Love Challenge

We just passed the annual day of love. I am someone who is generally turned off by the commercialism surrounding holidays – any holiday, and Valentine’s Day is no different.

However, as a child, my dad nicknamed me “the love bug.” I have always loved love and the idea of love. I was born with a strong “mercy gift” and compassion for others that I did not (still don’t) understand. But when I compare myself to 1 Corinthians 13, I also realize how I fall short of true love for myself, my church, my community and my world.

According to 1 Corinthians 13, Love is patient. I am not. This is one of my most self-recognized “flaws.” Get-er-done already. That’s my motto. I don’t care if it’s a task, an idea, self-improvement or home improvement, just do it already. And the words “waiting” and “patiently” do not co-exist in my vocabulary. Love Challenge: Embrace the waiting in every situation and trust what God is doing.

Love is kind. Ah, well, sometimes I can be kind. Especially if someone is kind first. But Scriptures tell us it is easy for people to be kind to others who are kind first, true love is being kind even and especially when others are not. Love Challenge: “Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

It does not envy. Hmmm… I don’t envy many material things, but guess what? I envy others’ gifts. I would love to be as even-keel and rock-steady as my husband. I wish I were as gifted with words, math skills, organizational skills… and on and on and on as my friends. This envy has at times prevented me from developing and stepping out in my own gifts because I measure my inadequacies and insecurities against other people’s gifts. Which leads right in to the next two… But first, Love Challenge: Recognize my own strengths and trust that I am who I am for a reason. Rely on God to help me use those strengths for the building of his kingdom and to accept his grace in my weaknesses.

Love does not boast, it is not proud. Ahem… (a little throat-clearing here.) Sometimes what seems like humility and inferiority is, in reality, an ugly form of pride. Yep. I deal with it. Love Challenge: Do not “boast” in or call attention to my insignificance in an effort to have others build me up. Recognize my identity as a child of God and rest in that.

It does not dishonor others. Uh oh. Repeating that embarrassing moment a co-worker shared in confidence, wishing (mentally or by telling others) that “over-spiritual zealot” would stop talking so the service could move along, reliving the past or revisiting moments that are shared only to let others know how I was wronged. Love Challenge: Choose to see every person as God sees them and then to love them as he does.

Love is not self-seeking. Sometimes doing good things can become more for the praise of others than because we should. As another portion of this Scripture says, we can give all we have to the poor, we can give our body to be burned at the stake for the sake of what we believe, but if we do not have love, we have nothing. Love Challenge: Don’t glory in the good I have done or will do. Recognize that the good we do often happens in times and ways that others will never know.

It is not easily angered. I’m not necessarily easily angered, but easily frustrated is a whole different story. I think it correlates with my impatience. Love Challenge: When I find myself becoming frustrated, take time to breathe. Take time to understand the source of my frustration or anger. Is the target of my frustration really the source? Is it worth the investment of time and energy it takes to hold on to the anger or frustration? 

It keeps no record of wrongs. This is one of the toughest parts of this Scripture for me. I. Keep. A. Checklist! Sometimes I’m not even conscious of this checklist, but I know it is there and I can pull those hurts out of my memory box without digging too deeply. I don’t believe we completely forget the hurts that caused our deepest pain, but I do think we can hold on to it by sharing only to retaliate against the perpetrator(s). This one can be really tricky.  Love Challenge: Burn the checklist. When the reminders come, make a conscious decision to let go… again… and again and again… 

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Sometimes I think our national and local media would do well to remember this one, but it is a good reminder even for myself. Love Challenge: Do not glorify the bad. Rejoice in and promote truth and light. Even the smallest light overcomes darkness. Be that light, carry that Light. 

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I fall way short on the trusting part of this sentence. I do not always protect those I love from harmful gossip nor do I protect the defenseless and “least of these.” Love Challenge: Trust. Not in others, not in myself, but in God. Protect those who are in my care, whether I know them or not. 

Love never fails. Well, this one I cannot live up to, but by trying to live by the above challenges I pray that I become better at this loving thing.

Read the rest of this Scripture here.

Despite all my shortcomings and failures to live up to this perfect love, I still love love. I still believe that love ultimately wins over hate. I pray that with God’s grace I can live his love in such a way that others want to experience it too.

Anyone else have a love challenge or want to join me in mine?

