparable harm to our family and continues to do so. I was struggling with this, wondering how to forgive when I know that it only required my own heart to change. After careful study and a lot of prayer, I found an answer. If he is not recognizing a need for forgiveness and therefore does not seek it, I am under no obligation to forgive. I have to love him and have to treat him with the gentleness that comes with that, but to forgive implies a rebuilding of trust. It suggests a commitment to carry on a relationship despite the rifts of the past. It is impossible to forgive someone who does not understand he has behaved badly, or who will not admit responsibility for his actions. If this person feels no need to adjust his behavior going forward, it is not possible to carry on a relationship washed in forgiveness.

Contrary to my Facebook challenger’s contention, I do believe in evil just as much as I believe in forgiveness. Evil is evident throughout history and the world. I witnessed evil at the mall today (nobody should wear shorts and high-heeled boots, please stop so I can forgive you). Evil is the feeding tube keeping forgiveness alive. Without it, forgiveness would be obsolete. We may live in a shallow existence where shopping cart bumps are quickly brushed aside, but without evil, we could not appreciate the sacrifice involved in overcoming it. And sacrifice is the greatest expression of unconditional love.

13
Dec
08

Mirror, Mirror in the Crib…

Since I have been a mother, I have made an obvious assumption that God gave us family as an earthly expression of His unconditional love.  I noticed that when the girls were unselfish, I wanted to give them more.  When they made good decisions, I trusted them with more.  It felt like I learned more and more about the Lord my Father with each passing day and I have been grateful for His love and His example. 

So I thought I had it all figured out and things were good.  But then, God felt like I should learn a little more.  He loves that.  It’s time for the annual gift binge, complicated this year by the addition of my teen daughter’s social life.  Now it’s the annual gift and party binge from reindeer hell!  After spending yet another evening driving her to yet another party and waiting in yet another parking lot to pick her up, I thought about how much I love the words “thank you.”  There is a lot of thinking time in the parking lots I frequent, so I spent some time on this, mostly because I knew I wasn’t likely to hear it.  I love to hear “thank you.”  It is usually followed by “I love you” and is all around great.  It makes me so happy to hear and I am so concerned when I don’t, when favors from me or others are taken for granted. 

Aha!  If God gave us a picture of His love when he gave us a family, then he handed us a mirror when our children were born.  I began to wonder, sitting in that parking lot, if God loves to hear “thank you” from us as much as I love to hear it from my children.  The Bible mentions gratitude hundreds of times.  He must love it.  Like our children, there is a reason we should offer thanks.  The minute we realize we have something to be thankful for, our troubles miraculously shrink.  Gratitude makes us want to share.  It makes us happy and it brings true joy.

So I wondered if God was holding up a mirror for me, a reminder that I don’t remember to thank Him for the ride – ever – but I sure complain when it is bumpy.  Or crowded.  Or lonely.

When Daughter Number One was in kindergarten, I got The Call from her teacher.  She had done something awful and was more rude than remorseful.  My first reaction was exactly what the teacher expected, “Where would she pick up something like that?”  The teacher was silent long enough for me to realize exactly where she picked it up.  Number One showed me all kinds of bad habits and unacceptable behaviors I had, so I have known about the mirror.  The problem is, I thought the mirror was mine.  Fourteen years later, I understand that the mirror, like everything else, is the Lord’s.

14
Sep
08

Created in Love

I drove for several hours today, which is inspiration in and of itself.  Gas prices are keeping traffic to a minimum, so I can actually let my car open up and devour our beautiful mountains dotted line by dotted line.  It’s like Pac Man on PCP. 

So not my point.

