Taking Time to Listen

Given the events of the last week as well as the big meeting between two world powers happening somewhere half way around the world, today I thought we’d take a look at the words of Proverbs 8:33: “Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it.”

My heart hurts whenever someone chooses to end their life before God has determined it’s their time. The world lost two public figures last week to suicide, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. While we may never know what truly caused them to make that decision, many who choose suicide do so because they don’t have hope, don’t believe life could get better, don’t feel heard or have been so beaten down they can’t take it anymore. Statistics show that on average over 100 people choose suicide each day, which is a really scary number, and means there are thousands of hurting families out there.

The Bible teaches us that we should love our neighbors, that we should be giving and support each other, that we should look out for women and children, to trust that the God who knows the petals on a flower and all the creatures of the sea could look out for the little details of our lives, and that God has a plan for good for our lives. But these are not assurances that everyone knows because not everyone knows the Bible.

These aren’t just spiritual messages, they’re life messages. Anyone can love, listen and be compassionate, regardless of race, sex, age, location, or language. Are you taking the time to listen to the people in your life? To the ways they’re trying to help you and things they’re trying to tell you? I encourage you to choose love and compassion this week, to stop and listen when people speak, to make time to listen to what God is trying to tell you, and make time for those who are most important to you.

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Faith, Love and Moms

With Mother’s Day just a few days away here in the US I’m thinking about moms, and maybe you are too. It’s not always easy to be a mom, and we don’t always give moms the credit they deserve for the amount of time and effort they put in to their kids. Even the 9 month commitment and accompanying sacrifices to carry a child is more than some of us give to things in our lifetimes. No, not all moms are great, and not all women are really cut out to be moms, and some moms need more help than others. There’s nothing wrong with admitting and recognizing that you’re not cut out to be a mom or that you’re in need of help, there are lots of people who are willing to help you and plenty of families who are great with kids and can raise the next generation.

So as I was thinking about moms, it got me thinking about the very complicated topic that love is. Love is so many things, it’s an emotion, how we describe relationships, how we describe others, something that can unite, something that can soothe, something that can hurt, a feeling and so much more. But one of the biggest things that love is, is a choice. Even in cases of love at first sight, we have to choose to love the other person, and choose to do the work that it takes to keep that love healthy and strong.

One of the most important choices moms make is whether or not to love their children. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, and moms have to make a choice to choose love, or something else. One of the most important qualities a Godly mother can bring to the table is not just an attitude of gratitude, but an attitude of love.  When she teaches, guides and even disciplines with an attitude of love, it creates a solid foundation for us to grow into the people God has create us to be, and gives her the strength to do it in a way that honors God.

It’s almost guaranteed that we’ll be hurt in our lifetimes, but if we have learned from the cradle to have faith in Jesus, how to be thankful and how to love, we’ll understand the importance of forgiving, have the foundation to be able to do it and be able to move on in our lives with love, confident in knowing that God’s got something better for us.  So this week, so a mom you know some love. Maybe it’s with a card or gift, or maybe just the gift of time and a visit from you.

Reality Reflection: The Legacy of Ireland

Today we’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, honoring the man who was later honored with the title of Saint, as well as remembering and celebrating all things Irish. As I’ve been enjoying learning more about the world of Ireland, celebrating my Irish heritage and appreciating the beautiful products they create, I have been reminded time and again about something that isn’t really unique to the Irish but is part of who they are: history, legends and lore. Whether you believe in faeries, pots of gold, leprechauns, luck or not, these stories have been passed down through the generations, and are a big part of the culture. Also woven in with the legends and lore are symbols that are iconically Irish like the Claddagh, trinity knot, and many knitted patterns like the basket, honeybee and cable stitch.

These symbols may not be only found in Irish culture and products, but all of them have a story connecting back to Irish history that is uniquely Irish and has remained tied in to Irish beliefs and lifestyles. For example the Claddagh is based in a story of a man who was kidnapped before he was to marry, learned to create jewelry while away from his bride-to-be and came up with the Claddagh design and presented her with that ring when he returned to her and they were married. Many other connections tie in with the land and work that people do like fishing, bee keeping, and basket weaving. And we can’t forget the clover leaf, which became an icon when St. Patrick used it to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity when he came to Ireland.

I think these stories, icons, symbols and legends do more than make Ireland a place tourists visit. I think in many ways the stories and rich history has given the Irish a leg up in life where the history of some other places and cultures has been a point of contention. The joy of finding 4 leaf clovers, looking for magical fairies and pots of gold, and believing in love that lasts has taught many Irish to have a better outlook on life, to respect each other more and have more faith. That doesn’t mean they don’t have challenges, bad days and problems, it means generally they’ve learned how to bounce back better and to keep the faith. It makes me very proud to be part Irish.

What do you appreciate about the Irish, or about your heritage?

Relationships of Love

Last week people around the US celebrated Valentine’s Day. It was an opportunity for couples to celebrate the love they have together, for individuals to love themselves, and for those who aren’t in a relationship but want to be to recommit to doing the work that will bring them to that other person. One of the things I’ve been reminded this month as we talk about love is that love is so much more than just one thing or one definition, and when it comes to God His love is more than we could begin to imagine or understand or describe.

