Category Archives: love
I really don’t have time to write today. But I must. I feel compelled to write. A different place than I was a few days ago when I didn’t want to write, but forced myself to sit down at the keyboard and type out a brief poem.
I feel compelled today because I am grieving. Grieving over the reaction to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. The celebrating in the streets. The Facebook pictures of Bin Laden. The comments on twitter.
I’m grieving because, celebrating the death of one created by God–regardless of what we think of that person’s life–doesn’t seem like the right response. Ever. I know he orchestrated the deaths of many, including the attacks on 9/11/2001 and gloated with his despise of Americans. I know that he is credited as the leader of Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization. I know he plotted the killing of friends and family members of many.
I get the knee-jerk reaction. Of “finally.” And, “what a relief.” But, celebrating death by public gathering, flag-waving, and shouting in the streets is beyond my understanding.
I find myself searching God for an answer. A proper response. I turn inward. I look upward. I seek God’s face in silence. You know the righteous. You are the judge of all. Forgive us our transgressions.
The response I sense in those quiet moments with God are these. Just love. Love deeply. Leave the rest to Me.
I log on to Facebook. Something I thought would only be for my son and daughter. But I find friends there from grade school, high school, and college. We reconnect electronically. As we “friend” each other, we scroll through photos, posts, and the info page—education and work, philosophy (religious and political views), arts and entertainment, activities and interests, and so on. We look to see who we might connect with, and we find those things that make up our friends’ identities—or at least that part of their identity that Facebook has space to include.
Christian, without any qualifiers is missing from all but a few. Some Christian friends—and I—leave off our religious views entirely.
I wonder what it is about our identity in Christ that makes us choose how we express that identity in this particular electronic media, but I also think about how we respond to others who ask us about our religion. How do we express our religious viewpoint–our faith–to those who only see our “online” presence? Or, for that matter, to those who we first meet?
Kathleen Norris, in her book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith touches on our identity as Christians. She notes that she is reluctant to speak of herself as a “Christian” because she knows how deficient she is in practice. But, she is reluctant also because “so many of the people who make the most of their ‘Christianity’ in public represent a distorted version of the faith.” She adds that so many in America regard “Christian” as synonymous with “fundamentalist,” and that the media seems “bent on perpetuating” that error.
I agree with her and grapple with this issue. It is not that I don’t find my identity in Christ. I do. But, the negative views of “Christianity” that ooze from history, and through the media and some “Christian” public figures—well, let’s face it, the negative views are, sadly, well deserved. They even stir up anger and heartache in me—like the burning of the Koran recently that resulted in violence and death in the Middle East.
And so, when I first meet someone or publicize on a medium where people might “meet” me only electronically and not ever get to know me, I want to distance myself from the public view of “Christianity.” Rather than “Christianity” allowing me to connect with others, I fear it will create an unwarranted divide.
It isn’t just the media image of Christianity either. As Norris states, “I know how deficient I am in practice.” I, too, am a blemished and broken human. I am deficient without God’s grace and mercy. I am deficient without the loving God who sent his son to the cross to bear my sins.
So, in the context of twenty-first century America, and knowing that I am broken and blemished, publicizing—headlining—that I am a Christian—seems counter-productive. It is a roadblock for the unbeliever—or people of other faiths—to relationship with Christ-followers.
I don’t know how to redeem “Christianity” for Christ except through relationship with others. If “Christianity” is suspect and associated by some with hate, divisiveness, violence, or arrogance, I can’t redeem Christianity if using that word to identify who I am creates a barrier before I even have the chance to establish rapport.
And so, as I walk through holy week—knowing that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to die on the cross—I look to the cross for answers. The only answer that seems clear is finding my identity in Christ and inviting Christ to transform me so that I may love others fully. I know that love is the heart of Christian faith. And, that Christ suffered the cross because of God’s love for all of humanity.
In twenty-first century America, keeping a distance from the “C” word seems almost necessary. Instead of posting my identity on Facebook, I need to turn toward Christ and pursue my relationship with Him so that I may meet others with His love, as an image-bearer of God. To let God transform me so that He might use me to transform the hearts of others.
“Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” 1 John 3:18.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 12:5-8
Sometimes we fail to say things to our children when we are thinking of them. Sometimes, it is because we don’t have the courage. Other times it is because we don’t have the time or the opportunity. Or, sometimes, we don’t know how they will respond. I thought I would occasionally post letters to my children to inspire others to share their hearts with their children, too. This first letter is to my son who is now 21 years old and who, last night, had to make a difficult choice to sacrifice a friendship he has had since first grade in order to try to save that friend’s life.
