Posts Tagged ‘Love

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.

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.

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.

17
Jun
09

Move on and Chuckle

The Bible strongly encourages us to have fellowship and not to be alone. Personally, I kind of prefer the “alone in the desert” part of the Bible. I can be a little reclusive. Therefore, when the topic of tolerance comes up, I gag a little. When people want to hug, I just step away. I am confused by women who complain that their husbands don’t spend time with them. I have never sat in a circle to sing Kum By Yah or whatever that song is and I failed therapy (Yes, you can fail therapy. You can drive the therapist to meds and you will be labeled) because I would much rather discuss Iran’s election than any hidden reasons I am unhappy (it’s actually TARP, not Iran, that makes me most unhappy).

So I was a little surprised at a church gathering on Sunday when I found myself enjoying the company of virtual strangers. Not just enjoying it, but actually languishing in it. It’s a new and very small church so we don’t know each other, yet we regularly step from our different backgrounds to ponder the greatness of life. We bowed our heads in prayer and I wondered if this is was so restorative because it was fellowship ordained by the Lord. I believe that it was, since we were gathered in His name. But as the week wears on, I am picking up on something else, too:

Acceptance.

Is it possible that acceptance is the greatest expression of love? It is the essence of unconditional love. I discovered it late last night when I learned I am “friend of the week,” an honor bestowed by complicated first love George, whom you may read about in my very first posts. George and I dated for years, but grew apart as adults since I got married and became a conservative Christian and he embraced his homosexuality and the more liberal ideology that comes with it (that is the quintissential definition of growing apart, BTW).

George and I had not spoken for a while…Many years…and we reconnected on Facebook. It’s been awkward, but finally we had an exchange that went beyond liking each other’s status. That led to the silly honor of friend of the week. To him, it’s very silly, and he may even be making fun of me. To me, though, it meant the world. He introduced me as on-again off again girlfriend of liberal roots who turned into a kinder, gentler Ann Coulter and he thanked me for calling him out on his liberal rants. And that is what hoisted me to Cloud 9. Our Facebook friendship was awkward because not only are we different from each other, but we are different from our expectations of each other. Unfulfilled expectations are the enemy of relationships. Thus, this acknowldgement of our differences was an amazing gift. He will not likely know the value of what he did, but it will change me forever.

I began to consider that he had accepted me for who I was then and who I am now and I thought of the friends I have now. I have 64 on Facebook (not that I’m keeping score), but I have 2 true, clean-out-my-house-before-my-funeral friends. I feel blessed to have two; I think many have fewer. They get to clean my house before my funeral because they know what’s in it and they still love me. If they did happen to find a surprise, they would chuckle and move on, not judge or question. Maybe they would squeal, but it would be with delight in knowing I had more to offer, something yet uncovered.

This is how it’s going to be from now on. I would much rather chuckle and move on than leave the house a mess, too disgusted to continue. Jesus never turned from anyone; he never made a person feel shamed or unfit. We people have mastered that. Ironically, we even do it in His name. I am sure that is different from His expectation and yet he will still make us His friend of the week.*

*Please excuse the vacation bible school cliche. It was unavoidable. Surely you understand and accept me anyway.

05
Apr
09

Trusting God’s Eyes

This is new. I am actually writing from church. My husband gave me this fabulous little gadget – a computer the size and strength of my Bible. Interesting. My husband. He has made but a few appearances on these pages. Right now, I am dealing with some frustration over him. Same argument, same results, same period of silence. In these times, I like to sit alone and wonder why in the world I married such a jerk. Unfortunately, that’s really what I do. It’s self-defeating, but here I am.

So I ask God. What do you see in this man? He responds. I love a God that responds. He reminds me of the many strengths this man has. God gave me a man uniquely suited to my needs. The issue is whether or not I can trust Him.

So often we fail to see our own needs and even more often, we fail to see those needs fulfilled. It is when we question that fulfillment that we contemplate needs. Those are dangerous moments where we become self-centered and lose the perspective necessary to our happiness and, I guess, productivity. Really, when we are unhappy, it is all to easy to give in to a night on the couch in front of the History Channel. Or a full bottle of wine. Or a day at the mall. We all know where we go when we’re unhappy and it is not a place of growth or productivity.

We have to trust. Trust is an extreme concept, really. To fully trust allows focus on things other than ourselves. When we place trust in the Lord, we understand that even though it makes NO SENSE, it is good. Then we don’t have to be angry or harbor resentment, or look out for our own interests. All that is covered.

This week I had to discipline my daughter. She is very very grounded. Her first response was, “it isn’t even a big deal, I don’t see why you are so upset.” I surprised myself by asking her if she understands that I see where she is right now and I want the very best for her. Nothing else, just the best, and that is where my motivation comes from.

That is our relationship with God. He wants what is best for us. To walk in trust means acheiving exactly that. In this case, we are looking at my recurring fight with my husband. It is a fight that makes me doubt his character and my judgement, which is why I have to bring it to God. The alternative, of course, would be divorce. Single parenting. Poverty. Daily struggles. I would be forced to focus on my immediate needs, and therefor would slowly, slightly, pull from the Lord. My marriage, provided by God, offers comfort and provision so I may look outside to the needs of others. I can spend time looking inside to my own motivations and be certain that I live from a pure heart. Regardless of the world’s vision of purity, it is truly the giver of freedom.




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