A Simple Message of Love

To close out our talk on love this month I have a simple message for you: love God, love your neighbor. I know, it sounds really simple but isn’t always so simple to follow through on, is it?  It’s a great concept but we don’t always let it get beyond that, maybe because we’re scared or not willing to put in the work necessary to make the concept into reality.

I think the first step is to not over-complicate it. I know we’re really good at that and put all kinds of unnecessary pressure on ourselves on a regular basis as a result. Love can be really complicated, but it’s also very simple. Which leads to the second step: do the best you can. God doesn’t expect perfection, he knows all about the Garden of Eden and how we’re going to be sinners during our earthly stay.  1 Corinthians 13 reminds that love is patient, hopeful and enduring, not that it’s perfect.

So what’s the answer? First, don’t let love end with February 14 or even February, choose that love is going to stay a priority in your life. Second, do something, however simple, each day to show love to someone else. Maybe it won’t be a romantic love action but rather a simple gesture of help for a coworker or someone you meet at the grocery store. Finally, do your best to not do more harm in a world that is already hurting. Take the time to think about your words and actions before doing or saying your knee-jerk reaction and make sure it won’t make someone’s day worse or add to the problems we have. Will you join me and do your part in spreading love?

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”  Matthew 22:37-39

Reality Reflection: The Lies of Love

This past week I read a blog post that reminded me about a challenge we needed to discuss: the lies in our lives.  You’re probably familiar with them,and you probably have been told one lie or another since you were a kid.  Do you remember when people used to say that you were worthless or always did stuff wrong or didn’t listen or you couldn’t do what you dreamed of doing?  Over the years people have shared their opinions of your life and choices with you, maybe often enough or with enough weight to impact you in such a way that you believed them.

I’m here today to tell you that you’ve been told many lies throughout your life.  Sometimes they’re white lies, like when you tell someone they look good even if they look OK and you’d recommend something else, that you’re glad to see them again after all these years even if you’re not, or how babies are created when those curious kids ask.  These lies won’t do the damage to someone permanently and are things that many of us say on a daily basis.  Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe in being honest as often as possible, but sometimes it’s OK to put off the truth or not tell the whole truth.

When it comes to love there are 2 types of lies that we deal with.  First there are the lies we’re told about us and love.  These are lies like “you’re not good enough,” “you need to try harder,” and “you should have it all together by now.”  These are other people’s opinions on your choices in love and their thoughts on your readiness for love.  Their opinions are not fact and should not be taken as such.  That said, we all have room for improvement and can learn from the way other people see things.

The second lies are those we believe about love.  These are lies like “there are no second chances,” “it’s not so bad,” “love makes everything perfect,” “I do more than my fair share” and “there’s only one for me.”  Now, for some of us those may not be lies, especially the last 2.  But for most of us there are second chances and all of us can do more for the relationship, or choose to be in a relationship that’s better for us than the one we’re in.

Are you letting lies run your life, especially about love?  Take time this weekend to consider what lies you’re letting hold you back from experiencing love to the fullest.

On A Mission of Love

Do you have a goal when you get up each day?  Do you have a desire to make a positive difference on the world?  Are you inspired to help other people?  If so you’re not alone. Many people around the world wake up each day with the hopes that there’s something they can do that day that will make the world a better place, in at least some small way.  One way you can make the world a better place is by sharing love.

Love doesn’t mean that you always agree with all that others do or believe or that life has to always go your way.  We’re all allowed to have our own beliefs, it’s part of what makes our world unique.  The beliefs someone has doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of love or that they aren’t loved by someone.  Different beliefs don’t mean that you won’t have things in common with them or that we can’t all work together to make the world a better place.

There’s no guarantee on what we can get out of life.  Our lives are made up of the choices we make about the opportunities we’re presented with.   Love gives you a way to show others that violence, hatred, loss and pain don’t have to have the final word.  If we choose to let it, love will always make us better, stronger and smarter.   When you take the time to share love with someone else, not only are you opening yourself to opportunities for personal growth, you may bring them the hope that they desperately are seeking.

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”  Paulo Coelho

Reminders of Love

Sometimes what we need is to be reminded that we are loved.  Life can be one frustration and disappointment after another and that gets old pretty quick.  So today I have a few verses of love and encouragement to remind you that you’re not alone.  What’s your favorite verse that reminds you of this?

