Do you know what Love is?

Love is such a popular word. People light up when hearing it spoken. Some people get flustered, defensive, or curmudgeonly when love is discussed. Few words illicit such powerful, emotional responses. Being newly engaged I am made aware of how the awareness of love affects even total strangers.

As I struggle across the room in the blinding throb of a series of monster migraines, I stop to smooth the skirt of my wedding gown. It is newly acquired and hanging in my study so I can admire its beauty. Besides, who has closet space for a wedding gown! The glimpse of tulle and lace lighten my heart and I am transported from a state of pain to happy thoughts of the future when I get to marry my Beloved! Thoughts of the wedding lift my spirit because love breaks through the ugly of today.
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Our world is ugly. Countless souls are slugging through today just trying to endure the pain. There is too much brokenness all around. Love shines like a shaft of warm sunlight through a cold-winter night. It cuts through the hurt, pain, doubt, and best of all death!

We can deny or misunderstand the meaning of what love actually is. It is almost easier to define what love is not than what it is. St. Paul eloquently defined love in 1 Corinthians 13. But even if we confuse love for a feeling, the feeling love gives us is an effect not a cause. We cannot confuse the two. What Jesus Christ did for us on the cross is the greatest example of love that anyone can imagine.

Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant of rude. Love does not insist on its own way…rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

When I am hit by a long series of migraines, I drift further behind each day that I am sick. The pressure that I feel inside my spirit is second only to the pressure in my head. Rest comes when I surrender to Love. I don’t need to do more, have more, or be more ____ to find rest for my soul! What I actually need is less. I need to surrender not only control of my life to Jesus, but I need also to release management of my schedule to Jesus! His mission reveals the true nature of love. There is no “earning” in love. Jesus redefined what it means to be a successful human being in the cross. He, God, poured Himself out to become one of us! He fully embraced us. He freely accepted all the lies and suffering so that by letting go of Himself, He might save us.

Jesus, who was God and could not by nature stay dead, died so that He could reach past the great abyss that existed between man and God. He saved us. We did nothing but spit in His face and nail Him to the cross. He arose Easter Sunday that we might have everlasting life. For perfectionists like me it is a terrible reality to face, but we can never be enough, complete enough, people pleasing enough, God-pleasing enough. But Jesus said, “Enough…It is finished.”

What does Christ’s mission reveal about God’s love for us?

The truths packed into this little line of the Nicene Creed are strong enough to pull us through pain, misfortune, loss and make us happy enough to, “dance at our wedding.” How can I write a blog post and comment on the greatness of Christ’s mission revealing God’s love for us during a week-long series of severe migraines? Grace. What is the central theme of His mission? Self-sacrificing love. Real love. It is the kind of love my fiancé demonstrated last evening when he looked deeply into my slit-eyes, migraine-cooling-patch covered forehead and told me I was beautiful. Love. Thanks to Jesus we know what it is. It is an action verb full of might and gentle as a whisper. Love is not a feeling-but it creates a glorious feeling to those who surrender themselves to receive it.

This post is shared with If:Gathering in the wonderful ongoing study of the Nicene Creed. No prior knowledge is required. A heart that is open is the door to truth. Join the Gathering at If:Equip.com and find this post under “Jesus Came to Bring Salvation to Us”.

Good Fathers

baby-203048__340What is a father? The variety of answers that this question elicits are almost unlimited. The possible replies are limited only by the number of human fathers that have existed. The description may incite joy or fear, hope or despair depending upon your personal experience. I have been blessed to have been raised by a loving human father. My concept of a father is one of unconditional love. This has made my relationship with our Heavenly Father easy to learn.

Despite this there are pronounced differences between my earthly father and my Heavenly Father, and I recognized many of them early. My earthly father could build anything, but he could not make other people do what he asked. My Heavenly Father could make people do what He wanted but chose to let us have free will.
Good fathers sometimes allow children to experience difficult things if it is needed to help them grow. Fathers who bail their kids out of every problem and buy their kids every gadget raise kids who have no ability to care for themselves. They become selfish, needy adults who take rather than give.

france-85871_960_720My Heavenly Father has been teaching me about humility and trust quite a bit lately. If God did what I wanted He would simply heal me. But, God knows far more than I do, and He clearly believes that I need to learn to submit to His will sometimes without fretting. I am reasonably good at giving my worries to God. I have a great deal of difficulty in letting go of the problems that I have given to God. I continue to fret and worry. Wisely, God my Heavenly Father is putting me through a training course on humility and submission. The world calls this course chronic illness; God calls it teaching His child.

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I faint, and nearly faint. The nearly comes from the fact that after many years I figured out that it is much less embarrassing to put your head between your knees in public than it is to fall on the floor unconscious. After a good blood test at the doctor, who is treating my anemia, I nearly fainted while standing in line to make my follow-up appointment. This could be the definitive description of embarrassing. They had to move another patient out of a treatment room to get me into a room with a recliner so that I could lie down with my feet up to recover. That is only a piece of the inconvenience that I inadvertently caused. All of the ordeal was only to find out that my anemia is still under control! I told my fiancé that it felt humiliating. He wisely told me it was a gift.
God, my Heavenly Father, is teaching me humility. That is what my fiancé pointed out. Humility comes from the same root as humiliating.

All too often we ask why God allows suffering and difficulty in the world if He is good. The question assumes that we know what the good is.

Often we know good, sometime we miss the point. Some hardship exists to teach us how to grow up into the kind of people we are made to be. We are made in the image of God. That fact usually causes us to expect greatness and power, but Jesus is God’s Son and true God. What we are trying to grow up into is Christ-like. Our Father knows that we will never become who we were made to be as long as we call good only the things that feel good to us.

