Monuments of Mercy

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“You are more sinful than you could dare imagine and you are more loved and accepted than you could ever dare hope.”

– Timothy Keller –


Even when He was angry, God started out with the good news. “I have loved you” (Malachi 1:2).

I often come to passages like this with a preset attitude: “What terrible people those Israelites were! Look at all God did for them, and were they thankful about it? No!”

But in Malachi 1, as God exposes the calloused hearts of His chosen ones, I am afraid that I stand guilty as well. God declares his love, but in the next breath, I too often say, “What love are you talking about? Prove that you love me.” (verse 2).

He sets me apart as one of His dear children, but I wonder if He is really treating me better than those who are not His (verse 3).

I deny my lack of honor, show surprise that He would say I’ve done something wrong (verses 6,7).

Too much, I offer Him my leftovers — leftover energy, leftover love, leftover time. And yet I persist in thinking that I’m doing beautifully spiritually (verse 8).

After all He has done, when I can just look around at any time and see the works of His majesty, I still somehow grow weary of pursuing the One whom my soul loves. Weary of trying to understand. Weary of seeking His ways (verse 13).

All this brings me down, to my knees, in repentance…And He lifts me up.

“There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” – Richard Sibbes

Because — look back at that first pronouncement of His:

“I have loved you.”

Striking, isn’t it, that our God begins with that assurance. Yes, He contrasts it with our doubt of His affection. But first, right as He is about to deliver the thunder, He first gives the rain, “I have loved you.”

Related Post: Four Words

In his commentary on Malachi 1:1-5, Matthew Henry writes:

“The Israelites shall be made the monuments of his mercy, and he will be glorified in their salvation….”

When I read that this morning, I latched on to that one phrase, “monuments of his mercy.” Because that’s what we are.

All His chosen ones are monuments to mercy.

Whatever strange winds may blow on me today, I have this anchor. He loves me. Whatever failures I may fall into yet again, I know this: He loves me. Despite my dishonor, my perpetual amnesia of His grace, my quickly-wearied mind– He loves me still.

Today, I am a monument to His fantastic, immense mercy. He will be glorified in my salvation, no matter how much I blunder and fall. His work is being completed, and His beauty is coming to rest on our heads.

Remember today that you are a monument to His mercy — a visible picture to a watching world. As each day goes by, may our inscriptions become ever clearer:

“To the one who is able to protect [us] from falling,
        and to present [us] blameless and rejoicing before his glorious presence,
to the only God our [S]avior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
        belong glory, majesty, power, and authority,
            before all time, now and forever. Amen.” 

– Jude 25-26, CEB –

 

 

What You Don’t See

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“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

– C.S. Lewis –


A friend and I were talking this week, pondering about how we view others. We decided that, much of the time, we don’t really see them.

Not the biggest piece of them, anyway.

I see only what I want to see, I suppose. The outside words and actions. Motions and syllables. Annoying things. Pleasing things.

Over and over, I condemn someone in my heart. Sometimes I assign a motivation to their bad behaviors. Other times, I keep my distance, because I just don’t want to get involved in their baggage. Judging, I judge myself.

Because, often, I do the exact same things I condemn others for doing.

A while back, I got irritated at someone for trying to tell me how to do something. I can do it myself, I inwardly argued. Don’t you think I’m smart enough to figure this out?

Of course, not long later, I was on the other side of the picture, making sure someone in my family knew exactly the right way to accomplish a task. Because obviously I am the sole Guardian of the Right Way to Do Everything.

What I condemned, I did myself.

“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”

– Romans 2:1-4 –

For some reason, I am so much easier on myself when it comes to sin — or even preferences — than I am on others. If I want to be bossy, fine. But far be it from you to try to be bossy. You shall rue the day.

But one day, a person you silently judged will open up to you in spite of your internal condemnation, and they will tell you a bigger story.

Oh, their sin won’t suddenly be okay, but you will see a much larger story than you imagined.

One day you will wake up and see that you didn’t see them before, not at all. You shouldn’t excuse sin, but your heart will be humbled by the knowledge that you probably wouldn’t do any better if you were in their shoes.

Instead of the cardboard cutout you thought they were, your eyes will open to a real, blood-pumping, soul-scarred human being, with all of the dozens of motivations, complexities, moods, circumstances and problems that you face in your own life.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

So, next time you get angry, next time you are wronged for the hundredth time, next time the flaws of another person shine through in all their terrible blatancy, remember.

You were an enemy. Yet still Jesus, very God of very God, died for you.

You were not lovely. But He took you anyway, to make you lovely.

You were not worthy. But He has made you an heir with Him.

The well-known literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird has this to say about our predisposition to judge:

“Are you proud of yourself tonight that you have insulted a total stranger whose circumstances you know nothing about?”
― Harper Lee

Proverbs 8:13 pronounces it shameful to give an answer before the question has even been spoken. How much more foolish is it to pass sentence on the “wrongness” of those around us before we have even understood them?

Sin is not excusable. It never is.

But if God can step out of paradise to touch feeble dust-creatures with His glory, how much more can we extend His love to those around us.

Their worthiness is not the issue.

In truth, we can see ourselves in them, as if we were looking in a mirror. It is not that they are less bad. It is that we, when we truly see them, also see that we’re not as good as we’d like to think.

But our Savior is good.

So today, pray for grace to really see. When people inevitably rub you the wrong way, stop and look beyond your nearsighted perspective. What you find out may surprise you. It will most certainly bring you to your knees in humility and thankfulness for the mercy of our great God.

Oh Father, give us eyes to see those we meet. Our families — those most familiar to us, but so often still unseen. Our neighbors — those whom God has planted us beside. Our fellow church members — co-heirs of the grace in which we live abundantly. The great, unmet horde of unseen — those we never stop to see or hear or know.

Help me see those I meet as you see them. Needy. Flawed. And just as much a candidate for Your unearned love as I am.


“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”
― Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark

 

 

 

Once They Were Friends

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When I was little, I laid on my bed many nights and cried into my pillow for a friend.

But things are different now. Somewhere along the line, God allowed so many dear ones to spring up along my path. Now, if I’m crying into my pillow, it is more likely to be about the friends that I used to have.

Nearly every one of you, I suspect, has lost a friend.

A move across the country. A new school. A marriage. An argument. A choice.

