Expectation

expectation

[ek-spek-tey-shuh n]

noun

the act or state of looking forward or anticipating.

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I sat in on a children’s Christmas program this week. img_2590The children squirmed, smiled, and waved at their watching family and friends as they filed onto the stage and found their places. Excitement was in the air, eyes were wide, and ears were tuned to every sound, sign, and motion from their instructor as they awaited the first notes signaling the grand production. While two little girls alternated singing the first lines of Silent Night, my attention was drawn to a little girl on the front row, maybe six or seven, long brown hair, snaggle toothed, swaying on tippy toes, and eager for just the right moment: her moment. Her smile was exaggerated and frozen, plastered on, probably coached and rehearsed ahead of time by an excited, expectant parent. She was a cute little brown-haired, brown-eyed girl but I had the impression that she would someday be a beautiful young woman…with a big, beautiful smile. I watched her waiting, anticipating. As the older girls finished their solo lines, the music crescendoed and the entire children’s choir erupted in glorious song. It was beautiful. She was perfect, the little brown-haired girl. She was practiced, prepared, and recognized all the sounds and cues.

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

It’s the season of Advent: a time of waiting and expectation leading up to the birth of Christ. I’ve never studied Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic; but I did study Latin. My distant memories of high school Latin class remind me that “ad” means “to” and “venio” means “to come”.  Advent represents God “coming to us.” IMG_7263For hundreds of years, God’s people had heard the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. They had years to practice, to watch, to tune their ears, to stand on tippy toes, swaying and waiting to sing and celebrate.

Hope, love, joy, and peace. Four pillars pointing to the coming of Christ.

Today I choose to think about the hope that Jesus gives us:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…   Hebrews 6:19

The world needs hope. Poverty, crime, depression, abuse, addiction, disease, rejection, dishonesty, hatred, strife, war, and despair seem more the norm than the exception in img_2592many lives. The New York Times recently reported that the suicide rate is at a thirty year high. The primary cause? Hopelessness. When we light the first candle of Advent, it is not to say that we have all the answers, that we have no problems, or that we have it all figured out. It is to say that we have hope. A light in the darkness. A flame burning bright. Warmth in the cold.

 

Therefore we have hope, light in the darkness, that God came to a cold, dark world. We are not alone. He is Immanuel, “God with us.” He is with us now. And as we light the candle representing the hope of his coming, we recognize that we are also looking forward to the new Advent. He is coming again. Wait expectantly.

If you prepare your heart,
you will stretch out your hands toward him.
 If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away,
and let not injustice dwell in your tents.
Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish;
you will be secure and will not fear.
You will forget your misery;
you will remember it as waters that have passed away.
And your life will be brighter than the noonday;
its darkness will be like the morning.
And you will feel secure, because there is hope;
you will look around and take your rest in security.
You will lie down, and none will make you afraid;
many will court your favor.
But the eyes of the wicked will fail;
all way of escape will be lost to them,
and their hope is to breathe their last.  Job 11:13-20

 

 

“I Just Want To Be Heard”

Inspiration can be found many places: long sandy beaches, adirondack-001beautiful sunsets, rugged hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls, and countless other places. While I enjoy spending time and seeking relaxation in all these places, I sometimes find myself distracted by sights, sounds, people, activities and various plans of the day. Too often I let busyness steal my peace and drown out quiet time, inspiration, and God’s voice.

I heard a voice recently. I woke around 3:00 a.m. and sensed it was a stirring and gentle awakening from the Lord, so I prayed, then paused. I often find that my ears are most attentive in the middle of the night when all is quiet, there are no other distractions, and nothing remains to check off my daily to-do list. As I waited in the darkness and silence, my little dog seemed to sense my unrest. She sighed and snuggled a little closer. She’s usually an avid barker- a nuisance, really. Birds, squirrels, the doorbell, people img_1347-1walking down the street, the vacuum, a sudden movement…Just about anything can start her barking, grumbling, and complaining.  Not really sure why my mind chased that thought, but I heard myself asking “Mitzi, why do you bark so much?” She didn’t respond audibly, but immediately and clearly I heard “I just want to be heard.”  No, I didn’t hallucinate and my dog isn’t particularly gifted, but at that moment, the phrase was as clear to me as the numbers on my bedside clock contrasted against the darkness of the night. “I just want to be heard.” The meaning of that simple phrase immediately unfolded like a Sunday school lesson right there in the middle of the night. God used that silly little encounter to bring to mind three distinct scriptures.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. (Ps 32:3)