It is impossible to drive through the mountains at sunset with a full moon rising and not consider the Lord.  For years I have felt and understood His love, but I have to be honest.  I have doubted.  I doubt, but that is when I grow.  Frankly, the overwhelming love of an intangible creator is incomprehensible to me.  I have felt it, and I believe that is when faith becomes real.  It is not possible to explain the peace that comes from God’s love to someone who doesn’t believe in this love.  But to someone else who has felt it, no explanation is necessary.  It is unmistakable.  So it is realistic to consider a loving God.  A loving Creator.  If God is our Creator, and I believe that many religions, particularly the Islamic faith, believes this without a doubt, then He must be a loving, benevolent God.  How can violence be committed in His name?  A Creator bears love for His children, mirrored in a parent’s feelings for theirs.  Is that a gift He gave to us so we can begin to understand?  This loving Creator would not lightly or thoughtlessly sentence His creation to eternal death.  The basic precept of radical Islam is just that, convert or die.  If a non-believer dies, he is forever separated from God with no opportunity for reconciliation.  That is where it ends.  The decision must be made here on this Earth.  The Creator I know will move mountains to bring me to Him if He knows there is a chance I will come.  If I will come, He will not let me die without making that decision. This Creator would not establish a covenant under which I have one chance or certain death.  He is a God of second chances.  When you know Him, you know.  The God of Islam?  Not the same.  Not a god who loves his children.  He keeps them wondering, keeps them guessing, keeps them trying to gain approval up to the very end. 

Creation itself, those beautiful mountains and that amazing moon, even the joy I get from driving through those mountains, is proof that God loves us.  He will not forsake us if we will just have Him.

If you want to experience this love, this peace of a loving Creator, pray.  Pray to God and admit that yes, you have sinned and you just may do it again, but you would love to come to Him for the forgiveness only He can offer through His son Jesus Christ.  That gets you a ticket, but then take the time to learn.  To apply this to your life and learn about this amazing love.  You will never be the same.

14
Sep
08

Batman – My Hypothetical Hero

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:12-14
Batman Forever is my favorite movie.  It paints the question of motivation vs. results and brings to life moral debates never settled.  I love the questions, the way it makes me consider humanity and the fine line we walk.  In school, my daughter’s moral philosophy teacher uses this character to make their discussions of Odysseus more pertinent.  They are discussing what makes Batman the quintissential hero.  Well…two things.  He is wealthy beyond measure and has a vengeful spirit.  Bruce Wayne is driven by a spirit of vengeance, and the result is goodness as he moves through Gotham’s black night, banishing evil.  This good that is done, though, does not speak of heroism.  It is a fortunate byproduct of a bitter heart.  Bruce Wayne is a loose cannon and would have acted the same whether he was on the side of good or bad.  In his case, it is fortunate that he is on the side of that which is good.  The message of the movie would be much different if his father had been a drug lord and was gunned down by the angry family of an addict, driving Bruce to reak vengeance against the “establishment.”  Still, the on the surface it would look the same.  Bruce Wayne devotes all of his life, wealth, and strength to avenge his fathers death.  In the original scenario, justice.  In the hypothetical scenario, senseless violence.

If Batman cannot be the great hero of our generation, then who do we have.  Not many.  A hero is one who takes the time to examine his motivation.  He needs to check the recesses of his heart to ensure that what he does stands for justice, not just because he happens to be on the right side, but because he is just.  This man has to lay down his life in order to pursue justice.  A life laid aside is a painful separation.  I think of the men portrayed in “The End of the Spear” and their wives.  These men went to a cannibal tribe to minister to them, but the cannibals killed them savagely.  Their wives later went to the tribe to live among them and raise their children there.  Under their influence, the tribe has turned to Christianity and, therefore, away from a life of cruel cannibalism.  One of the murdered men’s sons acts as the tribe’s minister.  It is wonderful that these men are Christians, but with the faith comes a life of spiritual prosperity.  Their children and their children’s children are living better lives because of the spirit of forgiveness these women bore at great cost and sacrifice.  I highly doubt that living with these people and raising their children with them was what the women wanted, but something stirred deep inside and they laid selfishness aside.  That is heroism – the hero has no self.

Another hero – the mother of the slain Matthew Shepard.  If you remember, this young man was beaten and tied to a fencepost in Wyoming.  He died tied to that fencepost.  The men who beat him to death were on trial.  They would be sentenced to life at best, be sentenced to death at worst.  Matthew’s mother stood up to these men who stole her son’s dignity, his wallet, and left him in a God forsaken place to die.  She did not spit.  She did not swear vengeance.  She forgave.  She asked the courtroom for forgiveness, saying that she did not want to ruin their families’ lives as hers had been ruined.  She understood that there is no comfort in another ruined life.  This was hers to bear, not to share.  That is heroism – the hero forgives generously.

