Reality Reflection: Letting Love In

This month one of the things we’ve been talking about is love.  As I was thinking about love I thought about all the different ways we can see love, feel love, express love, share love and define love.  Love isn’t black and white, it’s something that evolves, changes, grows, multiplies, and can be different for each and every person.  There’s a lot more to love than just saying “read a romance novel” or “get married.”  Love isn’t something you can really put in a box.  Plenty of people have tried though, and I think more often than not it’s those people who have the worst experiences when it comes to love (and try to ruin it for the rest of us).

If you want the best experience possible when it comes to love I think you have to be open to seeing where it takes you.  You have to be willing to take the good with the bad, to listen to the experiences of others, to try new things, and to work for it.  Sometimes it is effortless, but if you let it go for too long without contributing or exploring, the overall quality and longevity of love may begin to suffer, especially when it comes to relationships.

Yes, some people can go through life with a very narrow view of the world, very limited skill set or very limited interaction with others.  However, now more than ever people are wanting to get more out of their lives and actually have the opportunity to get more out of their lives.  We aren’t as limited as we were even 5 or 10 years ago in many regards, let alone 50 or 100, now more than ever we have the ability to become our best self ever and get the most out of our lives and the world we share.

The same is true for love.  Some people have very limited interactions with love and they leave it at that. However, I don’t believe that’s the way to live life.  I believe that our lives are better when they have love in them and that we’re better people when we choose love.  Love isn’t always easy, but in some ways it can be much easier if we’re willing to be open to how it changes and reveals itself to us and the teaching/learning opportunities that are presented to us.  There are tons of ways to have more love in your life, the question is are you willing to experience all that you may feel and see when you really let love into your life?

Earth Day Wisdom

Yesterday was Earth Day, I hope you spent some time in nature or made time to help nature.  Since Earth Day is really about all of us coming together to support the world we all share, I thought I’d share a few quotes about the earth with you today.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”  John Muir

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”  Gandhi

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Rachel Carson

“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.”  Einstein

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”  Henry David Thoreau

“Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”  Walt Whitman

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”  Lady Bird Johnson

“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

“He that plants trees loves others beside himself.”  Thomas Fuller

“The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

“Man is still the greatest miracle and the greatest problem on this earth.”  David Sarnoff

“Dear old world…You are very lovely, And I am glad to be alive in you.”  Lucy Maud Montgomery

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  Albert Einstein

“Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.”  Karle Wilson Baker

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair.”  Khalil Gibran

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

A Little Love for Everyone?

As we think about this month’s topic of love and the celebration of Earth Day later this week I wanted to share a verse that will challenge us on both topics: Psalm 24:1 says:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

First this verse reminds us that if we really care about God and are following Him, we’ll take care of what He has given us.  That means being a little more aware of what you’re buying and doing and how you’re interacting with nature and the impact you have on it.  We all have an impact, but we can make smarter choices to minimize that impact and protect the gift God has given us.

Second this verse reminds us that God created everything in the world, all of the plants, animals, creepy crawlers, and people.  I know it’s hard to imagine the God that created you and me also creating things like scorpions.  It’s also hard to imagine the God that created Billy Graham created Hitler too, but according to this verse, He did.

Which brings us to our challenge.  It can be really easy to be sloppy and lazy and not take care of the earth, after all there’s a really good chance that it will last through our lifetimes regardless of the damage we do.  It can also be really easy to just focus on the nice and good people and ignore those who display their faults and imperfections more than the rest of us do.  But this verse challenges us to remember that God has called us to care for that which is His; all of it.  That means attempting to remove our judgements, preconceived notions, prejudices and opinions and trying to see things from God’s perspective, which can be easier said than done.

But just like with caring for the earth and making earth-friendly decisions, treating all others with respect and courtesy, and maybe even love, is something you can get into the habit of doing.  God didn’t say it would be easy, but He called us to set the example for our fellow man.  So as we move away from Easter and toward Earth Day, I encourage you to consider how you can be more considerate of “everything” that the Lord has created.  What ways will you choose to show love today?

Easter Today and Tomorrow

Today around the world people will be celebrating Easter.  People who rarely attend church will wake up early, families who don’t always see each other will travel distances, and countless eggs will be hidden and later found (sometimes even days or weeks later).  For people of the Christian faith we celebrate with a specific reason: Jesus is alive.  And more than that, Jesus died, rose again and has taken away the sins of the world.  I’d say those are some really good reasons to celebrate.

As I was thinking about what Easter means, it got me thinking about the word tomorrow.  Easter really is all about the concept of tomorrows, and all the tomorrows we’ll have, because with Easter we’re offered a tomorrow that’s promising, and filled with hope and worth living for.  Before Easter happened we had hope that someday maybe God had a good plan for us, and we worked through each day and the challenges therein clinging to that hope.  But with Easter that promise is partially fulfilled, or at the very least revealed.

So today as we celebrate Easter we’re each given the opportunity to accept that hope and believe in that revelation and resurrection.  To accept that God is with us in the here and now and celebrating with us. That He knows what’s going on in our lives, both good and bad, and that He knows what our future holds too.  We have a choice with how we choose to live our lives today and what we do with the time we’re given while we’re here on earth waiting to be called Home.  For the time being the challenges will remain, but we can choose to focus on the hope of Easter and the promises that Jesus brought to life when we have to face them and the not-so-good days.  I’m celebrating today, are you?