Medical and psychological research has shown that if anger, hurt, hostility, resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness are buried, unspoken, and unresolved, they can cause multiple physical and emotional symptoms and serious health problems, as well as spiritual struggles.  King David found healing in breaking the silence:

Ps 32: 5-7 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

The second scripture He brought to mind was Jeremiah 33:3:

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

“Call to me.” That could stir many different feelings and reactions. What does that stir in you: great relief or apprehension?  Hope or doubt? To me it offers an answer and a hope: Healing, revelation, resolution, restoration. Great and unsearchable things. Truths, answers, solutions, comforts, reassurances. What do you need to ask? It says He will hear. He will answer.

Finally,

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. (Rev 12:11)

Someone needs to hear. Isn’t that part of the reason for a testimony? Earlier verse 10 states:

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.  They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.

Just as my dog barks to defend her territory or ward off intruders, we also need to speak against the enemy. We need to speak God’s truth and promises. We need to tell others about our hope and his faithfulness. The NKJV translates “They triumphed” as “They overcame.” I like that.

As I considered how much we have to share, as well as what we can learn from other img_1346people’s lives, experiences, mistakes, and victories, it reminded me of a necklace I bought a few years ago. When I saw and ordered the pendant, I had no idea how the chain looked. It’s bold and looks like it should be in a bad music video or cheap jewelry commercial. It’s rather ugly. It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s pretty complicated. But I love the pendant. It has a classic, vintage feel, an old fashion typewriter, and the words “tell your story.”  Rather ironic the more I’ve thought about it:  big, ugly, heavy, complicated. Sound familiar? We all have bits of our story that fit that description: big, ugly, heavy, complicated. But the pendant is beautiful and fits just right. So are our stories: beautiful and just the right fit for just the right person.

 

So, a few questions:

Do you want to be heard?   (Sometimes, not so much.)

Do you need to be heard?   (Many times, yes.)

Does someone need to hear what you have to say?  (More often than you might think.)

What you have to say matters. Someone needs to hear it.

I know that can sound intimidating, overwhelming, or just plain scary.  I attend a Friday bible study and was recently given a testimony worksheet. It basically asked:

  1. Before Christ I lived and thought this way:
  2. After I received Christ, these changes took place:

Before. After. Ultimately the basic question is this: Who are you? Really? Not who does the world say you are, what labels others have put on you, or what hat do you wear to cover yourself or impress people in different circumstances. At the end of the day, or at 3 in the morning, what do you hear. What do you need to say?

You are more than the choices that you’ve made, drseuss
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done,
But what’s been done for you.
This is not about where you’ve been,
But where your brokenness brings you to

(Tenth Avenue North, You are More)

 

Remember…

I wrote this little post last year for Memorial Day. As the day has come around again this year, I don’t really have much more to say. With all the turmoil and division our country is facing, there is still nowhere else I would rather call home. I’m thankful for all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives to make freedom possible.

mysteriesofgrace

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

Memorial Day… What does it mean to remember?

. Is it more than a day off work, a picnic in the park, time together with friends, the beginning of Summer, a day at the pool, and some good food on the grill?Arlingtonandoldpic 011

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

I grew up in an Army town. Young men with crew cuts, tattoos, fast cars, and fast lives were ever-changing parts of the backdrop. Seemingly ordinary lives and faces, they were such an familiar part of daily living that I failed to see the glory and sacrifice played out in everyday scenery. I was totally unaware of the tremendous sacrifice and the risks involved in being a soldier. I failed to understand the scope of service and…

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21 Things Being A Parent Has Taught Me

Today it’s official: I’ve been a parent for twenty one years! From first steps to first day of school, first car to college, first apartment to soon-to-be married… I have very few regrets. I haven’t done it all perfectly but here we are: not in jail, still speaking to each other, more good times than bad. Isn’t that successful parenting? I’m sure the title could read 21,000 things being a parent has taught me but I’ve narrowed it down.