I’m not a person of faith

I confess, I’m not a person of faith, not by nature anyway. It is not my natural response to immediately call on Jesus when our daughter is diagnosed with pneumonia and bronchitis or when I get a voicemail from my doctor on a Friday evening telling me she’s reviewed my sonogram and to call her first thing Monday morning.

I get there. I cry out to God. I do feel his presence and comfort in the midst of these storms, but I am the kind of person that needs the encouragement of my family and friends and fellow believers to remind me to trust.

I am Peter who has the faith to step out of the boat, but gets overwhelmed by my circumstances. I am David who longs to serve God wholly and completely and yet fall short in my sin. I am Abraham who hopes against hope that God’s “got this” and yet I am Thomas who can only believe by seeing and touching Jesus for myself. I am Mary, in awe and wonder of the work God has done and wants to do in my life. I am Martha who is so busy serving that I forget the “one thing” that is necessary; to sit with Jesus and to rest quietly in his presence.

I chastise myself for reaching out to others, then I read and listen to the messages of love and encouragement and support and I am thankful and overwhelmed at the beautiful friends I am blessed with. I can only pray I encourage others the way I am lifted up.

We are brothers, sisters, family and friends; sojourners in this difficult and joyful life. We are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. In this togetherness, we experience a glimpse of the relationship God longs to have with us.

I am so thankful, so very blessed to be surrounded by people who constantly remind me to “Turn my Eyes Upon Jesus.” Because of you, my friends, I am challenged to be a person of faith.

Does God care about lent?

I wrestled with Lenten sacrifices this year. What to give up? What to take on? What is the purpose? Does God really care?

Before I married a Lutheran, I had not heard terms like Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and Lent. Well, I might have heard them, but they carried no meaning.

Although we’ve attended a Shrove Tuesday supper since my husband and I married, last year was the first time I then followed through with a Lenten sacrifice.

I gave up coffee and fried foods. Although I don’t eat a lot of fried foods, I love them and well, coffee is an everyday companion of mine so both were significant to give up.

I stuck with my commitment and felt it was definitely a time of growing within myself. I found the Lenten season to be much more meaningful as I was reminded daily of Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf.

But this year, I couldn’t decide what to give up. I prayed about it and had lofty aspirations of incorporating a Daniel Fast, but I did not want to set myself up for failure. I thought about giving up coffee and fried foods again, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

I decided that unless I got clear direction, I would not do anything specific for this year.

Then, this Ash Wednesday morning, it came to me. “Daily Sacrifice.” Listening daily to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Don’t eat that for now,” “do this,” or “go there.” My prayer is that my life will become totally directed by the promptings of the Spirit.

Is lent for us or for God? As with any ritual, I believe we can go through the motions of lent without it having much purpose or meaning, but I also know it can enrich and empower our faith. It can be for both us and God if it accomplishes the intended purpose of deepening our relationship with Him.

I am looking forward to experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit in my life this season and pray that being guided by his presence becomes an automatic response. I am thankful for the exposure to this practice that has caused me to become more reflective of the power of Easter in my life.

Experiencing the holy in everyday moments

I was excited about participating in a “NuDunkers On Pneumatology” online discussion this morning. Pneumatology is just a fancy word for the theologies of the Holy Spirit. With a 4-year-old and a 17-month-old at home, I prepared ahead of time to make sure I would have the perfect quiet atmosphere for the discussion of this fascinating topic.

Yeah right!

Instead of reflective and educated ruminations about the Holy Spirit, I was saying things, “Elsie, get Eli’s underwear off your head.” “Eli, don’t sit on top of Elsie and stop pulling the dog’s ears.” This, all while listening as best I can to an honest and through-provoking discussion about the Holy Spirit.

But this is the beauty of my life; holy moments wrapped in the humdrum of the everyday. My life has many seemingly insignificant moments and yet when I pause and pay attention, I hear the whispers of God in it all. And in my personal experience, that is my pneumatology of the Holy Spirit.

My Pledge

This is my life-creed. It is original to me and therefore copyrighted to me, but feel free to use and post if you feel the reminders here would be helpful in your home or place of work.

“THIS IS MY PLEDGE”

I pledge to care for those around me as though they are my brother, my sister, my father, or mother, for indeed, they are that to someone. If perhaps, they are walking this journey alone, I pledge to demonstrate compassion and kindness with the reality that I might be the encouragement that makes their life worth living.

Continue reading “My Pledge”