There are very few things that scar a heart as much as a discarded friendship.

I’ve felt it.

There is helplessness, when despite all your love, they still fade away. There is anger, because how dare she just leave, after all these years? And, sometimes, there is guilt, because she wasn’t the only one who walked away, or kept holding a grudge.

So, what do we do? Shrug it off and move on? Close ourselves up? Choose better friends? Try to never say anything that might ever offend anyone?

If you’re recovering from a friendship-gone-awry, here are a few things to remember.8de599e2752979482266eae519018a25

1. If you’ve tried your best to reconcile, that’s all you can do.

Whether it was her “fault” or yours, it doesn’t matter. If you need to go to her and apologize–or offer forgiveness–do it.

But after you’ve humbly sought to restore the relationship and she still won’t have anything to do with you, you can’t do anything else.

Strike that. You can pray.

I know. That helpless feeling creeps over you and it feels like a prayer might be the most powerless thing you can imagine.

After you’ve confessed your sin or humbly offered restoration, keep living. Move forward. If you have God’s forgiveness, you have what you need to go on. By His grace, your friend may one day see the truth. Or she may not.

But after you’ve done your best, it’s okay to go on with life.

2. Love her from afar.

I could tell you to forget about her.

But you spent nights laughing till 3 in the morning with her. You saw each other at your best and worst. She holds some of your deepest secrets and knows your wildest dreams. She shares some of your most-valued beliefs. You’ve giggled on long car rides with the stereo cranked up, singing along to your favorite CD.

You’ve shared so much love and life.

And now that she’s gone, you miss her. And you probably always will.

Several years ago, I lost one of my best friends. It was sudden, drastic, and final. She dropped off the face of my world, without even a word to me. Others in her life received her hate-filled, backstabbing, anger. I didn’t even get a “Goodbye, I don’t want to be your friend anymore.” I didn’t even rate high enough for that.

The past 6 years of silence have not dimmed my memory. I haven’t seen her at all. A few reports from other friends, a few added sorrows when I hear of the suffering her choices have caused. And you know what? I still love her desperately.

Maybe I don’t cry myself to sleep like I did when she first left. Maybe I’m not picking up the freshly-shattered pieces of trust. But deep in my chest is an ache that is still there. I think it will always be there.

I never got a chance to try for reconciliation. I may not even cross paths with her again. But I have spent the last 6 years loving her from afar, smiling at her memory, tearing up a little at the old pictures of us in our cowgirl hats and bandanas, with the little-girl innocence that we both somehow lost. I can get lost a long time in the photos of her clear eyes, wondering where it all went wrong, wondering why I didn’t notice she was slipping away.

You lost a friend. You may not be in her life anymore.

But don’t stop loving her. She still needs your prayers. And you also need something — you need the bittersweetness of the memories you made together. Don’t throw out the gift she made you, or toss out the photo album of you two together. God gave you those moments, and they were full and true and sweet. Remember them. Savor them, however short.

3. Don’t become like her.

If the end of the friendship was her doing — if you’ve done your best to make things right — then you have been wronged terribly.

Whether it began as a silly argument, a drastic misunderstanding, or a sudden change in her personality, don’t let the hurt she inflicted on you make you bitter.

Friends have shared with me about the lost relationships that still weigh them down. Whether you live 200 miles away or cross paths with your former friend every week, you will still hurt. You’ll have different challenges to sort through, but you are still an abandoned friend.

And it hurts dreadfully.

Often, she is hurting too. It’s not an excuse, but it is the truth. As much as you’ve been hurt, remember that she is a person too, with a complex life and maybe surprising reasons behind her betrayal.

Forgive her. Whatever the reason — big, or small, or completely unknown — forgive her. As you were forgiven all those terrible things that Christ bore for you with joy, forgive her.

4. Relationships are complicated and hard and heartbreaking — and worth it.

You may not want to try again.

Sometimes I get so weary of the hard work of communicating and navigating misunderstanding, that I just want to hide. “People are so complicated,” I mutter. “Life would be so simple without people.” While I’d never want to actually try life without others, sometimes it seems that there are endless troubles wherever there is more than one person involved. It’s enough to drive a girl crazy.

Don’t let the scars keep you from loving again.

Because there are true friends to be found. They will take effort, trust, maintenance, forgiveness, humility. But they exist.

Keep loving and reaching out. Friendship is worth it. So worth it.

Related Post: “Putting the ‘Forever’ in Friend”

5. When all else fails, Jesus knows.

I can say all sorts of true and sentimental things. But one thing remains.

He was having the worst night of his life. Off-the-charts stress. All His buddies were taking a nap when He needed their camaraderie the most. All except one.

That one was coming now, his pale face flickering in the approaching torch light. He was coming silently, standing between a pair of rough temple guards.

And that one friend walked straight up, mustered up his nerve, and kissed Him on the cheek.

Acclaimed writer Michael Card sings these words, words that resonate with everyone who has ever been betrayed:

“Why did it have to be a friend
Who chose to betray the Lord?
Why did he use a kiss to show them?
That’s not what a kiss is for.

Only a friend can betray a friend.
A stranger has nothing to gain,
And only a friend comes close enough
To ever cause so much pain.”

– from “Why” by Michael Card.

So when my words run out, my encouragement fails to touch the depth of your hurt, my sharing in your loss echoes empty, this truth can hold you up.

Jesus knows.

 He is not an untouched Stranger, a heavenly man who felt none of our pain. He took it all, tried it all, died bearing it all.

And God took on flesh and bared his face to the mocking kiss of a man who played at morality for 3 years, who put on a role for his own gain, who lived moment after moment in traitorous, silent scoffing at the works of the Christ he claimed to believe.

“And He’s kneeling in the garden, as silent as a Stone
All His friends are sleeping and He’s weeping all alone

And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain but the breaking does not”

– from “The Silence of God” by Andrew Peterson

So when you’re crying, alone in your bed, remembering that one-time friend…this is all I have to say.

He is not untouched. He knows. And His ears never weary of hearing our cries. His arms never tire of pulling off our burdens.

Once they were friends. Now we only remember.

But one Friend never fails. And thank God — thank God! — for that firm foundation, that soul-anchor.

Because, now, I can love without fear. Whether it is returned or not.