  1. It’s not all about me. Oh, if everyone in the world could recognize that truth at the same moment how different the news headlines would read! Most women really embrace this truth about the time they feel the img_9638first tiny movements inside. How much more apparent it becomes with midnight feedings, a hundred loads of laundry, and a thousand diaper changes. It’s even more evident when big brown eyes look into yours and tiny fingers hold your heart.
  2. It’s not all about my children either. What a harsh realization when you discover that not everyone thinks your child is the center of the universe! This seems particularly apparent in the midst of play-dates and four year old soccer games. While you love your children and think they’re the best artists and athletes and scholars, sometimes other parents give their own children those titles as well. Teach them balance, respect, personal responsibility, and healthy pride in accomplishment.
  3. My heart is bigger than I thought. It was bittersweet when I first felt the deep pangs of parental love. Not that love for my own children was painful, but I suddenly became aware of all the people in the world, especially those that had never been loved as I loved my own. I saw people very differently. Either they were loved deeply and deserved my love and respect; or they had been denied that deep, unconditional love and protection and merited my compassion. The depth of that loss changed the way I viewed people in their pain and messiness.
  4. How to be brave. Noises in the night, scary looking insects, bad dreams, bad guys, and bullies can all seem overwhelming. What better way to overcome those fears than to become a fearless champion, knowing little eyes are watching? What about bigger fears? Sickness, stitches, broken bones, and bruised hearts? Parenting is not for the weak or the faint-of-heart.
  5. Spiders won’t kill me. Okay, this one should probably fall under the how to be brave category, but it was such a victory that it deserved its own bullet point. Enough said.
  6. I can’t stop all the pain. From lost stuffed animals, being left out of friendship circles, not making the team, to the death of pets and people, the sting and sadness of rejection and disappointment cannot be avoided. While I can’t stop it, dress it up, or discount it, I’m called and equipped to walk through it, providing support, encouragement, and hope along the way.
  7. The importance of presence. Availability. Attention. Acknowledgement. Who hasn’t noticed the eager eyes of children as they searched for a parent at a ballgame, a performance, or a school program? A field trip, a day of shopping, a quiet lunch for two? A funny movie on the couch?  When you are truly img_9630present, you are better able to really see, hear, learn, and know your children. You’re not only their greatest cheerleader; you also become a shepherd of their heart.
  8. Words are really important. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Speak life, truth, and encouragement. Tell them you love them, are proud of them, and are always available.
  9. How to say I’m sorry.  I messed up. I was wrong. Please forgive me. A little humility and humanity encourages grace and mercy. It says you can own your shortcomings and it models good communication and responsibility.
  10. Let go of guilt. “I wish I had..I wish I  hadn’t..I should have..I shouldn’t have..if only… Home school, public school, other moms, other kids..What if I make the wrong decisions? What if my kids end up in counseling because of me?” Let it go. Do your best. Pick your battles. Say your prayers. Love your kids. Repeat.
  11. Stop comparison. Younger moms, thinner moms, cooler moms, moms with more money, more time, and more creativity… Who hasn’t felt the drive to compete, compare, or self-degrade? Your children were given to you, not your next door neighbor, the preacher, or the lady down the street. You are good enough, smart enough, brave enough, and just what they need.
  12. Always eat dinner around the table. Mealtime is always good. Why? We love to eat. We love to laugh. There’s something about sitting around in a circle that encourages conversation and accountability. No television, no video games, no phone. It’s a time to recount events of the day, plan future events, and ask lots of questions.
  13. Cereal is okay for supper. It’s fortified with essential vitamins and grains. It’s cheap. It’s easy. Knowing that so many people in the world go to bed hungry, there is no condemnation in Frosted Flakes. Or pop tarts. 🙂
  14. Stepping over piles of clothes counts as exercise. So does walking around aimlessly, running in circles, and going the distance. Patience takes practice so that’s also a sport. Hiding in the bathroom counts as a cool-down routine.  🙂
  15. The car is a great classroom. It’s quiet. It’s confined. img_9636They can’t escape. The greatest lessons don’t happen in the classroom, but in the day to day moments of life when you can teach, share, and create real life and relationship. Believe it or not, they are listening.
  16. Make bedtime the best time. They’re tired. They’re vulnerable. They’ll open their hearts just to stay awake and to spend a few more minutes with you in the quiet darkness. What a sweet time to snuggle, to pray, and to listen to their hearts, dreams, and details of the day. It can be the great eraser of an awful, no good, very bad day.
  17. Take lots of pictures. There was no Facebook or Instagram when my children were little. Milestones and memories were captured in 4×6 glossy images in frames or behind plastic sheets. What seemed like too many at theimg_9635 time have proven to be never enough, but still offer glimpses into life and love and living.
  18. How to appreciate good art. Who needs expensive oils, French impressionists, and murky watercolors when hand-scribbled notes, finger-paints, play-doh shapes, fingerprint faces, and reindeer made of footprints can adorn walls and refrigerators?
  19. Laughing is the best. It reduces tension, stress hormones, and the need to hit something. Create inside jokes so no one else understands and you seem weird to other people.
  20. Remember to invest. Children are a treasure, a blessing from the Lord. Each season is to be savored and captured in word, photo, laughter, and experiencing each moment to the fullest measure. But…part of our investment is in teaching children to grow, stand, walk, move on, and create their own journeys. Then what’s left besides the memories, photographs, and holiday visits? What of the other relationships? The other investments? The spouse, the deep friendships, the knowledge and care of self, the spiritual growth that is left to explore and experience after the children marry, move, or follow their own paths? Cherish, but don’t idolize your children, as you make investments in other lifelong, life-changing relationships.
  21. How to let go. It starts the first time you leave them at daycare, with a relative, or a babysitter. It intensifies with the first “no” or “I can do it by myself”.  Then  classroom, camp, a car, college, marriage, moving away. There is beauty in freedom, success in standing alone, amazement as they fly. After all, they were only yours for a little while.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverb 22:6