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17

“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” 1 John 4:11-12

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”  1 John 3:11

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.”  Proverbs 17:17

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”  Psalm 46:1-3

“If you look to him for help, he will put a smile on your face. You will have no need to be ashamed.” Psalm 34:5

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.” Proverbs 21:21

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Reality Reflection: President’s Day

Monday was the day in the US that we take time to remember our current and past presidents. Some are famous around the world even today while others some have never heard of or knew they were presidents even if they knew of them.  On Monday on one of my other blogs I talked about appreciating them even if they’re not all you wanted them to be because it’s a huge responsibility they took on as president, and while you may think you could do a better job there’s a good chance you’d make some people unhappy with your decisions as well.  After all, with just the few people in your life (compared to all in the country or world) there’s a good chance that you make at least one person unhappy in some way each day.

There are 2 realities to go along with being president.  First, it’s a huge job and won’t be done perfectly.  Even with a team of advisers you’re bound to make at least one less-than-perfect decision or choose the wrong thing even if you’ve done the proper research. So just like you’re not always proud of all you do, there has to be some leeway for the president as well.

The second reality is that the president does need to do a better job.  There are many ways that presidents fail the people and the country including decisions that should have been tweaked, people that should have been better supported, and resources that were available that should have been used rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.  There is room for improvement in all of our lives, including the president’s.

So let this reality check be a reminder that you can do better as a leader. Let it also be the motivation you need to be more involved in politics.  Start with voting in every election.  If you’re doing that already sign petitions and send letters to let the president know where you stand on issues.  And don’t forget that presidency starts long before they’re actually elected, all come from local offices or other parts of the government, so make sure to share your support and voice with the other people in politics as well.

Love Through Thick and Thin

Ah Valentine’s Day, or single’s awareness day as it is known by some. How did you end up spending it? Did you do fun activities with your kids? Watch cheesy movies on TV? Eat too much chocolate? Have a nice date? What are your Valentine’s traditions?

Some of the things shown on TV and in movies are about couples that really screw up with celebrating. Whether it’s forgetting the actual day, getting cheap or bad gifts, or doing something that really ruins things like getting sick or proclaiming your love only to find out your partner doesn’t feel the same, it happens! But Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day that things and relationships get messed up, it happens all year long.

Traditional marriage vows talk about being there for each other through thick and thin. Marriage, like life, isn’t a guarantee of happiness, there will be challenges, and even if the relationship is solid there are outside challenges like family and work that can affect a great relationship. The question is how much influence will you give those challenges over your life and relationship?

If you’re determined not to give them a full foothold it’s up to you and your partner to be great communicators, have lots of trust and tons of patience. It’s not always easy to admit when things aren’t going well or when you’re feeling upset, sometimes you need to give your partner time to process before they will share with you. It’s not that they don’t trust you or want to share with you (although they may be embarrassed), it’s that they haven’t processed it enough themselves to share with you. Their need to process is not a good reason for you to pull away from the relationship until they’ve got everything back together.

So my advice for you is to remember that life isn’t all rainbows, but that there will be ups and downs, even in the best relationships. Choose to not let the tough moments ruin the good ones.

“The ultimate test of a relationship is to disagree but to hold hands.”  Quoted by Alexandra Penney in Self

What’s Missing in Your Relationship?

Yesterday as you’re probably aware was Valentine’s Day in the USA. It’s an opportunity for couples everywhere to share some love, eat some chocolate and work on the next generation (a fact according to statistics).  As I was thinking about Valentine’s Day and what it means to be in a relationship I ran across Daniel 10:11-12:

“Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling. Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.”

This set of verses speaks to a couple of keys about love and relationships that are important to note.  First, love relationships are meant to be special.  The term used here is “precious,”  and while it’s not a term many people would use today it’s still applicable.  The word precious refers to things of special or unique value or to be treasured, much like a baby human or animal.  But it also speaks to how we should perceive our relationships: with care.

Second, love isn’t something to fear.  It may be overwhelming at times, but it’s only because people have perverted love and not respected it that we have fears surrounding it.  True love isn’t something you should fear.   And if there is real fear in your relationship it’s not a healthy one.

Third, it requires communication.  Communication between partners is essential, both listening and talking.  When we don’t take time to listen and don’t express ourselves we shortchange each other and our relationship.  Some things can be said without words but all too often the only words that we share are words of hurt and hate.