 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:38-39, KJV –

 

9 Secrets about Relationships with Guys, Part II

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“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice ―


Last week we looked at the first 5 things I’ve learned about guy/girl relationships. This week, let’s dive into the last 4. Have any thoughts, comments, questions, or insights to share? Leave a comment and I might just write a post about it!


6. Men are Not All in Mortal Danger

This is pretty embarrassing to say out loud, but… Every guy I meet is not in mortal danger of falling helplessly in love with me.

He just isn’t.

Same goes for you. I know it sounds silly when I just say it like that, but I think girls harbor this feeling more than we’d like to admit.

Sometimes we get so nervous around guys because we’re secretly afraid that we’re so irresistible that just one word from us will send them reeling into the throes of unrequited love. If God wants us to get married, he has spouses in store for us. They will love and appreciate us — but that doesn’t mean every male on the planet will.

You are a pretty special girl, but, thankfully, God gave guys preferences too. They aren’t in mortal danger in your presence after all.

7. Hiding from Them Isn’t Any Better Than Flirting

I learned this one from reading the book It’s (Not) That Complicated. The authors suggest that the same sin behind flirting is at the root of ignoring the guys around us: We’re not really loving them.

Is it love to value my feelings/awkwardness/embarrassment more than I value common politeness and kindness? Definitely not!

I once was so terrified of talking to guys that I would “hide,” ducking into halls, rushing through doors, or going the long way around in order to avoid them. This idea really convicted me!

Instead of thinking about my own fear, I turned my thoughts to showing respectful friendliness and encouragement to the guys I encountered. It took a lot of practice (and still does!), but recognizing my lack of Christian love really revolutionized my approach to friendships with young men.

8. Your Age Matters

Not too long ago, I realized something. Age matters, when you’re talking about how a girl should approach relationships with boys.

I am not talking about what age a person should date, or court, or anything like that. I’m just saying that I think about my relationships with guys very differently now, at age 22 than I did at age 15.

When I was 15, my main concern was trying to not think about guys too much because I wasn’t ready to think too much about what I wanted in a spouse. It just wasn’t time. 

Now? Well, now is a little different. When I reached marriageable age, I had a strange shift in thinking. Now, thoughts of what is important in a marriage are a lot more relevant than they would have been at age 13 or even 17. Then, I just wanted to stay undistracted because I wasn’t even ready for marriage. Now, although I still desire to be fully immersed in the tasks God has given me for today, it is wise for me to spend more time readying myself for being a wife and mother. Then, it wasn’t time. Now, it is perhaps much closer.

So if you’re 12 and having trouble with too many thoughts about boys, this is probably not the time to start planning your wedding colors and scouting for potential grooms. Now is your time to grow in your family relationships and your walk with God. Trust me, 22 is right around the corner. 🙂

And if you’re 22, don’t be afraid of giving marriage at least a minimal amount of thought. By all means, stay focused on your current responsibilities, but realize that a wise woman looks ahead and prepares herself for the days to come. Marriage is a lovely, precious gift, and God may give it to you one of these days.

9. Be Yourself

It’s well and good to say “be normal.” But…what does that mean, exactly? Be what other people think is normal?

Or actually be you…which, come to think of it, may not be that “normal” at all?

If you are focused on your relationship with Christ and sincere about not tearing down your brothers in Christ with immodest dress or flirtatious behavior, just be you. 

I have struggled with this too. I know a lot of people, many of whom have different convictions than my family and I do. When I know I am going to be with certain people, I often feel the urge to hide my personal choices or keep my enthusiasm for a topic to myself.

My conclusion? If I have my own Biblically-derived convictions about something, I am not going to hide it. While I don’t have to go around announcing my perspective, explaining my perceptions of modesty, or pushing my favorite music on others, I am also not going to act like I am someone else.

I am me.  And that’s okay.


Well! That was a lot of fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the 9 things I’ve learned about relationships with guys over the past 10 years or so. If you missed the first part of this list, you can read 9 Secrets about Relationships with Guys, Part I here.

Have any other topics you want me to cover? Email me at called2joy@gmail.com or leave a comment below!


 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent HIs only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”

– 1 John 4:7,9, NKJV –


9 Secrets about Relationships with Guys, Part I

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“Gravitation can not be held responsible for people falling in love.”

– Albert Einstein –


In the last 10 years, I’ve learned a lot of things about guys…and how I as a girl should behave around them. These 9 things aren’t really secrets, actually…just things that have encouraged, inspired, and sustained me as I navigate the strange and rough waters of young adulthood.

I hope to debunk some myths, relieve some fears, and inspire you with the tools you need to show godly love to the young men in your life.


1. “Crushes” Aren’t Always Bad

Before you start running the other way, let me clarify.

It is okay to like someone. It is not okay to be obsessed.

God made girls with antennae that perk up whenever a fellow walks into the room. We have emotions that go on red alert when a guy starts to be kind to us. We have hearts that suddenly start doing backflips in our chests.

That’s normal, actually.

So if you find that you actually…eh, like a guy, it’s not the end of the world. God made us to have an appreciation for men. That is a good thing.

But here’s the key: You can admire someone, enjoy being with them, and even have hope for “something more” one day without letting thoughts of them take over your life. 

Remember, a guy will not make you happy. It may seem like they can, but they can’t. So if you start dreaming of Mr. Right saving your from your unhappy existence, you will be disappointed.

So…what’s the verdict? Is a crush always a horrible affliction? I think my friend Emily sums it up well:

“After a series of paralyzing crushes in my midteens that I denied even to myself, I came to the conclusion that a crush is a period of time when you see a person at their best without the balance of faults. It’s not always that your view of them is inaccurate, only that it is incomplete. The solution, therefore, is not to blind yourself to their true strengths — this dishonors both them and their Maker! — but to seek the complete portrait that comes with time and a more mature relationship.”

2. Boys are People

This is obvious, but boys are people too. They have emotions. They have dreams, and fears, and loves, and hurts.

So don’t treat them like objects. They are people made in God’s image, just like you. Please, please, don’t forget that.

And on that note, guys are also human. Meaning, they aren’t perfect.

Don’t think that your “special guy” is the only faultless one on the earth. He isn’t. He has struggles and sins just like you do. So don’t idolize him, or have unrealistic expectations. People — including Mr. Right –will fail you. Be ready for that, focusing on the grace that you’ve been given by God. That grace is what will glue your future relationship together.