 

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Children are a heritage from the Lordoffspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior  are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them    Ps 127:3-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Didn’t Go To The Beach…

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.  Psalm 29:3-4

I didn’t go to the beach to find answers, but there I was…on the beach, the wind urgently clamoring and the waves pressing in: What are you afraid of? img_9429With every roar and crash of the tumultuous tide, my mind felt the same turbulence. It felt as if the waves were talking to me, calling me out…and in. Why are you running? Was that question for me or for the nervous little sandpiper that darted and dashed both toward and then away from the searching waves? Did it doubt its ability to fly? To swim? To navigate the rushing, unpredictable waters? I am that sandpiper, I thought. I get excited, I rush in, I get overwhelmed or consider the cost, I pull back or run away. I doubt my strength, my identity, my ability to navigate the deep unknown. Was I afraid? Was I running?

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.  Psalm 42:7

I didn’t go to the beach to forgive, but there I was…on the beach, studying the footprints of so img_9424many who had walked before, near, or over my own prints in the sand. As the waves gently washed over the prints, many disappeared, leaving fresh, untouched sand. A clean slate. Yet others remained visible until they were washed again, and again, and again. The waves were rough, it was hard, but it was cleansing. The remaining beautiful sand shone and sparkled with the radiance of the sun and the power of the cleansing waves.Still others remained long after our paths had crossed and I had moved far along the shore, not looking back. People leave footprints in our lives…tracks that are often deeply imprinted on our hearts and souls. Some are good and encourage us to follow. img_9425-1Some tread heavily with no regard to damage caused and tracks left behind. Are there tracks that I still guard with regret and defense? What tracks have I left behind?

Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver, to release you from something that will eat you alive; that will destroy your joy and your ability to love freely and openly…You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely.    -Wm Paul Young, The Shack

I didn’t go to the beach to explore or question myself. But when the volume of the world is turned down, the responsibilities are left at home, and books and quiet reflection become the duties of the day, words speak. They speak from the wind and the waves and they leap from the pages you read lounging by the shore.

You need to claim the events of your life to make yourself yours.   -Ann Wilson Schaef

Sounds oversimplified. drseussDr. Seuss also said it with simple eloquence. As thunderstorms rumbled in over the beach, I settled in for a simple teaching video, Becoming Myself. That’s where I was reminded of the wisdom of Dr. Seuss. Childlike and simple, not tangled in the lies, deceit, and false facades the world offers and encourages. What does it mean to become myself? How does it happen and when will I know it is complete? Is it ever complete? And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. 2 Cor 3:18

I didn’t go to the beach to search, to forgive, or to learn. I went to enjoy sand, sun, seafood, and friendship. To relax. But the first day on the beach I read Psalm 29, and the voice of the Lord really was over the waters. (Ps 29:3)

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Together Is Better

heal  

verb   [heel]

1. to make healthy, whole, or sound; restore to health

2.to bring to an end or conclusion, as conflicts between people or groups,usually with the strong implication of restoring

 3.to free from evil; cleanse; purify: to heal the soul.
 Working in health care for almost thirty years now, the idea of physical healing is nothing img_9058-3abstract or new. There are some who search and commit to healing at any cost: the best specialists, the most rigorous testing, intentional planning, and conscientious living. Others ignore warning signs, isolate, deny their needs and symptoms, and continue to experience a slow steady decline and loss of vitality. But there is so much more to balanced health and wellness than stable vital signs, a good report on an annual exam, and routine scheduled procedures. Obtaining and maintaining good physical health involves a day by day, one foot in front of the other journey. What about good emotional, mental, and spiritual health? Are they any less important or demand less intentional thought and attention? Are there short cuts, quick fixes, and magic elixirs and oils to soothe a troubled mind, bind a broken heart, or set a spirit free?