“We are the resurrection people.  We have hope.  We choose joy.  We overcome, always.”
“I want to live well in the here and now.”
Holley Gerth

Working on Wait

Today in some religious circles is the day known as Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified on the cross.  It’s a difficult day for us to think about, and it was a difficult thing for the people Jesus lived with to witness, and even more difficult for Jesus who was human to experience.  He felt what we would feel if we were crucified, He didn’t hide from the pain or use his powers as the Son of God to deflect or bypass it.  From all the records we know it was a brutal experience, which was kind of the point.  But Jesus knew what He was getting into going in because He’s Gods’ Son, and He also knew what was yet to come: the Resurrection and Easter Sunday.

We don’t always know what the end result will be in situations in our lives.  Sometimes we hope that the end we want is what will happen, sometimes we just hope for some kind of good result, other times we’re resigned to what is most likely to come.  There will always be a result, sometimes it will be what we want or hope for, other times it’s not.  But what we have to do is what Jesus did for 3 days: wait.

It’s not easy to wait, especially when we’re anticipating good things like Easter baskets or Christmas morning.  It’s also hard to wait when we know we’re faced with a not so good ending like the death of a loved one from a disease or the loss of our job when a company takes ours the one we work for.  In our fast paced world we like when things move at the speed of the internet or a fast food restaurant.  One of the reasons we wait is because while we could have a result quicker, sometimes to get to the best result it takes more time.  We’ve managed to do a lot to make things work better and happen faster in the world with all of our innovations, but two of the things we haven’t affected yet is the ability to affect the days and the time.  We’re still bound by the rules of the universe when it comes to them.

But there’s no rule that says you have to be miserable while you wait or not work towards good outcomes even if the only likely result that can occur is not a happy one. But we can make all the moments up to and following that event good ones.  I think one of the things that helped Jesus through His suffering was knowing what was on the other side of it.  We may not know what’s on the other side of our pains and life challenges, but we can certainly have the attitude that whatever it is, we’ll be able to work through it with God’s help and the help of the people in our lives.

God is Good

This week we’ll be deviating from the usual topic schedule slightly in anticipation of Easter on Sunday and this being Holy Week.  I was reading my emails today and up popped a blog post with a phrase just about every Christian has heard before.  Sometimes when we hear it we roll our eyes or feel tempted to, sometimes hearing it frustrates us, and other times we’re thankful for the reminder.  The saying?

“God is Good All the Time”

In considering Holy Week I thought this was an important topic for us to talk about.  Yes, Holy Week happened because of how good/generous/loving God is, but I know I have a hard time connecting the pain and suffering that Jesus went through with “good”.  I also have trouble with this topic thinking about all the suffering and hate in the world.  Can God really be good all the time if there’s this much pain?  The technical answer is yes, God is God, He can be good all the time.  It’s hard for us to understand how a “good” God can let us go through what we do though.

Is it technically our fault that Jesus suffered as He did and we suffer as we do, yes, it is.  But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it or intentionally choose to torture myself with suffering. Bad doesn’t have to be the in and out and up and down of my life.  So how can we see God’s goodness through something as difficult as a crucifixion?

We may not see it in the crucifixion, but we do see it in the hope that is presented through Easter Sunday and the Resurrection.  Many people have questioned as to why the cross has become the recognizable symbol for the church rather than one that’s more in line with a positive message.  One reason is that the cross certainly is a recognizable icon while something that represents the tomb would look more like a piece of jewelry or just a rock.  The cross is also a beginning, it’s the beginning of hope for everyone who believes, but that hope is only fulfilled by the resurrection.  In a way the cross is a reminder of how life is, that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but that we need the rain and rest times too.

So as we begin Maundy Thursday and head into Good Friday, if you’re dealing with some dark nights here as Jesus was so many years ago, I encourage you to keep pushing through, God doesn’t give up on His people and does have an amazing hope and future planned for you.

Reality Reflection: Passover People

This coming week as some are readying for the celebration of Easter, others are celebrating the holiday of Passover.  Originally Passover was a celebration of freedom from slavery in Egypt for the Israelites, for many years after that it was also a spring celebration of the “first fruits of the barley” which was the first growth of the new growing season (you can read about the origin of Passover here).  Both of these are big reasons for celebration, let’s talk a bit about each.

Passover is important to anyone who has religious connections to the Israelites.  While Christians don’t typically celebrate it and it’s usually celebrated by Jewish people, it’s something that is important to both groups because it’s one of the formative stories of faith. It’s the start of an important journey of freedom, unity, faith and individuality for the Israelites.  It also began many traditions that are still in practice today as part of the present-day Passover celebration.  But Passover is about more than just eating Matzo, participating in the Seder and other present-day practices, the focus should be on the freedom that was so important and gained through this event so many years ago.  If that first Passover hadn’t happened, as tragic as it was for some people, our world today would look very different.  Yes, the Israelites were in slavery for a reason God planned, and He rescued them for other reasons.  But like any other rescue, it’s important to take the gift that was handed to them (and down through the centuries to us) and not only honor God with our lives, but live the lives that we’re able to live because we’ve been given that freedom.

The First Fruits aspect of the Passover celebration is another important part of this story, because it’s a reminder to thank God for the ways He continues to provide for us.  In this modern age we just go to the grocery store and find food, and even if we can’t find fresh there’s usually frozen that’s almost just as good. But for many people in the early days of Passover and for many people around the world they’re completely dependent on having good growth and being able to feed their families.  Even if the rest of us wouldn’t notice initially, eventually our food supply at the stores would run low as well.  We could survive without many things we take for granted today, but we’re still just as dependent on food and water as the Israelites were back then.

This week whether you’re Jewish or not I encourage you to take time to be thankful for the freedom and food you have.  Many people have sacrificed in one way or another to bring us to this point and  mother nature has continued to provide for us even if we haven’t taken such good care of her.  And if you find an opportunity to share a little blessing with someone else this week I would encourage you to do that as well.