3. What Treating Them Like Brothers Doesn’t Mean

I sometimes have trouble with the idea of treating a young man “like a brother in Christ.” Does that phrase ever bother you?

This concept comes from the apostle Paul’s directive to the young pastor Timothy:

Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2, NKJV).

But…what does this really mean when put into practice? And what does it not mean?

Honestly, this one question could be an entire blog post. (Let me know if you’re interested in hearing more, and I’ll write one!)

But to narrow it down, treating a young man like a brother “with all purity” means that you’re not looking on him solely as an object of your romantic dreams or a way to get what you want. It means that you care about him enough to want what’s best for him, not just what would make you happy.

It means that his relationship to Christ is more important to you than his relationship with you. And it means that you’re looking at more than his exterior (handsome or homely though it may be). It means you value him as a person, not just a love interest.

But what doesn’t this verse mean?  

In my understanding, this verse does not mean you can’t ever think of a guy romantically. How would people ever get married? “Oh, sorry, but the Bible says I have to always think of you as just a brother in Christ.”

So when people say, “I’m just thinking of him/her as a brother/sister in Christ,” that’s wonderful. It is a very important thing to keep in mind, so that we do not objectify those around us.

But it also doesn’t mean that you can’t ever think “Oh, that’s the kind of guy I want to marry” or even “I think I would be happy if he was ever interested in me.”

Related Post: “To See Like You” 

4.  Guys Like Real Girls

This is super tough for guys. Girls can act so strange! I ought to know — I am one!

It is such a relief to guys when girls are “real” around them. (And guys, we girls like it when you’re normal, too!) So when you’re conversing with the fellows in your life, just be a real, genuine person. Say sincere things.

It is such a huge relief to talk to a person who doesn’t have an agenda. Be a friend, first and foremost.

5. Your Heart Might Not Shrink (The Truth about “Giving Away Pieces”)

When I was younger, I learned so much from several conservative Christian conferences my family attended. One of these conferences in particular taught about the importance of guarding your heart and not “giving away pieces” of it to every guy you meet.

But what does “giving away pieces of your heart” really mean?

Serial dating is one thing — yes, that’s a big problem. But for the average Christian girl who’d just like to grow up and marry a nice godly man, how helpful is this advice?

In the years since attending these conferences, I think I’ve seen a little of both sides of this coin. So I have a proposition.

Maybe caring about people and getting hurt isn’t the worst thing.

Yes, there is definitely a balance here. I think girls should be wise and careful about the boys they have as friends. I definitely don’t think that it is beneficial for girls of any age to walk around with their heads in the clouds always dreaming about the latest love of their life, or to go about throwing themselves at guys. That’s definitely not what I’m saying.

But I do think that we can put too much emphasis on keeping ourselves “pure,” when what we’re really doing is blockading our hearts against pain.

Sure, I believe it is unwise for a girl to throw herself into love at every turn. (One way I guard against this is by consciously avoiding the phrase “in love” regarding my feelings for guys I admire).

Sometimes, there are good precautions to keep your emotions in check. Over the years, I’ve had to make various decisions, such as times of limiting my consumption of books/movies with a dominant romantic subplot, or intentionally not popping up in every place where a guy friend tends to be.

But trying to avoid heart-fragmentation is no excuse for not loving your brothers in Christ. They are still fellow Christians. They are still that neighbor Jesus said to love (Mark 12:31). How can you do that if you never let yourself get close enough to care?

 Life has heartache, and sometimes loving someone — even as “just a friend” — is heart wrenching. And sometimes it is pure joy.

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“”Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness.” – Katherine Henson

Painful relationships don’t indicate that you’re doing it wrong. It doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed to keep your heart pure. It might actually mean that you’re sincerely caring in a broken world. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Parents are a huge help in this — my mom and I have an extremely open relationship, and I keep her posted on my thoughts of every guy I know (and every girl too, for that matter!) My dad and I have also had several conversations about the young men I know, so that we are all “in the loop.” I can’t express how incredible this has been. I get to hear immediate feedback from them about my friendships. Plus, their years of experience and logical approach help me fend off overly-emotional reactions.

So…does liking a boy mean that you’re giving away part of your heart?

No.

You might be developing an unhelpful habit of unrealistic obsession that will get in the way of a successful marriage later.

Or it could mean that you are learning how to navigate a very complicated world of human emotions, relying with all your might on your God and on the wise counselors He’s placed in your life.

I will testify to this: I’ve had dreams die and hopes turn out to be nothing more than that…budding hopes.

But those dreams that died and those hopes that never came true did something to me. They didn’t take part of my heart — they made it stronger, and deeper, and wiser. 

The prayers I prayed for young men, and the friendships I developed were not a waste. They’ve matured me and led me to a greater dependence on the only One who can always satisfy my heart.

Related Posts: “Half-Frozen Lake” and “Living Safe”


Come back next week for the rest of the things I’ve learned about guy and girls over the years! Have any thoughts? Comment below!

Consciousness of the Celebrant

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“Art should be a great hallelujah to life.”
― Marty Rubin ―


My friend Lizzie is staying the summer with my family on our farm.

On her birthday a few days ago, the celebration began before she even peeped out of her bedroom. I scrawled a loving note before going out for my morning run. Later in the morning, my mom sneaked into the kitchen and began crafting a fruit-laden birthday cake while I distracted Lizzie with outdoor activities. My brother added his happy birthday note to our stash of notes. My dad planned an adventurous hike for the afternoon.

All to celebrate the life of my friend.

I wonder…is celebration becoming a lost art? 

It’s one thing to make a birthday special, and another to live as a conscious celebrant.

In liturgy, a celebrant is the one who comes to the Lord’s Table to partake — to celebrate with rite and ceremony, to see in some ordinary action like eating an extraordinary thing like redemption. Merriam-Webster also defines the word as “a person who celebrates something.”

So, I want to be a celebrant.

It’s so easy not to be.

I woke up with a tired twinge in my muscles this morning. Beds need made, clothes put away, a lunch packed as I head across town to teach music for the day. Honestly…I really don’t feel like making a big deal of anything. This, then, is why I fear the extinction of the celebrant. I know myself too well.

