Tuesday, February 22, 2011

L-O-V-E: Part 3

Have you seen any good love stories lately? The kind where the hero/ine moves mountains and overcomes all obstacles to be with the one he/she loves? Those are great to watch on the big screen because we get to live vicariously through the characters for a few hours. We get to experience the ups and downs of their romance and enjoy the ending where they live happily ever after.

Now, I know that men might not have the same feelings as women about chick flicks, but everyone is looking for someone to love them no matter what. That is why Hollywood makes so much money on those movies - they are capturing something that we all long to find.

As much as we love to see those "happily ever after" movies, they usually leave us with a little pang of envy. It doesn't matter how wonderful your spouse or significant other is, they cannot love you enough to fill up that hole inside you that is looking for perfect love because they are not perfect. We can't fill up that hole inside of our partner because we are not perfect, either. God has given us people in this world to partner with us and to love us, but they cannot completely fill up that space inside us that longs to be totally and completely loved .

We long to have someone love us so much that no matter how well they know us they will still love us without reservation or recriminations. That is hard to find here on earth.

God loves us that way, though. God loves us with total abandonment. God created each and every one of us, knows us inside and out, and still loves us enough to die on a cross for us. We are able to love only because God loved us first.

We don't have to look for a fairy tale romance to find true love in this world. We simply have to look to God who pursues us through all of creation to love us with a perfect love.


"We love because God loved us first." - 1 John 4:19


Monday, February 14, 2011

L-O-V-E: Part 2

In Hebrew there are three words for love - 'raya', 'ahava', and 'dod'. The first, 'raya' is the kind of love we have for friends. The second, "ahava' is the kind of love that we have for our families - a love that means a committment. The third, 'dod' is a physical kind of love.

All three of these types of love are used to describe love in the Song of Songs - the book in the Bible that is a love story written in poetry. This book has been interpreted as an allegory of the love story between God and humankind as well as the more literal interpretation of the love between husband and wife.

It is as if God is telling us that in the most important human relationship we have, we need more than one kind of love. That makes sense. If we only have the friendship type of love in our marriage, one or both partners will stray at the physical level (even if only mentally) because that God-given part of our lives is not being fulfilled and the committed love is not present. If we have the physical side of love without the committment or the friendship, the relationship will not endure because it is not going to meet your basic need for connection. If we have the committed love without friendship or physicality, again, the connection that draws two people together is missing - it is a cold, rather than warm type of love.

A successful marriage is a difficult thing. It takes work, endurance, patience, and faith in yourself and your partner. When I write "successful", I don't mean that you never argue, or that you never get annoyed or need a break. To me, a successful marriage is one in which the husband and wife involved never give up. They work to make sure they still have fun and talk together. They share with each other about their day - the good, the bad, and the stuff that made them laugh. They make allowances for each others shortcomings. They make it a point to have the time and space to have physical relations on a regular basis. And last, but definitely not least, they know that being in a relationship is like the seasons of the year. There are the lovely easy times like Spring, when everything is wonderful and beautiful, and there are hard times like an Alaskan Winter, when it is cold and dark and you have to put your head down and just walk through it. But just like the Seasons in the year, the seasons in marriage also shift. It is not alwasy going to be hard and it is not always going to be easy. That is where the committed love comes in. If you can't make it through the winter in one marriage, you are almost certainly not going to make it through the winter in your next one.

To these three aspects of love I would add a fourth thing that we need to have successful

marriage and that is the presence and companionship of God. Without God's help, we will fail at this most important human relationship. That might not mean a divorce, but it will certainly mean an imbalance of the three loves. God can helps us stick to our committments, be a companion and cheerleader for our spouse, and help us translate those loves into a passion for our partner in life.