In my devotions last week I read 1 John 4:12 which says: “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.”

This verse says a lot of different things about love and God. First, we should love each other. Second, God lives in us. Third, God lives in us when we love each other. Fourth, when we love others we share God’s love for us with others. Fifth, we can only begin to experience God’s full love when we let Him in our lives and love others. It almost sounds like there’s a condition to God’s love, and in some ways I think there is. But what I think this verse is really saying is that God is all about the relationship. He doesn’t want to be that dude on the throne overseeing everything, the benevolant dictator. He wants to be in relationship with us, and He wants us to have healthy, loving relationships with others too.

I think it says something really powerful that God isn’t just about the relationship He has with us, but that He cares about the relationships we have with others too. Yes, the Good News is spread through people, but I am confident that God would get the message out in other ways if He had to, so it’s about more than just the Great Commission. God has more love in Him than we could ever imagine, love that works in countless ways and reveals God in exactly the way that we need to be spoken to in that moment. God doesn’t keep His love to Himself, He wants to share His love with us and for us to share our love with others. How will you share love today?

Love from the Start

When thinking about love and Valentine’s Day one place we can begin the conversation is at the beginning. John 3:16 says:

“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.”

Before love was anywhere or anything else, love started with God. I think this is something really important to reflect on as we approach this opportunity to celebrate love and our relationships.

Love started with God loving the world. Everything was good in God’s eyes the book of Genesis tells us. He was happy with what He created, with the world that lay before Him, much like any of us would be proud of a project we completed or of the kids we have.

But a lot happened between the beginning of God’s love and Jesus ending up on the cross. We humans did some pretty not good things, made lots of mistakes and didn’t treat people all that great. And yet God still decided to send Jesus to earth. God didn’t give up on us and decide we weren’t worthy of His love anymore, He decided that we were worth more than just love from Heaven, but rather a visible, tangible person who not only showed love in life, but showed life through death and resurrection. It was a reaffirmation of God’s love for us, and that God hasn’t given up on us.

Tomorrow as you celebrate love I encourage you to take time to celebrate that first love, the love of God for you.

How Do You Love?

Today, thinking about Valentine’s Day next week I thought we’d talk about love, and how we can love. Each of us responds to love in different ways and needs different kinds of love to feel loved. But I think there are some universal truths to how we love that are the same for everyone.

Love passionately:
Before you say that this isn’t a way you love, I do belive that there are degrees of passion. Sometimes passion is a run-to-the-other-person-and-leap-into-their-arms passion, sometimes it’s that overwhelming, unbearably strong feeling of love that wells up in you when you see them. Passion doesn’t have to be loud or featuring over-the-top displays, you can see the passion between two senior citizens who have been together for more than half a century when they sit and look at each other. Passion is a feeling, not just an action or reaction, one that sometimes bubbles up to be seen and other times is just a deep and enduring connection.

Love generously:
Just about everyone has been hurt by love before, but I still believe that we should be giving when it comes to love. I haven’t ever been sorry that I was generous when it came to those I loved, even if the love wasn’t returned as generously as it was shared. And I think most of us who have relationships that have ended in divorce or separation or that didn’t last question if we had just given a little more effort to the relationship a little sooner if it would have survived or even thrived.  There’s such a thing as working too much, but I’ve never heard of anyone loving too much.

Love patiently:
Of the 3 we’re talking about today, this is one of the more challenging truths, but also one of the truths that can bring you the biggest victories with love. So much of our lives today are lived in the fast lane that we don’t always take the time to develop things as they should or to hang in there long enough for things to work out. You can love a pet or person for the few hours, days or years you have with them, if they have a terminal illness or you’re only with them for a short time (think about visiting a shelter to love on some pets waiting for their forever homes). Or you may be blessed with many years to love someone, years of easy love and years of love that will take a little more effort and waiting on your part. If it’s true love, it’s worth the deep breaths and repeated texts and letting the other person do things at their own pace.

Do you need to work on how you love your partner (or those around you)? How will you choose to grow in love this Valentine’s Day?

Love starts with God

This month one of the big topics that everyone is talking about is love. We are called to love everyone and treat each other as we would want to be treated, but I know that it can be hard to think about love with as difficult as some people can be, and it can be difficult to talk about love if it’s something you don’t have in your life, even for people of faith. Sometimes it sounds like love is supposed to be this perfect cure-all and we should just love everyone, and while both of those are true, it’s a whole lot easier to say than experience some times. As I was thinking about love and the challenge it can be sometimes I read 1 John 4:7:

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

If you’re not sure where you’re going to find the motivation to love someone or if you feel you need to learn how to love, 1 John reminds us to turn to God. God knows how to love the most difficult of us, He’s been loving us for centuries and He loves us in the ways that speak most to us. The Bible is filled with examples of people showing love and of God showing love to people. There are stories of people who are saved from a sorry ending because God showed grace, or because someone loved them and cared enough to go to bat for them.

God’s love is filled with patience, grace, forgiveness, hope, kindness, caring, and gentleness. His love will be as passionate as you are or as persistent as you are or as peaceful as you are. Love doesn’t have to fit into a specific box or description, just like you don’t and your relationship with God doesn’t. Who will you love in your own special way today?