How can we revive this rare breed of people, the dreamers who pour themselves into creative outlets of celebration? How can I become a girl of conscious celebration?

1. Christians are Called to be Celebrants

It’s true. As Christians, each of us is called to daily celebration. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians. 5:16-18).

We have endless things to celebrate, actually.

The new mercies of the morning, the return of the sun to warm the earth again. That today we are alive. That today is a gift we don’t deserve, but it has still been lavished upon us.

And most of all, that a God of endless worth placed His affection on a unloving people and called them to His salvation. He saved us! I don’t care how I feel this morning — this one trumps all others! No matter if the world crumbles and my life turns upside-down, this reason for celebration will endure. My God loves me.

Oh, Father, give us the grace to live this celebration.

2. Celebrants Think of Others

I doubt I need to tell you how easy it is to go about the day without thinking of anyone else. Deadlines and to-do lists bog us down. We forget about the 7.3 million other people that share this world with us. I honestly don’t understand how I can sometimes be so blind to the people around me.

The true celebrant is one who looks around and really sees.

Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:

Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave….”

– Philippians 2:3-7a, CEB –

But I don’t think this celebratory nature is determined by accident, by chance, by genetic wiring, or any other uncontrollable force.

I think it is something you can cultivate, if you want to take the time.

The verse says “watch out for what is better for others.” That is definitely something we can actively do. And what about the next phrase, “adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus”?

So I guess the question is…how much do I really want to obey? How much do I really want to step outside of myself and see the needs of others?

3. Celebrants See the Miracle in the Everyday

My friend Lizzie is good at this one. I’ll find notes on my pillow, a flower in my room, a carefully-copied poem laid where I can see it.

She’s studied me, and she’s learned what sends my soul into raptures.

And then she does it.

Don’t laugh…but that last part is the key. I study you. I see what makes you light up, what things refresh your heart.

And then I make a plan and actually do that thing.

That is how to be a celebrant.

Another dear friend named Emily inspires me with her creative and elaborate celebratory schemes. With 5 younger siblings, she often plans adventurous sibling dates, puts on lovely teatimes complete with adventures in Narnia, and implements actual Pinterest ideas (rather than just collecting pins like I do…) like jello Lego pieces or mailing letters in plastic bottles.

See…here’s the thing.

It really doesn’t take all that much to brighten up someones life, or make a memory that will never fade.

It takes thankfulness. It takes a little determination. It takes time to see, and the willingness to set yourself aside for a few minutes and focus on truly loving that dear person right in front of you.

You don’t have to be a Pinterest craft master or a romantic soul to do this, either. Just look. Just learn what people love. Just train yourself to listen and pay attention to what makes your family members smile, or your friends’ eyes shine.

Then do it.

Why not have an impromptu celebration today? Curate the consciousness of a celebrant.


In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

– Albert Schweitzer –

Joy’s Nemesis

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As I talked to a group of girls last night–one old friend and two new–one of them started talking about the connection between fear and the lack of joy.

I realized that it is true.

Fear chases away joy, in just a whisper of time.

We, white-knuckled, clench imagined control…and joy evaporates.

There are so many fears that run at us and storm our hearts’ gates. They crunch down the doors with solid bolts of facts, worry, despair.

And you know what…maybe we have good reason to be afraid.

If your goal is to stay safe, untouched by pain, hidden from trouble, tucked away from loss, un-torn by loss of people you love–then yes, you have much to fear indeed.

I have to tell you a story–a story that is very, very true.

As a twelve-year-old girl, I was diagnosed with cancer. Lymphoma.

Yes.

That word that carries a host of terror. Cancer. I had it. Inside my body was a wild thing tearing at my seams.

But that is the short part of this story.

Because, you see, a host of prayers went up, and I went to M.D. Anderson where I clutched an oversized teddy bear named Andy and slipped into a hospital gown. They took out a biopsy from my side.

Weeks later, I was declared cancer-free. Doctors claimed to have made a mistake.

Funny thing was…I was okay, then. A little nervous. But I was young and–by some mercy–did not have to take myself to that dark place. I never considered the worst–that cancer kills, and I could be its next prey.

But I wasn’t.

I moved on with life–cancer-free and largely untroubled by the experience, except for a tiny puckering scar over my rib cage.

It was several years later that the fear stole back to haunt me.

I had been experiencing strange symptoms in the site near my scar, and the terror suddenly loomed over me.

I. Could. Die.

That terrible disease could creep over me again and…this time it could take me.

The reality of death hit me in the chest and sat there a while. I cried in the quiet dark. I feared.

And then I gave in. Gave over.

In that still moment, I surrendered my future–whether life or death–to the Lord. I shrank from the idea of pain, from the thought of wasting away before the eyes of my family. But I gave that to Him. (Of course, it was His already…I just needed to align my will with His!)

Easy?

Not at all. Desperately, terribly hard.

But there was peace…washing, cleansing peace…

And  wide-open gates of joy.

This was only one of my battles–vivid still in my memory. I’ve felt the paralysis of fear. It seeps deep into your bones, freezes your joints, immobilizes you until you think every scrap of bravery is gone.

Fear is being haunted by possibilities.

Fear is to stop living to keep from dying.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

So…as I was saying above…you might have good reason for fear.

Believing in God doesn’t mean that you’re promised earthly happiness. The pain of this life is inevitable (John 16:33).

How will you handle it?

Because you MUST handle it. Or let it handle you.

You can run out to meet the fear, or let it catch you as you run. But you will meet it, and you will get to know it well.

I’m just telling you this straight: Life is hard.

So what are you going to do about it?

Are you going to keep running? Are you going to let the fear breathe down your neck every minute?

Or will you let go of the fantasy that you can dodge the pain?

The relief does not come when you hide from the bad things–it only comes when you accept the possibility and yet know that even if the worst comes, you will still be standing at the end.

How could you know this? How could this be your stand?

To face coming days in this way is Joy.

I have a vision of this joy. Maybe it was birthed in my imagination, or implanted in me by other tales. I picture a woman lifting her eyes to the dawn, face radiant. It isn’t a care-free face. It is lined with the trails of years and tears and many laughs. But as this woman looks up, her beautiful, worn face is lit with wild sort of joy–so much joy that it seems that a army could not trample it, or an ocean wash it away. It is a holy, unwavering thing–a way to laugh in the face of death. A way to smile as dawn rises on more trouble. A way to keep loving when it seems all that you love dies.