So…what do the title Together Is Better and the term heal have in common?

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“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matt 18:20

I recently found myself in the midst of a small circle of women exploring and recounting stories, struggles, truths, and lies learned in the murky depths of life, loss, hurt, and healing. Anytime a tightly woven circle of believing women gather to go deeper into matters of the heart, not only is there coffee; invariably there are tears, prayer, hugs, words of encouragement, and usually snacks. 🙂 Where two or more are gathered, there is great potential for depth, accountability, searching, support, confrontation, and sometimes conflict. But there is also life and love and lessons that are not learned in text books, television, or self-help videos. Somewhere in the midst of the searching and sharing, words and images from a book I had read years earlier found their way into the conversation.

That’s why you’re here…I want to heal the wound that has grown inside of you, and between us…there’s no easy answer that will take your pain away…life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship.

img_9068The Shack, by William Paul Young, was released to both raving accolades and scalding controversy. Different, edgy, imaginative.Yes, it’s fiction, but as God, yes God, met with and spoke those tender words to the struggling, hurting soul in the story, I was reminded of a phrase that my pastors frequently quote: Together is better. I attend a contemporary church that emphasizes the importance of small group ministry. I suppose it’s a phrase that I’ve heard at least a thousand times: a catch phrase, a cliche, a buzzword, good advice? More than that, it’s a direction, a building block, and a ministry. People matter. Words matter.They have meaning and consequence. Sometimes a few black and white words on a page can breathe the hope, healing, and breath of God to a hungry, hurting, searching people.

I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing…
Penned in the introduction to the book, those simple words explain much of life, love, loss, and restoration. They also foreshadow and frame the impending story: not only the fictional story in The Shack, but parts of our own stories as well. Too often people are wounded and subsequently withdraw into solitary shells and lonely retreats; or they build protective barriers that may quickly become fortresses with thick impenetrable walls… more like prisons, that eventually harden their paths, their choices, and ultimately their hearts.
img_9084People are imperfect. They fail. They’re messy, inconvenient, and burdensome. Sometimes they unintentionally neglect, wound, scar. Other times it’s not so unintentional. Sometimes it’s deliberate, calculated, evil, and unrepentant. There is no sorry, forgive me, or I was wrong.  In the book, Mack experiences a Great Sadness that is totally out of his control. He did nothing to put himself in the position of helplessness and wounding. Someone else’s hurtful thoughts, ruthless actions, and destructive sin choices thrust him into the depths of unrelenting pain and anguish. Loss and life change. In the pain, he recoiled reflexively, as if scorched by a searing flame and, in time, his scars grew thicker and colder. They created a solid exterior, tough and protective . At the same time forming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle dividing him from God and, in some ways, others. Then he had a choice. We have a choice.
Getting head issues out of the way makes the heart stuff easier to work on later…when you’re ready…I can set you free, but freedom can never be forced…you don’t even understand that freedom is an incremental process.
Freedom is an incremental process? Gradual? Progressive? Little by little? There is freedom in that alone! It’s permission to relax: to stop the striving, comparison, judgment, and the whys: Why can’t I get over it?  Why can’t I be like __?  Why can’t I just __?  In an era of quick fixes, easy answers, and temporary solutions, it’s easy to walk in discouragement and self- condemnation when easy or sudden healing and transformation don’t happen. Guilty. I’m guilty of great, speedy expectations: A drive thru breakthrough rather than three steps forward and two steps back. Cliches, but real struggles when discouragement threatens to separate us from God or others, when we feel like we will never get over it, we’re all alone,  or  just not good or strong enough. Maybe “since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing.” Maybe together really is better.
That’s just a tiny glimpse into the story. Just enough to raise questions and start conversations, but maybe that’s enough. Some may want to dig out their old copies of the book and re-explore; others still claim it’s heresy. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. (1 Cor 1:27)
img_9090Together is better. Yes, people can be messy; but people can also be the hands, feet, eyes, and words of Jesus to extend hope and healing in the valley of our Great Sadness, our daily struggles, or just our steady trodden paths.  The term, the Great Sadness resonates to something deep within me. That’s a whole separate post, or ten. It doesn’t have to matter what The Great Sadness is in someone’s life: an event, a loss, a lack. The goal is healing: recognition, reconciliation, and restoration. As I’m finishing up here, I realize that this post isn’t deeply theological, philosophical, or even anything new. It also seems rather incomplete… Like I could write for days and there would still be many corners, avenues, and deep wells to explore. Some people write to entertain or to influence. I write to process. Still processing.
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Friendship is born at the moment 
when one person says to another:
“What? You too?
                 I thought I was the only one.”                     C.S.  Lewis