These people are not what comes to mind when we conjure our heroes, but it is a spirit like theirs that carries our country and our world, even our families and neighbors, when they need to be carried.  We may want the Batmobile coming to our rescue when darkness surrounds us, but it may be hard to see; it, too, is black.  The one we need is the friend who would lay his life down for us, never considering his self.

13
Aug
08

Radical Love

In “Three Little Words,” or whatever my last post was called, I mentioned the miracle of healing that occurred after the Big News.  For those who have not read my premier post, the Big News is that the two young loves of my life are now gay.  In fact, there is potential that they dated for a while – they did purchase neighboring homes in an exclusive neighborhood.  Here’s the thing…While Lou and George became gay,  I became a born-again Christian.  I felt better, but not too much different than before.  Lou, however, determined that he never would see me again.  He moved to New York.  I live a long ways from New York – it is the farthest one could get within the contiguous United States.  Let us enjoy the irony of this moment.  The man I loved, who presumably loved me, from before I owned a razor until after my SECOND child was born, determined to never see me again because he was certain I would judge him.  Maybe he thought I would be cruel?  I can’t make sense of it except for this:  We Christians have failed in this area.  We have donated tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars for HIV meds, HIV orphans, and HIV education in Africa.  Yet we have turned our backs on the group most at risk here at home.  Even our most esteemed leaders have cast proverbial stones at the gay population, though Jesus Himself said very clearly that we have no right.  Unfortunately, the church has followed suit.  We have turned our backs on gays, telling them that what we have is not for them.  Such arrogance!  The message of the Lord is for everyone – EVERYONE.  Not everyone who is saved – too late!  Not everyone who is without sin – there is nobody (remember that “the beauty of Grace is that it makes life unfair;” God does not weigh sin).  Not everyone who is American – we already have every blessing.  The message of the Lord is for the marginalized, those who need to hear love and acceptance. 

This may seem trivial to some, but this was the greatest blow I have suffered as an adult.  Lou and I had more than a sordid affair, we were best friends.  There were traumas and trials that we suffered through with such desperation.  Our relationship was only mildly physical¹ but so deeply emotional.  I have needed my best friend these last years.  The many reasons?  Another day.  But on a strictly superficial level, what woman doesn’t want to shoe shop with a man who appreciates the way the stilletoes look WITH the dress, not without it.  Accessories are ART, girl!  This was a lesson in love for me.  Once again, Lou and George taught me about love.  First, we Christians cannot face our Lord and admit to turning our backs on an entire group of people we never took the time to know.  There is a song, possibly by Thousand Foot Crutch?  Maybe not.  Anyway, the haunting lyric is “Jesus paid much to high a price/for us to pick and choose who should come.”  Yes, homosexuality is a Biblical sin, but so is what we did an hour or two ago and that thought we had 30 minutes before that.  Remember, God does not weigh this.  Get the picture?  I think my neighbors have too much debt (a sin), but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying their company.  It’s none of my business.  Refusing to befriend a person because he has a boyfriend?  Sin. 

So here’s the lesson:

  1. True, deep love exists and need not be dependent on consummation
  2. Never will I let anyone believe that I will judge him
  3. The commandment to love others as thyself is radical; it requires thinking and reflection apart from outside pressure.  It is personal and SERIOUS.

This was mentally composed this morning in the shower, when it was so much more concise and eloquent, rife with scripture and emotion.  Still, after the ravages of the day, the fact remains the same.  I not only miss my best friend, but I mourn for the pain that I and the Christian community have caused.  After the three days of tears and suffering, I changed from the greatest James Dobson devotee to my own person, studying scripture and becoming truly different.  Somehow, through all of this I have learned to love my neighbor².

¹Stop laughing – not intended to be funny.

²I have not reached the Jesus-like level at which I can still love my neighbors in Wal-Mart.  I am working towards it, but cannot seem to foster good tidings past the crowded, lawless parking lot.  Please pray for me.




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