She is fearless.

And there is only one explanation.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
    in the end they will look in triumph on their foes

– Psalm 112:6-8 –

This is the only well of joy.

Truly, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Fear cripples us–but trusting God’s eternal love breaks its hold.

The question is not whether pain will find you. This world is crying out, waiting for Christ’s final renewal.

The real question is whether you will take refuge in God’s love to carry you safely through the storm. He alone can hold you tight–even giving you faith enough to believe in Him.

I can’t promise you happiness… 

…nor a smooth ride through life…

…nor an emotional high that some call joy..

…but would you really want that, when God’s adventure awaits?

When His pure Joy is just on the other side of your fear?

Nothing is strong enough to part you from Him–not even fear itself.

So…will you run from fear?

Or will you run to your Jesus and together run at the fear?

May you throw back you head and laugh, for your future–however mysterious– is perfectly secure.


 “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:31-39, NIV –


My dear friend Emily wrote a post about this very thing. How about checking out “Whale-Lines, Foolish Elves, and the Faith of Laugher”?

Putting the “Forever” in Friend

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“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
– Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey –


Next to loving God, loving others is our primary responsibility (Mark 12:28-34).

God is easy to love in a sense, because He completely deserves my adoration. People…not so much. They can be complicated, confusing, changeable, cranky. Bottom line: they don’t always deserve love. Then again, neither do I.

I’ve seen friendships last fifty years…or fifty days…and I wonder if the life-long friend is becoming a rare breed.

I’ve seen heart-breaking misunderstandings where one person assumes too much. I’ve seen warmth cool until people stop speaking entirely, over the most unimportant of things.

So, from one friend to another, let’s talk about how to be a friend. I’m not interested in shallow platitudes or cure-all formulas. I’m interested in what the Bible tells me about friendship. I’m interested in being wise with my relationships, so that–to the best of my ability–I will be at peace with my friends.

The Talk of a Friend

1. Mean what you say

Friends have jokes. I get that. But be careful. What’s funny to you might not be funny to her, especially if the joke is poking fun at her. I’ve heard friends say, “I hate you” in jest. Uh oh. Too much room for mistakes there. Why even joke about that? There are plenty of funny ways to express friendly rivalry without risking your relationship over a dumb misunderstanding. It’s okay to tease…but be cautious. A hurtful quip is not worth losing a relationship. It just isn’t.

2. Do what you say

Be trustworthy. If you promise to send them an email, do it. If you say you’ll help out with a project, be there. It’s not hard…but it is. Just take your words seriously. Being a friend that can be counted on is HUGE. You will be the one that people will come to for help and advice, just because you are faithful. Follow through.

3. Don’t tell everything you know

It’s okay to not tell your friends everything there is to know about you. With today’s flood of social media, people often feel the urge to share every intimate detail of their lives on the internet. Instead, I’d encourage you to set boundaries. It’s okay to have thoughts that are yours alone. It’s okay to have family secrets that don’t go beyond the house. It’s okay to keep quiet. You don’t owe your friends knowledge of every secret. As long as you are straightforward and sincere, you don’t have to share everything there is to know about yourself. And sometimes it’s better that way.

4. Tell the truth with grace

“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent.”
― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Sometimes you need to ask your friends hard things–or tell them hard things–about themselves. Whether its a sin that needs confronted or a sticky emotional issue, being a friend means telling them the truth. When you think you need to say something hard, be careful. First, is it necessary? If not, don’t. Confrontations, though sometimes necessary, are not easy on friendships. Don’t risk a relationship over a non-issue. However, sometimes you have to speak. Approach with love and humility. Don’t act like a teacher or a second mom. If you can, tell how you’ve been in the same boat. If your friend still gets mad, you have to give the situation up to God. He can change hearts; we can’t.

The Walk of a Friend

5. Take the first step forward

“Love means not ever having to say you’re sorry”. This movie line turned into a catchphrase, and it is about the farthest thing from the truth that I can imagine.

Love means saying you’re sorry. Love means doing whatever you can possibly do to bring reconciliation. Love means laying down our dumb pride and being the first one to take a step toward the other person. Honestly, it doesn’t matter who “started it.” Dying on a hill of “being right” is a terrible way of killing a friendship.

If you’ve sinned against a friend, it is your job to take a step toward them. It is your job to ask their forgiveness.

But if you’ve been sinned against, it’s your job to take a step too. That’s what Jesus did. He came to us even when we were His enemies. This is radical love. This is friendship that is only possible with the grace of God filling your heart. This is Christlikeness.

 6. Love when you don’t want to

Just like discipleship, Love is a call to die daily.

The saying has almost become trite. People say, “Love is an action.” I don’t know if that is all love is. Love is also a choice: a choice to act for another’s good, even if they don’t deserve it. Jesus, again, is our ultimate example.

It would be great if our feelings always kept up with our choices. But sometimes, you need to smile and give hugs and spend time with a friend, even if you’d rather be doing something else. “But that’s so hypocritical,” you might say.

Let me say something about that. Hypocrisy is living a lie, fooling someone so they’ll think better of you. Imitating Christ, even when you’re operating on bare choice, is not hypocrisy. I can choose to thank God even when I’m not feeling particularly thankful, because it is the right thing to do. I can choose to get up and put on a smile even when I’m not feeling terribly joyful, because that’s what I’m called to. Or…perhaps it’s not so much a choice as a surrender. 

“Loving when you don’t feel like it” is not easy. It is a living sacrifice. It is laying down your desires and your contrary feelings and saying to God, “Not my will but Yours.”

The funny thing is…usually our feelings are not all that far behind our choices. What we practice is what we become.

7. Don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve

I’ll admit something to you. Growing up, I hardly ever saw my parents take offense from friends and family. We just…didn’t really get offended.

It’s not because we’re some rare breed, I assure you. It is just that many things are not important enough to get ruffled up about. Remember a lot of the things we’ve talked about? What happens if your friend calls you a name in jest? What happens if she forgets to do something she said she would? What happens if she confronts you about something painful?

