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?

Reality Reflection: Why All the Hate?

Many people are thinking about the topic of love this month, and sometimes that brings out the no-so-happy feelings. It’s not awesome to have your heart broken or for someone you trusted to break that trust, and sometimes people are nasty for no reason that we can figure out, which isn’t fun. I can understand the frustration regarding injustice and need to step up and fight that, but I can’t understand why people allow their opinions or experiences to become so tainted that ambivalence or personal opinions/preferences become hate.

To use a famous, historical example, it would be one thing to say you dislike Jewish food or don’t agree with what the religion of the Jewish people teaches, but for the Nazis to turn dislike into hatred and persecution, is an unnecessary escalation. It’s OK to not like or be passionate about everything, I’m not particularly passionate about spiders or snakes, but that doesn’t mean I hate them or want to kill them all.

Why can’t people accept that everyone and everything has their differences and that’s OK? It doesn’t mean you have to marry someone of a different race/culture/background or have kids or own a gun or love wild animals. It means that as long as what someone else is doing or believing doesn’t hurt someone else and isn’t detrimental to themselves, leave them to it.

If it’s as simple as hating something because you truly don’t understand it (or think you understand it when you may not) and you don’t want to just come out and ask your questions, you can reach out to a relevant organization anonymously online and talk with them to try to understand (create a new email address, in the message give them a little background on why you’re reaching out, promise to do your best to keep it respectful, and ask some questions), or even just do some research in your favorite search engine to learn more about something you might have an unfair or biased opinion of.

Hating something or someone takes a ton of effort and energy. Yes, over time it may feel like it’s second nature and just part of who you are, but it’s still can drain you of energy that would be much better used in other ways. For example, just because you don’t like salad there’s hundreds and maybe thousands of other ways to get greens without launching an all-out hate campaign on salad. There’s really no reason for the hate, just move on to something better.

This week ahead I encourage you to take a look and see if there are hatreds or building hate in your life, and if so choose at least one to work on moving past. Why focus on the bad when you could move forward with the bigger and better?

“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” Coretta Scott King

Choose to Love

This month one of the things we’re talking about is the topic of love, partly because February 14th is the day that the US celebrates love. I know it’s a day that some don’t like because they don’t have significant others, but we’re not just going to talk about romantic love this month, we’ll be talking about loving ourselves, each other and our significant others.

I want to start this new month of with a very simple challenge for you: choose to love someone each day this month. What does that mean? It means that you’re going to make an active decision each day to love someone.

Last month we talked about the topic of possibilities and were reminded that each moment of our days are filled with possibilities. There are many different options we could choose and ways things could go, so we have to make a decision about each and everything we do or say, even if we’re not fully conscious of the decision we’re making.

So this month as we talk about love, I wanted to start us off with a challenge to be more aware of the decisions we’re making, and to be intentional about choosing to react and live with love. For some of us this will be a challenge because we’re so used to not loving and just reacting and not thinking about what would be a win-win-win decision. But if there’s one thing that could change everyone’s life it would be to be more loving and to receive more love.

You can show some love to your partner, the mail person, the package delivery person, the neighborhood dog walker, the person who cuts your hair, your kids, your family, the pastor(s) at your church, your boss, your elderly neighbor, or anyone you meet. It doesn’t matter who you share love with, just that you do it.

Will you choose to love with me this month?

“It is the mind that makes the body.” Sojourner Truth