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Good fathers don’t give us whatever we ask for. They do not solve all our problems, nor do they remove all our challenges. They would if it actually made our lives better. They would lay down their own lives for us if it would really help us.

The truth is they sometimes are required to love us through the hard places. Good fathers want us to learn and grow. Helping us grow means that they may walk through a fear or embarrassment with us rather than for us.

Our God is a Good Father. We see the evidence in all the blessings we so easily call good. If we look carefully we can also see the traces in the gifts that don’t look good at first. Then we may trace the trail of Jesus’ suffering through the tears or feel the Holy Spirit’s groans that are too deep for words and then the Father’s seeming inaction may make sense–good sense.

 

This post is a reflection on God as our Heavenly Father from the Nicene Creed. It is linked to If:Gathering app and the study on the Nicene Creed.

Humble Wildflowers

We live in a culture that encourages us to be assertive. We are taught to be confident in our own power and grow in popularity. We dress to get ahead.  It never ceases to astound me how opposite our cultural values are with the values of Christianity.

Jesus was the singularly most influential person in all of history. He did not promote himself. He owned no property. He rose to influence with no backing of the elite or even the religious leaders of His day. He taught humility and meekness to the crowds and still more came to hear Him. After He was condemned to death, and crucified, rose again and ascended into heaven, His disciples continually risked their lives to tell others about Him.

Paul, formerly Saul, was ardently working to stop people from following Jesus, until he heard from Him on the road to Damascus. Then Paul began to risk his life to take the Good News to all the known world.
In a sense the most influential movement in the world was started by and has been promoted by the meek. Perhaps that is why it seems to be loosing influence in our society and graining ground in oppressive and impoverished countries around the world. We have forgotten where we came from.
The Bible repeatedly encourages us to value humility more than pride. We become frustrated with our leaders for their pride. In 1 Peter 5 leaders of the early church are exhorted to,

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but give grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5b).

Flowers were once chosen for symbolic reasons. Each flower was said to represent a particular meaning. The bouquet given to a sweetheart was given additional meaning through the message contained in the flowers.

bluebells-758478_960_720Bluebells represented humility.

As Valentine’s Day nears many flowers will be exchanged. Not many will contain bluebells in this era. Humility is undervalued. Spring is coming. The woods and meadows will once again be clothed in bluebells, now relegated to the position of simple wildflowers.

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Lovers and leaders may eschew the bluebell. But, God still paints the wilderness with humility. In the drama and excitement of this season perhaps it would do for us to pause and consider what we are doing.

bluebells-341794_960_720Do we live in a way that teaches humility? Do we actively put others ahead of ourselves? Each of us is encouraged to clothe ourselves like the spring woods. Let us wear a garment of self-sacrifice not self-aggrandizement.

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God’s Wisdom

In the last post I shared thoughts about Gentle Wisdom.

This is just another name for God’s Wisdom, or the unchangeable wisdom that comes from the eternal. If we acknowledge a Creator we recognize that there is a source of definitive Truth beyond our ephemeral and personal beliefs of the moment. The difficulty in defining this Truth is that it is by necessity beyond our finite capacity to comprehend in its entirety.

For those of us who find this Truth in the Bible

it is described by the Apostle Paul as “secret and hidden…decreed before the ages for our glory,” 1 Corinthians 2:7. He goes on to tell us that the rulers of that age did not understand it or they would not have crucified Jesus. Even a cursory search of history shows that the rulers of all ages seem to have a critical problem living by the wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy (James 3:17).

The fact is that those who wield power in this world

often fail to live up to the standards of the world to come. Which is more evidence of why Christ died for us. Humans don’t seem to be capable of living up to God’s standards, or indeed our own.

Hope is not lost, however.

St. Paul went on to write to the Corinthians that, “What no eye has seen, nor ear hear, not the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Without God, Gentle Wisdom would be unimaginable.

With God all the futility and hopelessness of the present age is alleviated. Even though our rulers disappoint us and we fail to accomplish half of what we intended when we complied our To Do  Opportunities list, Jesus achieved for us glory.

The word glory that is used in the Greek in 2 Corinthians 2:6 is doxa,

which comes from the word for opinion and can also be translated as praise,  approval (2), brightness (1), glories (1), glorious (5), glory (155), honor (1), majesties. Paul tells us that we will receive the good opinion of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Not only does Jesus receive glory because of His death and resurrection,

but we also, as children of God, receive glory as well.

We cannot achieve Gentle Wisdom on our own.

We are unable to grasp the full measure of Truth. Despite our limitations we are blessed by glimpses of glory as we are being slowly transformed by the renewing of our minds to become more like Jesus.  One day we may see Him as He is and live with him in Perfect Truth.

Gentle Wisdom is based upon love.

Love is not a feeling, it is an active choice to place the best interest of the Beloved above our own feelings. Love is self-sacrifice. This is one of the reasons that it is never adequately demonstrated by those in power in this world.

Notwithstanding our human frailties, we can know something of Love and Truth in this life.

St. Paul further tells the early church in Corinth that, “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

The Holy Spirit which was poured out on us in the waters of Holy Baptism

can help us to comprehend something of the Wisdom that is eternal.

” Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.”1 Corinthians 2:12-16

I find it very interesting that the very next section in Paul’s letter

goes on to discuss the conflict that has been generated in the Corinthians church by factions arguing with one another. He chastens them to remember that we are all one structure in the church and built together with Love.

Gentle Wisdom from God is given to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Truth and Love are not out-dated concepts but living forces that have been present since before the world began. In spite of the conflicts and discord we see in the world around us, glory or God’s good opinion is ours through Christ. We are encouraged to get up and face another day without fear because we do not earn Wisdom, it is a gift.

Thanks be to God! Amen!

 

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