What Love Really Is

Today is Valentine’s Day in the US. I always love talking about relationships and the potential of romantic love. I’m thankful to have been with my significant other for as long as we have been together, he blesses me in so many ways. Today technically is a day to focus on relationships, but I did share about romantic love on my other blog. Today I want to talk about what love really is.

The dictionary defines love as ‘affection for another person,’ ‘a feeling of warm personal attachment,’ and ‘wholehearted liking for or pleasure in something.’ Through these definitions we’re reminded that love is a good thing, that it should make the world a better place when we choose love. It doesn’t say that love is the easiest thing in the world or that there won’t be tough days, but overall having love in your life should make your life better as well as the lives of those around you. When you choose to live with love it should inspire and encourage others to live with love as well.

Love is also incredible because it crosses many boundaries and makes things possible that aren’t possible without love. Love is also eternal, it surpasses any and all time and location and even life limits we put on many other things. Love can make loss a little less painful, knowing that we were blessed to love them and them us for the time that we did.

Today, quite simply, whether you’re in a relationship or not, I want you to know that you’re loved and lovable. There’s nothing wrong with you that can’t be fixed, resolved, overcome or accepted with love and the support of those who love you. There’s almost nothing going on in your life that can’t be made better with a little love. Love is a choice, I hope that you choose to live with love today.

“When we know that we are loved, we will quite naturally love in return…” Br. David Vryhof

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The Freedom To Love

This past month I’ve been looking into a lot of church marketing, growth, health and support topics and seminars. It’s got me thinking again about how people see the Church (any faith organization that fits under the ‘Christianity’ heading), and the people who attend. The world around us has done some serious changing over the past few decades and the Church hasn’t fully caught up. I can understand because it raises fears and questions of healthy boundaries and what is/isn’t secular/spiritual and how it all works together, if it does. But in many ways these fears and the slow and lacking transformation that have accompanied them have held the church back from embracing and investing in the digital mission field.

So going back to how people outside of the church view those inside of the church as well as the church itself, many see it as a restrictive and boring thing, with serious walls between church people and those outside the church, where you can’t do anything wrong (even though forgiveness is a discussed topic). And there is some truth in all of this, especially in churches that have a very old school culture and aren’t interested in making changes. For those of us in the church, the limitations and rules sometimes may feel restrictive, but often they result in bigger and better freedoms than those outside the church ever experience.

One of the most notable is one that’s very prevalent this week, and that’s the topic of love. One of the things we’re called to do, and free to do as much as we want, is to love others with the love that God teaches us about and Jesus modeled for us during His ministry. The word love is used throughout the Bible over 600 times depending on the translation, and is something that Jesus specifically challenges us to do. So as you work through the rest of this week including Valentine’s Day, I would encourage you to pick up that challenge and show love to those you interact with, in both big and little ways.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

Reality Reflections: Remembering Love

Lately I’ve been thinking about the topic of remembering. I’ve talked before about my habit of writing down thoughts as they come to me and always having a piece of paper next to me at my desk so that I can keep doing what I’m doing and writing down a thought or thing I have to do so I don’t forget it. And it got me thinking about all of the memory keeping we do. We use social media to record our lives, we use calendars on our devices to keep track of our lives and plans, we use search engines to learn facts and figure things out. What do we remember any more?

Quite frankly we don’t have to remember too much. We can find almost anything with a few clicks. So what are we remembering? Are we really taking the time to commit to memory the things that matter most in our lives or are we just letting them go digital and assuming we’ll be able to find them when we need them?

My partner has a better memory than I do for things like dates and numbers and even things we’ve done together too. Maybe you’re the one in the relationship who remembers things, or maybe you’re like me and you don’t remember as much as you maybe wish you could. Maybe you don’t take the time to remember because you’re scared the memories won’t be as good as you thought they were or you think it may hurt too much to remember someone you loved and now isn’t part of your life. But all of the memories, all of the events, all of the people are part of your life and who you are today.

Not all memories, events or people were good, but I believe that there are more good ones in there than you remember, memories that you’ll want to treasure some day or share with someone else. Don’t let your fear of remembering the not-so-good hinder you from remembering the good.