My Dear Son,
You have grown into a young man—one any mother would be proud of. You know the meaning of friendship—of true friendship. The Greek call this philia –fondness, appreciation, and loyalty to those you hold in community.
Your passion for life and those you care about drive every part of you. I admire it and at the same time I see it as a cross you bear. Your friendships have been characterized by loyalty, availability, honesty, trust, listening, nurturing, and a sense of finding a kindred spirit. But they also have been characterized by conflict, sacrifice, forgiveness, grief, and disappointment.
The depth of your friendships, the love you have for others in your life also means that you have had—and will continue to have—a sense of responsibility for those you care about. I know that you have had to choose, on occasion, doing what is right over the relationship. It has meant not just calling out your friends but also standing beside them when they desperately needed a friend they could count on. It has meant seeking help from family and friends to save the life of a friend. It has meant agonizing over the choice and ultimately choosing love and life, knowing that someday your friend might turn back to you, and may even thank you—hoping that you will have restoration.
It has also meant grieving deeply at the loss of some of your closest friends—whether the loss was because of death, or distance, or doing what was right. I have grieved for you, as I can’t imagine at your age having endured the loss that you have already endured. I know you have sought to understand loss and that, in many respects, it has eluded you. But I know that you have faith that someday you will heal, even if small scars remain. That somehow loss and grief will shape you in a way that will remind you that loving others was worth the pain of loss.
So I pray that you will continue to love deeply and value friendship above other things, for it is part of the fabric of who you are. It has been imprinted on your soul as long as I can remember. And, while it has been a burden at times, it has shaped you into a man of integrity and given you great joy. The way that you love others in community beautifully reflects Christ.
As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument through which God reveals to each the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them.”
With love always,
Sun breaks today. Through the clouds. And, I see the beauty of the cherry blossoms. Light pink puffs like cotton candy set gently against the branches.
How can I—how could I—ever doubt your existence, your faithfulness, your presence?
Chickadees settle on the branches, soft voices singing. Petals fall like tears, soaking the ground with pink polka dots fragrant with God’s creation.
How can we look upon the Earth and not weep at the beauty or know joy? How can we not know there is a creator?
I breath in and reach toward beauty and joy. I reach toward the creator and celebrate His creation.
Counting my blessings of gratitude with Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience.
#102 – 120
A crisp spring morning
the grass that needs mowing
the son sleeping too long
warm tea and flannel
a gentle smile from my husband
good work for the day
moments of silence
a short text message from daughter
a calendar that says she’ll be home this week
cooking a meal with my son
sharing that meal as a family
a week to walk toward the cross
time to reflect on that walk
His loving arms
I look around my home and see the stacks and piles. Stacks and piles of things. Mail sits on the end of the black granite countertop. Leaning precariously, as though anticipating that it will slide to the floor, unopened. Stacks of books. Not neatly stacked. Just stacked. Waiting to be finished. Or started. Or just waiting to find a permanent spot on the bookshelf. And then, there’s the dust. The dust colors everything like a winter fog. Dulls those things around me. The dust, piling up, particle by particle, on everything, not left by anyone, but just settling there. I notice it, even if no one else does. But I’m sure they do.
Mom would have. She noticed everything. Everything that wasn’t put away. Every mess. Everything I never finished. Every crumb left on the counter after making toast. Every sock hiding under my bed. She noticed the things.
But somehow, she never noticed me. The scars. The pain. The loneliness. The heartaches of a young girl growing up. Or, maybe she did but she just didn’t know how to catch her daughter’s tears. Maybe she just didn’t have the words. Maybe she couldn’t help me heal because she had never healed herself.
Despite her flaws, I loved her, as little girls love their mothers. And, I miss her, even after all these years. Today, if she were here, I would sit down with her and gently ask her why she couldn’t be there for me when I needed her most. Why I needed to look elsewhere in my life for shelter from the storms. And, I would look into her eyes and seek to know her heart.
And, I would tell her that it was okay–that I had found comfort in the loving arms of my heavenly Father. I would tell her that despite the stacks of unspoken words and unopened hearts and the grey haze that dulled our relationship, that love prevailed.
In my home, the dust on the hearth piles up, the mail sits unopened on the counter, and the books sit patiently for shelves or pages to be turned. And, I try not to notice socks hiding under beds or crumbs gathering around the toaster’s edge. They remind me of the piles and stacks of words unspoken in my childhood home.
And, so, instead of tidying up the house, I look into the eyes of my children, searching for their hearts. I hope they know that I notice them–every aspect of them. Every tear. Every heartbreak. Every moment of loneliness. And, I hope they know that their tears, and heartbreaks, and loneliness are mine, too.
Today, I hope that the piles and stacks for things go unnoticed–at least for one more day.