See, love is not a 50-50 sort of thing. It is giving up yourself completely. So even if your friend messes up, you have a choice in that moment: You can be offended and assume the worst, or you can immediately let go of the offense. We take a lot of things too seriously. Don’t let bitterness get even a single talon in you.  “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’ ” (1 Peter 4:8, NKJV). 

The Heart of a Friend

8. Pray for your friend

This is an obvious one…but also one that I need reminded of myself. It is easy to hear our friends’ deepest needs and then simply forget to pray about them.

Let me tell you a little secret about prayer–it is like glue. If you pray for someone, something special happens in your heart. They become a part of you. Their victories become yours. You feel their pain or sorrow. So pray for your friends. It will bind your hearts together in a way only prayer can.

9. Don’t make…or be…an idol

Friendships are precious, without a doubt. But they are not ultimate. Some people, it’s true, are too independent, but others are too dependent. Do not allow yourself to set up your friend as your idol. If you don’t think you can survive without a particular friend, you should check your priorities. Beware of letting a person sit on God’s throne in your heart. And beware of letting your friends put you on that throne. We were never made to fill that kind of need in one another. Let’s strive, instead, to constantly point one another back to Christ, our only Savior. No one else is worthy to fill His throne.

10. Give up control

I’ve begun to fear, sisters, that you will take these words of Biblical wisdom and make them a set of rules to live by. This is not my own list of “10 Commandments of Friendship.” Not at all. These are lessons I have learned and observed–things that will make your friendships better if you take note. But NONE of these things will make you righteous and NONE of them are possible to sustain in your heart unless you have been radically changed by Jesus Christ’s grace and forgiveness and are filled with His Holy Spirit.

So, taking that to heart, let me say this: Give up control of your friendships. If you ever thought you could control people, let go of that lie. You can’t make people be your friends. You can’t make your friendships secure. This world is insecure and unsteady. You can’t make things go perfectly.

One day, all things will be made new and friendships will blossom eternally. There will be no rifts in eternity. But until then, keep your eyes on Jesus. Following His example of radical love, let yourself be poured out for your friends. We can only give ourselves. It is for God to make things grow.


 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

– Ephesians 4:29-32 –

Love Beyond Flannelgraphs

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“Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way.

A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ “

Luke 10:30-35, CEB


The parable of the Good Samaritan is a well-worn path for me. Those horrible “religious” Jews ran away from the problem; the good “unclean” outcast stayed to love. I can almost see my childhood’s flannel board now: the resolute Samaritan, and the man lying pale and bandaged across the back of a compliant donkey.

This story is nearly as reminiscent of Sunday school as John 3:16 and goldfish crackers.

I’m not sure whom I always identified with in the story. Maybe the Samaritan, because of course I would stop to help, right? Or perhaps I always focused on the robbed Jew, the man lying splayed on the rocky soil. Poor guy. Yeah, I’d want someone to help me too.

But I don’t think I ever once identified with the Jews that did not stop. Reading Gary Inrig’s The Parables recently, I came upon this passage:

“We should not make the mistake of thinking these are ‘bad’ men. No, not bad, but busy. For them, and too often, for me, people in need are problems, interruptions, nuisances. They intrude awkwardly on my privacy. They deflect me from my duty. They distract me from my responsibility. They keep me from my pleasures. I agree that they need help, and I hope that someone does help. But not me, not now, not here. I have a different agenda.” – p. 37

Oh. Oh, I see. To my shame, I see I am the priest that crossed to the other side, the Levite who skirts around, every time I do not stop for my neighbor.

“And who IS my neighbor?”

This time I take the part of the questioning teacher, the student of God’s law whose query prompted Jesus’ parable. “Ahem. Teacher. So we’re supposed to love God and our neighbor. But who is my neighbor?” I’m sure he felt very smug, thinking, Yes, let’s clarify. Because of course there are limits to love.

Or, to rephrase….

“Isn’t there someone I don’t have to love? This sounds pretty involved. Where can I draw the line? When do I not have to stop and take pity? When can I cut back on this love business? I mean…really, you can’t expect me to love everyone all the time, can you?”

And Jesus answers with a powerful story that we have reduced to a flannelgraph lesson promoting the moral standards of the nice Samaritan--an impotent, sanitized repackaging of a radical love:

And here seems to be the thrust of the story: When a need appears on the path, Love stops.

To the best of its ability, Love lends a hand.

“The Lord is deliberately and carefully shocking his audience. His hero is a despised Samaritan, a man who does not pass by, whatever the pillars of jewish religious society might do. However, it is not his nationality that sets him apart, but his compassion. He doesn’t see anything the other two didn’t, but he feels something they didn’t. ‘He took pity on him.’ All of the normal hostility between Jew and Samaritan is swept away as he allows what he sees to affect his emotions and actions. Strikingly the word translated here ‘pity’ is used elsewhere in the gospels ply of the Lord Jesus. He, above all others, is the model of compassion.” – The Parables, p. 38

In his book, Mr. Inrig points out, “The central question is not ‘who is my neighbor?’ but ‘what is my duty?’ Again our need is not to define ‘neighbor’ but to become the kind of person who cannot pass by on the other side…Am I concerned about calculating the limits of love or about caring for hurting people? The theologian is thinking about his responsibility; the Lord wants us to seize the opportunity. The theologian is thinking about himself; the Lord directs us to the sufferer” (p. 40-41).

In Christian communities, debates still rage. How do we help the needy? Are there people that we have a higher obligation to love and care for than others? How do we help people if they won’t better themselves? Should we give money to that homeless guy that makes minimum wage with only a  scrawled cardboard sign and a grocery cart? How do we balance safety with radical love?

Certainly, wisdom should come into play. The focus of the story is not mindless care–the focus is deliberate love. If loving someone means not giving them certain things, or not enabling them to continue in a particular lifestyle, that is not less loving than binding up a bleeding man’s wounds. And, certainly, there are Biblical priorities–God, then biological and church family, and then those outside the faith.

But–at least for me–the problem is not in the exceptions or the complications.

The problem is in the application.

” This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care—how can the love of God remain in him?

Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.”

– 1 John 3:16-18, CEB –

A man who doesn’t show practical love for his family by doing his best to provide for them is betraying his faith (1 Timothy. 5:8). A Christian who does not have compassion on his fellow heirs in Christ is demonstrating a dearth of love. A man who passes by is showing that he really doesn’t understand the kind of grace that throws away convenience, propriety, reputation, comfort, and possessions just to stop and do something.

