How Little We Understand About Love

 

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Few words are tossed about so freely about so many things as love. We say we love ice cream or pizza, coffee or soda. We say we love music or sports, mountains or the beach. We say we love each other and then struggle to define what we mean when we say love or “each other”.

 

Perhaps the problem is with the English language that only has one word used to describe emotions about so many things and yet, love is not simply an emotion. Love, at its best, is a lifestyle and a decision and it’s hard.

 

We would like to think love is a part of who we are, but in reality it resides at all only if we have embraced and taken into ourselves the One who is love incarnate. His love was not sloppy, not gushy with words. It was direct, full of truth, and demonstrated moment-by-moment. There was nothing common about it. For that reason, we should use the word with a bit more insight and understanding.

 

We see it at its finest in today’s world when someone puts another person ahead of him or her without even thinking or pausing to consider. We hear it in the stories of the heroes whose names we do not recall from the tragedy in Las Vegas. Love set aside uniqueness, preferences, differences, and opinions and focused instead on the unvarnished fact that each of us is connected to each other by virtue of our humanity. So those heroes plunged into the chaos without consideration of their own safety for the love of another.

 

You have read a number of quotes from the novel, Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry in recent weeks. In the complex characterization Berry weaves about Jayber, we can see the insight and wisdom that any one of us can reflect upon. As he reflects back on his life (now an older man) he says:

 

“I have got to the age now where I can see how short a time we have to be here…There are moments when the heart is generous, and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things.”

 

Jayber had struggled with his relationship with God and also with the verses about love in the Bible. By the time he was 70, he realized ignoring the verses about how God loved the world was a mistake.

 

He reached a new understanding: “If God loved the world even before the event at Bethlehem, that meant He loved it as it was, with all its faults. That would be Hell itself, in part. He would be like a father with a wayward child, whom He can’t help and can’t forget. But it would be even worse than that, for He would also know the wayward child and the course of its waywardness and suffering.”

 

What a profound depiction of the Father’s love for us (and this earth) that He created.

 

He went on to muse: “What answer can human intelligence make to God’s love for the world? What answer, for that matter, can it make to our own love for the world? If a person loved the world—really loved it and forgave its wrongs and so might have his own wrongs forgiven—what would be next?”

 

What indeed would be next? I think few of us has done more than scratch the surface in grappling with what love is or looks like in its highest and best form in our humanity.

 

When Jayber grappled with love of the highest sort, it ultimately took Him to the garden: “I finally knew…why Christ’s prayer in the garden could not be granted. He had been seeded and birthed into human flesh. He was one of us. Once He had become mortal, He could not become immortal except by dying. That He prayed that prayer at all showed how human He was. That He knew it could not be granted showed His divinity; that He prayed it anyhow showed His mortality, His mortal love of life that His death made immortal.”

 

We, the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve, could learn much more of love than we do, but that would also root out so much of what we are comfortable with of that old nature that lurks in the edges waiting to trip us up. Are we really ready to let go of the familiar for the extraordinary? He will never force us even after we have committed ourselves to Him.

 

But consider this from Jayber as I leave you today:

 

“God does not coerce the love of His human creatures, not for Himself or for the world or for one another. To allow that love to exist fully and freely, He must allow it not to exist at all. His love is suffering. It is our freedom and His sorrow. To love the world as much even as I could love it would be suffering also, for I would fail. And yet all the good I know is in this, that a man might so love this world that it would break his heart.”

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Fiercehearted

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Opening the pages of Fiercehearted: Live Fully, Love Bravely by Holley Gerth will take you on a journey with Holley through some of the most challenging, exciting, and delightful stories of her journey in life. In the midst of her stories, you will discover a thread that links every woman to her story. That thread is the reality of the doubts, uncertainties, disappointments, and fears that each of us meets along the way that cause us to question whether we are “enough”. But Holley will also help each woman recognize despite everything, God has created her to be fiercehearted.

 

That truth about fierceheartedness cannot help but encourage any woman who experiences Holley’s tender heart and vulnerability as she drops the mask of what she might think we believe she should be and discover the beauty of who God created her to be.

 

Some of her sentences are the kind you want to tape to your vanity mirror to read every day. Here is just one example:

 

Let’s be women who know we are not eye candy but works of art, not stereotypes but strong forces, not role-players but world shapers.”

