Candlelight

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If you follow my blog you may have noticed that I like to write about God’s unconditional love for us. It is best demonstrated to us by Jesus taking our sins to the cross and dying in our place.

We are forgiven, restored and endowed with the new position of “children of God” through His love.

The self-sacrificing love that He taught is called agape in the original Greek.

It is amazing how something we all need-love-can be so elusive for us human beings.

The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) delight in teaching us what real love is. Jesus is what real love is. Jesus is like light, says John. Paul picks up much of this in his letters to the early Christian churches.

Love and light are not supposed to be fleeting. In Revelation we are told that in the New Jerusalem at the end of time that there will be no more night. The sun won’t be needed either.

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Even when all the stars fall from the sky we will not be left in darkness.

We will not ever be abandoned or alone.

Jesus will be the everlasting light.

God will live with us. He will make His home there with us and the light will permanently replace all darkness and despair.

In the meantime, it is autumn in the northern hemisphere. The darkness is increasing nightly. How are we to live in the light, shine light to a dark world when we are living in the darkness?

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Symbolically we can light a candle. There is something calming about the light of candles. They are reminders of the sun since they cast the same warm, golden light, but on a drastically reduced scale. Candlelight reminds us that the darkness will never win. It flickers, but it doesn’t go out. It shines and brings light to what is near.

Have you ever noticed that we all acquire a lovely glow when we sits in it’s beam? Agape love lights us up when we are spending time with God.

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Try a new ritual with your family. Light a candle and read a favorite Bible verse. Tell your loved ones something you appreciate about them. Conclude with a simple prayer thanking God for giving us love and light that will never end.

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It could be with dinner, or at bedtime, but a simple ritual like this could be a special way to build your family up in love. As the holiday seasons become intense and pressure to do more, and more builds schedule a few moments each day to remember love.

A few moments to light the dark with the promise of love, present and future can create a beautiful family tradition and memory.

Finding Myself

This is a post On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts ,by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig; Online Discussion Group sponsored by Kate Motaung, Session 8.
Who will I find in the words? When I read the Word, the Bible, I discover God. I learn who and what love actually is about and why we are all here on this blue ball caught in the sun’s orbit. We are here to learn to live in the Son’s orbit by learning how to love. Just like babies learning to speak and walk we copy the one we love.

I am at the point in life where I look in the mirror and find my mother looking back. When did I start to look so much like her? People tell me my actions remind them of her. I am flattered when that happens. She was my role model growing up.

Who am I imitating? Who do I copy at this stage? Keeping Jesus at the center of my life, my thoughts, my plans, my hopes should lead me further into His orbit. I want to learn true love. Agape love is an action not a feeling. Real love is a choice to put others ahead of myself. It does not depend upon how I feel.

How do I find myself in writing? The truth is, I learn more about myself in my study of Christ. As I process His perfect example of what being a human is all about I see myself more clearly than ever before. St. Paul directed the Corinthians in his first extant letter that now “we know only in part”. We “see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). As I study the Word I catch glimpses of what the world is supposed to be. I see what I am called to become. I need less of myself and more of Jesus. John the Baptist told his disciples of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30. The more I learn to outgrow my self-absorption the more I can grow into who I am meant to be.

It is astounding that the more I learn about how things ought to be the more I learn about who I really am. I grew up unconsciously learning to copy the world. I was never good at conformity. Friends were conversing about followers and leaders. I admitted that somehow I instinctively end up “out of step” with my peers. My mother always quoted Thoreau to me and told me I was, “Marching to the beat of [my] own drummer.” Eventually, I gave up worrying about others loosing step with me. I just try to follow Jesus and keep moving. The wonderful thing I discovered is that there are many others marching along to the same rhythm. The better I learn to keep in step with the Lord, the more I discover that this is who I am supposed to be.

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To see more clearly and recognize the upside-down world for what it really is, I keep reading the Bible, contemplating the Word and for me that means writing about the Word. I process through the method of writing. Isaiah prophesied that the “…Word …shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.” (Isaiah 55:11). At times the world appears to be a hopeless mess. Staying in the Bible reminds me that love is stronger than hate and good ultimately triumphs over evil. Self-sacrificing love is the road to true success and self-preservation leads to suffering. The meek are actually the strong and the world will be made new. In loosing myself I most truly find myself and in Christ everything broken will be made whole.

Define Success

imageI am thinking that how we define failure and success tells more about our faith and character than we like to admit. It is relatively easy to say that we are followers of Jesus when times are stable, but it is another thing altogether when it will cost us significantly to behave in a meek way. How do we define success? Is it a nice house, a good job and others treating us with respect?

As Christians we are called to view success as following our Servant-King and responding with gentleness even when life-changing issues are on the line. Failure would be recounting who did and said what, and when. Assessing the situation from a worldly, get-ahead viewpoint would be failure. It should not about us or our feelings. It is all about glorifying God. Contributing to dissension and conflict would be putting ourselves first.

If our job as the Church is to demonstrate Christ’s teachings, then we are required to turn the other cheek. Human desires include slamming the door on our way out to shake things up a bit. That is not what our Savior taught.

A friend once told me they worried about me being such a “gentle person.” They feared that others would take advantage of me. After the conversation I pondered their comments and realized that by the Christian definition  for success, they had paid me a very great compliment.

It is surprising what incidents linger in our long-term memory. When I was interviewed for my job in the Church I was asked one question that startled me. I had been asking and answering questions in the appropriate college graduate manner when I was asked how I saw myself leading. I paused because I felt an answer jump up in my heart that did not seem an appropriate response. I felt the answer driven to my mouth by a force too great to resist. It was a Church so I replied honestly with the truth I couldn’t contain. “With great love, I hope.” I never forgot that part of the interview and I have unceasingly endeavored to live up to the style of leadership I believe in.

I have loved the Lord in the good times and the hard places. To love is to put the beloved ‘s best interest ahead of our own wishes. I will always have great love for my congregation. I have done all in my power to serve and please them all. I have fervently sought to share the love of the Lord and His Word.

This is a season where my health has become an insurmountable problem. My chronic health problems have been exacerbated by trying to remain upright for too many hours a day. My body withstood over a month of the new schedule, but I became ever weaker with mounting tachycardia and fainting. In the end I had a second full outbreak of chickenpox, which is not healing as it should. I am being forced into a period of rest.

To the core of my heart I am grieved that we have come to the end. As an optimist, I cannot help but add that according to 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never ends.”

How do you define success? Please tell us about a time of transition that you have experienced. Share with us what you think are some of the hallmarks of a life well-lived.