Are you attentive to the special needs and quirks of your relationship?  Are you working together to overcome fears?  And are you really communicating or just hurling insults?   What have you been missing in your relationship of late?

Reality Reflection: Where is the Love?

It’s hard to miss all the love talk these past few weeks but it’s also been hard to miss all the anti-love talk. I’m not talking about learning to love yourself because you’re without a romantic partner, I’m talking about the general hatred, distrust, anger, fear, and abuse that takes place around the world on a daily basis.  Who decided that that was the way to live?!  Think about even this small example: driving on the road you’re doing the speed limit and you’ve got some guy riding your bumper.  Or you’re waiting patiently for the line of cars to move at the green light and the guy behind you starts honking because the people in front of you aren’t moving fast enough for him.  Do you feel the stress and frustration beating at you even now? I know I do.

The list goes on: why do the presidential debates turn into mud slinging fests rather than talking about how they’re actually going to help the country?  Why do we waste money on junk food that slowly or not so slowly kills us?  Why do we steal from others? Why do we try to cheat others out of things?  Why do we bully?  Why do we say and post hate speech?  Why do we celebrate when people are killed (even if they’re bad)?  Why do we waste time complaining instead of looking for solutions?  Why do we try to make others miserable when we’re feeling miserable?

What happened that patience, appreciation and love have gone out the window?  I know it’s not reality to think all things will be puppy dogs and pots of gold at the end of rainbows but something has to change!   I don’t enjoy living in a world that fear and distrust is our first reaction, I want to be part of building a world of supportive community.  I’ve had enough of the backstabbing and decision to cause friction, what about you?

A Little More Love

I’m a big fan of simple things and simplifying things.  I don’t like things that are super complicated most of the time, and often the complications and extras are unnecessary.  For example it’s advised to try to eat enough and not overeat, to not buy more than you need or to not spend more than you can afford.  But when it comes to simplifying, the one thing you don’t need less of in your life is love.

I know love can be overwhelming and it can be hard to keep up with all you think you have to do for it to be true and lasting love.  But love isn’t meant to be complicated or hard, although sometimes it does ask for sacrifices and does require some effort. And for most the effort and sacrifices are worth it and love becomes a rewarding experience.

If your love experience isn’t so happy and you don’t want more of the love experience you’ve got right now first consider if it’s really love.  If it’s not really love you won’t be able to come up with a list of rewards for putting more effort in.   Second consider the fights, battles and drawn lines.  Are you fighting over stuff that’s really worth fighting over or are you just fighting for the sake of fighting so you don’t have to make progress and grow together?

If your life is too full with complications, responsibilities, obligations and stress, the best solution may be to make room for love.  Being in a supportive relationship may be the answer to many of your stresses and provide the support you need.  And learning to love yourself will give you the space and confidence to work through your challenges.  Do you need more love in your life?

“Less is more unless it’s love.”  Ben Mittleman

Do You Believe in Love?

There are a lot of topics that go together with love. Last Monday we talked about forgiveness and today I want to talk about one that is the very core of love: belief. There is no love without belief. Love isn’t tangible so you can’t touch it, you can’t measure or count it in any scientific way, and if you don’t believe you’re in love or that someone loves you, can love exist? If you don’t believe in love you won’t be open to receiving it, won’t accept the power it can have in your life, won’t see it in the world around you every day and can’t share it with anyone.

As people of faith we’re called to share about our belief in God with those we come in contact with. Sometimes we use words to share our belief, and other times we use our actions and don’t verbally attribute it to our faith to those around. Love is the same way: it has to be shared, it’s not designed to be kept to yourself. Maybe you remember as a kid having a crush on a boy or girl in your class. As hard as you tried to keep it a secret pretty soon at least a couple people knew because you kept looking at your crush or doing other things that made it obvious. Love isn’t a solitary thing, it’s meant to be shared so it can grow.  Love thrives in the company of others.

But before love can be shared, the totality of what it is and what it could be has to be believed in. No, you don’t have to believe that everyone should have 70 year marriages or even that you could have that kind of love relationship that everyone remembers. But you do have to believe that love exists, that you’re worthy of love, that others are worthy of love, and that when we love together it can thrive in ways that it never would when we’re alone. Do you believe in love?

“I believed in God, so I spoke.”  2 Corinthians 4:13