 

It’s true that each of us is unique, but that can cause us to often believe we are the only ones who have felt what we feel. After all, so many others look like they have it all together. Holley’s words and insights remind us that even though each of us is unique, there are many things we share as women including the way the enemy assaults our hearts. She reminds us: “Let’s be unexpected warriors, love ninjas, secret agents of grace in the kitchens and the boardrooms and by the swings on the playground. They’ll never see us coming.”

 

So often we are bombarded with messages of all we need to be or should be and soon we carry a list of things that we believe we must accomplish. The list is longer than any human can achieve and when we mess up, we berate ourselves and insist we simply didn’t try hard enough. At such times, Holley prompts us to remember: “Let’s be gentle with each other and ourselves, tender toward our failures. It can be an act of worship to remember we are only human, not God after all.”

 

This latest book of Holley’s was released on October 3, but as a part of her book launch team I was blessed to receive a copy several weeks ago. Her words make me smile, brought tears to my eyes, and left me pondering. As I read and sipped my coffee, I found many things to underline and journal about. This is a book I don’t think you’ll want to miss!

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Life Giving or Death Dealing?

 

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On a dusty shelf in my mind, I recall a little song we taught when I helped in a pre-school Sunday School class during my teen years. The lyrics included admonitions most of the tots didn’t fully comprehend, but perhaps those words came back to them as they do to me. The lines included, “Be careful little eyes what you see….Be careful little ears what you hear” and went on from there.

 

As my eyes and ears are accosted on social media pages and TV with rants of all sorts, something on the dusty shelf of my mind stirred. I am interested in the news, but that can be hard to discover in the midst of the ranting, shouting, pontificating, and rambling. I am interested in seeing and hearing the fun and great things happening in the lives of my friends as well as how the Lord is moving in their lives, but not a barrage of social commentary that can bombard me if I checkout Facebook.

 

You see, all those other things seep into me even though I don’t want them to, and they can have an effect on me that pulls me offside and away from the course the Lord sets before me. They can be harbingers of fear. They can also cause my thoughts to go tumbling and momentarily lose sight of WHO is in charge as well as what I (or any of us) has control over and what I do not. They nibble at His peace, joy, and hope. They are not life giving, but more death dealing. They can pull any one of us into isolation or build little walls in our hearts that tear relationships apart.

 

That should be our first clear clue that behind so much of this, there is a power at work that is meant to destroy us and divide us that has been here since the beginning of time. That power is clever and well experienced. We never suspect it is he. We label it everything else and he quietly chuckles as he watches us get caught up in the milieu. Our words change, speaking more of our differences than our commonality. Our attitudes shift almost imperceptibly at times and it can take us a moment or more to recognize something is eroding the faith and belief in the One greater than ourselves whom we say we are committed to. We can forget we are one family.

 

How myopic we can be! We are a part of something so much bigger than where our focus shifts. A recent sighting of the International Space Station on a clear cool September night was a reminder of how the view from there is so different than mine.

 

Jayber Crow has given me pause more than once as I have read Wendell Berry’s wise well-crafted words and insight coming from the main character, Jayber. His words go beyond noting that we often don’t understand each other very well to the pithy reality.

 

“People generally suppose they don’t understand one another very well, and that is true; they don’t. But some things communicate easily and fully. Anger and contempt and hatred leap from one heart to another like fire in dry grass. The revelations of love are never complete or clear, not in this world. Love is slow and accumulating, and no matter how large and high it grows, it falls short. Love comprehends the world, though we don’t comprehend it. But hate comes off in slices, clear and whole – self-explanatory, you might say. You can hate people completely and kill them in an instant.”

 

Certainly the words attributed to the philosopher/barber, Jayber, pierce bone and marrow to the truth. Some pages later he adds:

 

 “Hate succeeds. This world gives plentiful scope and means to hatred, which always finds its justifications and fulfills itself perfectly in time by destruction of the things of time…

 

But love, sooner or later, forces us out of time. It does not accept that limit. Of all that we feel and do, all the virtues and all the sins, love alone crowds us at last over the edge of the world. For love is always more than a little strange here. It is not explainable or even justifiable. It is itself the justifier. We do not make it. If it did happen to us, we could not imagine it. It includes the world and time as a pregnant woman includes her child whose wrongs she will suffer and forgive. It is in the world but is not altogether of it. It is of eternity. It takes us there when it most holds us here.”

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Featured Week 3 November 2017 as You’re the Star