And This is Love…

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

Charles M.Schulz

LOVE is such a peculiar word. I love my husband. I love my kids. I love my friends. I love my dog. I love coffee and ice cream and sunshine and Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.

img_8609It’s Valentine’s Day…one simple twenty four hour period out of an 8760 hour year that has the potential to stir as many emotions as there are hearts to feel them. 24/8760. Simplified: 1/365 of a year that can cause feelings of  elation and assurance that you are completely loved and appreciated. Or not. It can also be a reminder of more dark and cloudy feelings like depression, deprivation, loneliness, or loss. I’ve been all over the Valentine map: dateless and lonely, single but content, secure in a longstanding relationship, settled. There was a time when a dozen roses or box of chocolate sought to define how much I was loved, thought of, and admired.

The world and all forms of social media claim to know love: real love, powerful love. Love that’s “forever and ever, amen.” Love that’s worth singing about, posting about, making movies about, or getting tattooed across your chest. So much hype, noise, attention and technicolor devoted to sparkly, feel-good love. But what is love?

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, img_8600but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.    

 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.     (1 Cor 13:1-3)

And who am I to judge? How do you define love when you’re 10? The coolest toy or gadget, a new puppy, fitting in?

When you’re 20? A fun circle of friends, a late night party, an attractive date?

30? A good job, a tiny house, the pitter patter of baby feet?

40? A good night’s sleep, healthy kids, a secure relationship, a solid group of friends?

50? A rewarding career, a little time off, deeper friendships, a little money in the bank?

60? Fewer pressing demands, emotional and relational stability, time to travel, a nest-egg tucked away?

LOVE: how does one word effectively describe affection, adoration, or commitment in so many areas? I don’t speak Greek. I don’t write or understand Greek, but the specificity of the language is interesting, appropriate, and inspiring. The Greek language expands the word LOVE into multiple specific, well-targeted words. I will only mention three.

Phileō: brotherly, companionable love:

This love speaks of affection, fondness, or liking…This love is called out of one’s heart by qualities in another.   (Mcleanbible.org)

img_8599I love that! 🙂 “This love is called out of one’s heart by qualities in another.”  So it’s really okay to love my husband, my friends, my kids, and my dog. Their presence, their personalities, and their smiles call out and awaken my heart. ❤

What about Eros love?

This love is erotic love. Eros is a love of passion, an overmastering passion that seizes and absorbs itself into the mind.   (Mcleanbible.org)

The world thinks it knows that one, but too often tarnishes and distorts it. How pure and how blessed when we can state:

When I found the one my heart loves…
I held him and would not let him go.  Song of Solomon 3:4

What about Agapē? There are bible studies, bookstores, small groups, and coffee houses that bear that name. What is it? How is it different from the others?

i. Agapē is called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the object loved. It is a love of esteem, of evaluation. It has the idea of prizing. It is the noblest word for love in the Greek language.

ii. Agapē is not kindled by the merit or worth of it’s object, but it originates in it’s own God-given nature. God is love.

iii. It delights in giving.

iv. This love keeps on loving even when the loved one is unresponsive, unkind, unlovable, and unworthy. It is unconditional love.

v. Agapē desires only the good of the one loved. It is a consuming passion for the well-being of others.     (Mcleanbible.org)

  This is how we know what LOVE is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  1 John 3:16

So much more depth and insight than the simple four letter word LOVE.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, img_8605it 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 Cor 13:4-7

It’s a high and holy calling, to love…a privilege, a responsibility, a mandate. So love God, love your family, love your friends, love your pets, love yourself, love the least of these. You can even love chocolate.

That’s a whole lot of love. Happy Valentine’s Day!  ❤

“I found the one my heart loves.”    

**heart art credit: Mysti White Art  ( I love her! ❤ )