Pray for your marriage and your spouse every day. Ask God to bring him/her closer to you as well as to God. Ask God to help you mind your tongue and to treat your spouse as a gift that God has given to you . Look for the ways you can show love to your spouse instead of waiting for them to show you. Remember daily that you have committed yourself to love this person more than any other on earth. These things are not easy but in the end they will bring you much more love and joy than you will get from chasing the temptations of this world.


"My beloved is mine and I am his..." Song of Solomon 2:16


Sunday, February 6, 2011

L-O-V-E: Part 1

That wonderful thing called 'love'! Poets and writers have composed many a sonnet and essay about it since the beginning time. Philosophers and theologians have tried to understand it and classify it for millenia. Every person in history has experienced the ecstasy and the agony of it - usually many times over in a single life.

What is it about love that fascinates us? People say it makes the "world go 'round" but it is also an emotion that is responsible not only for joy and new life, but also for some the worst outcomes in the human experience: heartbreak, jealousy, death, and destruction.

Love on human terms is an imperfect thing: We can lose it, bend it, twist it, and sometimes even destroy it. Love on God's terms, however, is a perfect thing: Never failing, always hopeful, always selfless.

We, as creations of God, have the divine spark within us, but it was twisted in the Fall. The Imago Dei (image of God) within is us blurry - like a fingerprint that has been smudged. It is there, but it is not quite clear and focused.

We love imperfectly, yet God loves us perfectly. We will fail, yet God will succeed.

God's love for us can be seen most clearly in his innocent death on a cross for all of us. How many of us are willing to die for someone who is justly condemned. In God's eyes, all of us are found guilty and condemned to death for the sins we commit in this life. Yet God loves each and every one of us so much that he took our place and died that we might not.

God's love never fails, but our does and it is okay to realize that. We are imperfect people in all areas of our lives and yet God still loves and accepts us as we are. For God's sake, and for the sake of those around us, when we fail we need to pick ourselves up and keep trying. As Pat Benatar belted out in a song from my youth - "love is a battlefield". It is a battlefield that we must keep going forward into, picking ourselves up when we fall or are wounded, helping others along the way, and moving closer and closer (with God's help) to the image of God's love in this world.


"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love does not dishoner others...[it] rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Enough #4

Here are some thoughts on tithing (giving 10% of your income to the church) -

- God doesn't need us or our money, but he wants us to be in relationship with him. The spiritual discipline of giving God 10% of our income isn't about God, it is about us. Money is often a barrier to faith and reliance upon God. Giving him that first 10% helps us to stay in relationship with God and reminds us that it is not all about us.

- God let's us keep a much bigger amount than he asks for us to give. Everything we have is God's - our money, our abilities and our time. He has given all of these things to us on loan. He doesn't ask for us to give him 80% or even 50%. He asks for 10% and then for us to be mindful of the needs of those around us with the rest. Remember - we can't take any of it with us. Feeding or clothing someone is going to be a lot better in the long run than buying something for yourself that you can really do without.

- Tithing is a spiritual discipline. Unless you are very unusual, you are not going to be able to go from 0% to 10% in one leap. You have to start where you are and work up to it. Every time your family gets a raise, try to give at least %10 of that raise to God. Reduce what you spend on going out to eat or at coffee shops and give that money to God. It is surprising how quickly you get used to living with doing less and you have the added bonus of knowing that your money is being used to help others.

- There are no brownie points. Whether we give 0%, 10% or 100% of our income to God, there is no extra grace or mercy to earn. We don't get brownie points for doing what God has asked us to do. He is not going to love us more or less because of the amount we give to his Church. Jesus died on the cross to save all of us from our sins. Nothing we can do will ever earn us more grace than that.

-We should tithe because God asks us to. Bottom line - God has asked us to do this so we should make it a priority in our lives. If your spouse or your parents asked you to do something that was difficult, you would because you love and respect them. It is the same with God. He has asked us to give a tenth of our income to his church and to be mindful of how we use the other 90%. Because he has asked us, we should do it.


"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there might be food in my house. "Test me in this", says the Lord God Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it." Malachi 3:10