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If I Knew I Could, I Would. . .


I’m joining Lisa-Jo at Gypsy Mama again for 5 Minute Friday.  Join us! Just write for 5 minutes–no edits, no extra time–just write and post.  The theme today is “If I knew I could, I would. . .

GO
If I knew I could find the words that would convince you that God loves you, I would drop everything and spill those words out for you to hear and watch your eyes and heart light up.

If I knew the acts in my life that would show you how much God loves you, and what peace you would find if you knew Him, I would stop everything else and just do those things that would show you.

If I knew I could find another person in this world who could help you to see God and have faith the way I do, I would push aside my introverted nature and introduce you to that person and serve you tea and cupcakes while you talked.

If I knew that I could point you to a passage in scripture that would speak to your heart and show you His, I would sit with you in silence as you read and pray for God’s presence at that moment.

If I knew that I could pray for God to pursue you and prepare your heart and that nothing I could do would help, I would pray anyway because I love you that much, and because I know God loves you that much, and because I know hope and faith and love prevail. . . .

STOP

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Hard Love


I’m joining Lisa-Jo over at The Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday.  Here’s how it works:

Want to take five minutes with me and see which ones bubble to the surface?

Let’s just write and not worry if it’s just right or not. Here’s how we do it:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat with no editing or tweaking.

2. Link back to Lisa-Jo’s site and invite others to join in {you can grab the button code in Lisa-Jo’s right side bar}

3. Go and tell the person who linked up before you what their words meant to you. Every writer longs to feel heard. {And if you love us, consider turning off word verification for the day to make it easier for folks to leave you some encouragement}

It’s a great way to exhale at the end of a beautiful week.

The prompt this week is Hard Love . . .

GO

I wonder in awe at God’s love for me.  How could He love me that much?  How could he give His son’s life for me?  Really.  For this broken, tired soul.  He must find loving me hard.

Then I breathe, But His love is unconditional.

Unconditional.

I grasp for meaning in that phrase unconditional love.  The closest understanding I have is my love for my children.

When they are broken and in the darkest and most difficult of places in their growing up, I love them and grieve for them.

When our son began to doubt, when he said he was just unsure about God and everything,  all I could do was trust God.  The God who promises to love no matter what.

In those moments, as a mother, I taste–I glimpse–unconditional love.

It is hard love.

Yet, it is all I know or could possibly have in those moments.

I am ever so grateful for the God of love. 

The One who gave His only son for me.

I am ever so grateful for His unconditional love that washes over me and holds on tightly to my son.

It is . . .   STOP  (I guess you’ll have to finish this for me…)

Our Facebook Identity verses Our Identity In Christ


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.

I scroll past “religious views.” I see Jesus, unconditional love, believer, Christian-open and inclusive, following Jesus, Child of God.

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

On Loving Others: A Letter to My Son


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,

Mom

Stacks of Unspoken Words


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.

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