Still Here Living

Everyone struggles at some point in time in their lives. Every people group experiences struggles, whether with religious or cultural persecution, judgments based on actions that some don’t agree with, or judgments based on their beliefs, skin color, sex or who their parents are, just to name a few. One of the groups that has been given a gift even through their struggles is the African American community. Each year schools and communities take time during the month of February to talk about Black History Month and profile some of the African American men and women who have done some amazing things throughout history, both past and more recent. Yes, you could be frustrated that we feel the need to recognize African Americans and especially highlight the challenges they’ve faced, but there’s another way to look at it, and that’s to see the honor that’s being bestowed.

In past years I’ve highlighted some of the African American men and women who have lived and died, and shared some of their wisdom with you. I don’t think the color of skin has an impact on how smart someone is, what they’re capable of doing or the impact they can have on our future. As I mentioned already there are countless reasons why people are persecuted or judged, and many are absolutely inconsequential to how amazing they are. In fact, some of the people who have struggled greatly are those that we remember most and can directly connect some amazing innovations and discoveries to them. There are many people who could have chosen to give up or not try to share their gift with the world, but they chose to persevere through.

This month I would encourage you to not only celebrate the African American community’s contributions to making the world we live in a better, richer, more diverse place, but also to recognize that there’s more to life than the struggle, that it’s worth pushing through the struggle to what is beyond. Life is worth living, it’s up to you what you make of life though.

“…So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve died for love—
But for livin’ I was born…”

Langston Hughes

Asking for Wisdom

Something that’s challenging for some of us is asking for help. Sometimes we know we need the help and ask for it but then try to place all kinds of conditions and limitations on the help or micromanage the person or people that we have helping us. All of that quickly turns into frustration for everyone involved, because the helper doesn’t feel as though they’re appreciated or able to truly help and the person who needs help gets frustrated by things not getting done to their limiting requirements.

I recently read a Bible verse that spoke to the topic of asking for help, James 1:5: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

First and foremost this verses say that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or a failure or bad, it means you recognize you’re in too deep, out of your areas of expertise, struggling, overwhelmed or just unsure. You don’t have to be or know everything to be an amazing person, the person God created you to be.

Second, this verse doesn’t say how God will respond, only that He will respond. He may send you an article, video, social media post, radio show, bit of inspiration, random stranger or any of other countless answers. Sometimes it will be the wisdom you need to take the next step, other times it will be a revelation of several steps, sometimes it will be a firm no, and other times it may just be the reassurance that God is going with you on the path you’ve chosen.

This week I would encourage you to ask for help and release some of the rules, limits, pressures and requirements you may put on that help or the answer.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the way that God and people answer and support you.

Reality Reflection: Truth Perspectives

As we begin this new month, during which we’ll talk about love of course, I wanted to start by talking about a tough topic: telling the truth. It seems easier to lie when faced with a scary situation, one that intimidates you or one that you know people will be hurt based on what you have to say (even if it’s not you telling them you screwed up). This week I’ve really been challenged with this topic, I always try to tell the truth, and have done a lot of work to learn how to not just blurt out the truth but rather say it in a more sensitive way that people won’t be completely offended by it, even if it’s true. While the good of telling the truth definitely has won out this week, there were 2 situations that weren’t so successful in truth telling. Here’s what I learned.

1-some people just aren’t ready for the truth, no matter how accurate it is or that they’re even admitting they recognize it as truth. They just can’t accept that they may have to do some changing, that things have changed or that the perspective they have isn’t the only one there is.

2-even when you try your hardest to say it in a polite way, you can still deliver it poorly. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes, even after years of practice. Think about things you’ve done since you were a kid, like reading or drinking from a cup. Sometimes you’ll misread something and overreact, or you’ll try to drink and it will end up down your shirt.

3-simpler is sometimes best. I tried to do the nice thing and give a complete answer to one individual, boy were they annoyed that I did! For them, a simple yes or no would have been sufficient. Being honest isn’t always about sharing details but just about owning up to it.

Most of all though I’ve been reminded by these 3 lessons this week not to give up or stop telling the truth because some people will react poorly or get pissed at you. You can’t account for their bad days or misreading or predisposition to dislike you or what you have to say. All you can do is do what’s right for you and your life; I think that’s telling the truth.