We quibble over terms.

Christ came in and acted.

We, of all people, were surely not His neighbors: More inferior to his Divinity than an amoeba is to a great blue whale. More adversarial to his kind advances than a Jew would be to a helpful leper. A cosmos, in a sense, separated us from Him–a world gone amuck, millions of sins piled like stones between the life of God and the life of man.

And us, unaware of it, ran straight into the den of robbers and gave ourselves over to the beatings of the sin we chose, until we lay bloody on the roadside. Utterly hopeless. Utterly undesirable.

But He had compassion. Desiring us! What love is this? He stopped. And, at the cost of His life, bound up our wounds.

It was certainly our sickness that he carried,
    and our sufferings that he bore,
    but we thought him afflicted,
    struck down by God and tormented.
He was pierced because of our rebellions
    and crushed because of our crimes.
    He bore the punishment that made us whole;
    by his wounds we are healed.
 Like sheep we had all wandered away,
    each going its own way,
    but the Lord let fall on him all our crimes.

– Isaiah 53: 4-6 –

We can make wonderful excuses. We can say we’re too busy. We can say that we don’t owe them anything.

Jesus could have done that too.

But He went out into the highways instead.

With such a Savior, how can we hold back for one more minute? Today, my neighbor is the person in front of me–my roommate, my boss at the office, my brother, the cashier at Wal-Mart, the lady walking her dachshund down the neighborhood sidewalk.

How can I not love them? How can I just pass by?


“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”

– Augustine –

Costly Song

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 “Love hurts when it changes us.”

― Toba Beta ―


This is Part Five of my Practical Love Series! If you missed the other posts, be sure to go back and check them out! You can find the most recent post From the Roots of Grace here.


I can tell you what Love feels like, what it sometimes does, but writing to you about Love is like trying to capture the sun in a bottle or fit the ocean in a teacup.

I do know something about Love–it is a song, a costly song.

A rock band once wrote a song about their view of love:

“Love hurts, love scars, love wounds
And mars, any heart
Not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud
Holds a lot of rain
Love hurts……ooh, ooh love hurts
I’m young, I know, but even so
I know a thing or two
And I learned from you
I really learned a lot, really learned a lot
Love is like a flame
It burns you when it’s hot
Love hurts……ooh, ooh love hurts”

These writers came to a conclusion: that Love is a lie. But as much as Love has the power to hurt, its song is much more complex. Love is not a lie–because God cannot lie. In my life, I look around–and I hear it, hear the Love rising. It is more true than they knew.

Mr. Rick goes to  my church. He spent last year watching his father die. Convenience, beloved friends, freedom–this man gave all of these up to care for his father through the last days of his cancer. One Sunday, Mr. Rick described to the congregation the terrible thing it is to watch someone you love waste away. His father was a burly man, one of those people who never get sick. Until the years wore thin and his body began to break. Mr. Rick told us of his shock to see that even his father was vulnerable to the death of this sin-cursed place. By traveling with his father to the end, Mr. Rick learned about death. But I learned a different lesson: I learned about the love a son had for his father. Mr. Rick’s lament rang silver-edged with glory, the touch of God’s love.

Mrs. Kathy is a friend, far away. She too, has taught me the song of Love. Cancer invaded her life too, already stolen away her mother and a sister. Now, another sister lies as the disease eats away at her brittle bones. People call such things tragedies, and I suppose it is. But in the face of death and decay and the gray places of the world a song peals out still–the flagrant tune of Love that conquers. Mrs. Kathy knows the song, as she and her grown-up kids take turns driving 2 hours every day to take her sister to the cancer center for treatment. They play music and talk and pray and shower the love of God on a wearing-out body, trusting in Christ alone for the reward of their labor. For Love is a hard, hard song to sing.

My Dad taught me a few bars of the Love song. A few weeks ago, he packed up and traveled over state lines to visit an aging relative. This relative, kind as she is, wants little to do with him. Phone calls are tolerated. Meetings over breakfast–sometimes. But actual interaction? She has no interest. In spite of her, my dad went to visit. Rumors had drifted in that her house was a wreck. We heard little of the next few days, but later learned that my dad had spent hours scrubbing a home that had not been cleaned for years. The hair of seven indoor cats, along with the stinging smell of ammonia from months of used litter and a collection of garage sale finds–all these things my dad reported to us in understatement. But we knew. We knew when he came home rasping, almost voiceless from the vapors he had inhaled over the past days. What is Love, if not this?

Love is starting to scare me. It’s no longer a matter of clean words and sanitary deeds and primly-dressed intentions.  Love is curiously messy and crazily involved. It is painful and unclear and full of sleepless nights and congested days.

Jesus set an example of Love for us–forgiveness for the traitor, patience for the clueless, tenderness in the pain, unending.

I am frightened. I am supposed to be an adult. But here I am, writing about Love, hearing its song all around me.

And I feel like a child, unable to walk.

Love.

It is the basic Christian virtue–“the greatest of these,” the quality that God claims as one of His names. And I can’t even take a step.

Love’s song should be as basic as humming a few bars of “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” a Christianity 101 of sorts. But I’ve suddenly lost my voice.

These examples–the grown-up people, the true adults in my life–prove to me that the song of Love is not forgotten, and that God’s children can learn its melody.

But they’re playing Beethoven when all I can find is middle C. I know right now that I am not enough. I am incapable of Love–at least, on my own.

But if Love Himself has made my dead heart pound to life, I think He can teach numb lips a new song.

I don’t think I’ll get all the words the first time. I expect some of the lyrics to hurt like a knife to the soul. I think I’ll sing a little flat sometimes. But you’ve never heard a symphony until you’ve heard the sound of Love. Minors of pain, trills of joy–all God’s notes, every one of them.

I’m not so scared after all.

This song….

It’s hard, way harder than I knew.

It’s painful, because every note points to the rebirth of the world ahead, when my Jesus makes all things new.

It’s costly, because in order to sing it right, you have to die.

But don’t worry. Love is worth it.

He always is.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

– Romans 5:1-5 –


Have you heard the melody?

Comment below and share how God’s love has been poured out through your friends and family!