Saturday, May 29, 2010

Love Never Fails

If you ask twenty people what love means to them, you’ll likely get twenty different answers. I think it’s circumstantial. A person’s definition of love depends on where they are and what’s going on around them.

The other day I was driving to get my Sonic Happy Hour drink fix, and pulled up to a stop light. A homeless man was standing at the corner with a cardboard sign asking for something. I then notice him run over to a car, and an arm reaches out and gives him a cold bottle of water. It’s Houston, in May - that’s love. That person did not know the homeless man, likely didn’t even plan on giving that bottle of water away, but felt that he needed it more than they did.

I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. How I’m not very good at all aspects of love. I love my parents. I love my sister. I love my fat cat. I love my friends. I love my long legs. I love shoes. I love traveling. I love clean sheets. I love Sonic Happy Hour. I love dark chocolate. I love Jesus.

But those are the easy things to love. Those are things that I enjoy.

What about strangers? Or people who wrong me? Or friends who just need a little extra?

But what IS love? Is love an action? Is love a thing? Is love a feeling? Is love a choice? I believe that love IS an action, and love IS a thing, and love IS a feeling, and that sometimes we choose love, and sometimes it chooses us. But I also believe that love never fails. No matter which of the above it is.

Love is powerful. Love is subdued.
Love is conditional. Love is unconditional.
Love is intense. Love is easy going.
Love is selfish. Love is selfless.
Love is true.
Love is compassionate.
To love is rewarding. To love is amazing. To love is to sacrifice. To love is a command; God’s command.

Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another – John 13:34

Love the Lord your God with all heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself – Matthew 22:37-39

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another – 1 John 3:11

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us – 1 John 4:7-12

So what is the point of referencing all of this scripture? My point is simply this: God designed us to love. And we must love those whom we are not comfortable loving. We must love those whom we dislike. We must love those who we think are not deserving of love. They actually need it the most. We must do all of this because this is what we are called to do. And when we pour out that love, it transforms us.

There are people I don’t particularly like in this world. And I’m certain that I’m not the only person who doesn’t like somebody else. And some of these people have not actually done anything to wrong me. I just don’t like them.

There are people I encounter in this world whom I don’t know, but I may pass up the opportunity to love on them. Like the homeless man on the street the other day. Would I have taken the opportunity to give him a bottle of water like that other person did? I can’t save the world, I know that, but can I show some of these people a little love?

And there are other things that I do, bad habits that I have, that don’t exhibit love. I find it very easy to judge people. Judging is not loving. And who am I to judge anyway?

There is a song by Brandon Heath called Love Never Fails that goes something like this:

Love is not proud
Love does not boast
Love after all
Matters the most

Love does not run
Love does not hide
Loves does not keep
Locked inside

Love is the river that flows through
Love never fails you

Love will sustain
Love will provide
Love will not cease
At the end of time

Love will protect
Love always hopes
Love still believes
When you don’t

Love is the arms that are holding you
Love never fails you

When my heart won’t make a sound
When I can’t turn back around
When the sky is falling down
Nothing is greater than this

Greater than this
Love is right here
Love is alive
Love is the way
The truth the life
Love is the river than flows through
Love is the arms that are holding you
Love is the place you will fly to
Love never fails you
These are powerful words that express so much about love. So where does that leave us? We are called to love. It’s good for our hearts, and our minds, and our souls. It means something different to everyone, and is shown in innumerable ways, but in the end, we are to love. We are loved with a perfect love that is beyond our comprehension. The least we can do is pour out some love on others. We do this to show the world that we are children of God. It’s one little piece of Him that can shine through us.

Whatever you do, wherever you go, I challenge you to love someone today. Love never fails.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

To-Do List

I’m a to-do list girl. I don’t operate at my peak performance without a to-do list. Part of it is the fact that I need a reminder of what all I need to get done. But admittedly, more of it is the pure joy and satisfaction that I feel when I get to cross something off of that list. Absolute bliss I tell you.

This applies both at work and at home. Every item on my to-do list is not an extensive task that requires the 17 years of education that I have. Some of them at home are things like: “do the laundry” or “go to the grocery store”. At work it might be: “set up a meeting with so-and-so” or “complete timesheet and expenses”. I have to include these mindless things with those that are “real” and require either a lot of thought and effort or a huge investment in time, just so that I can feel that I am accomplishing something during the day.

I remember attending a training that I attended a few years back about time management, and it mentioned that to-do lists are great for those people who actually use them effectively. For example, if you require yourself to do them in order, or always do the tough things first, they might not be as effective in helping you accomplish things. This is because you don’t always feel like you’re making progress, and generally the people who operate with a to-do list do so because of the sense of accomplishment that they feel when something is completed and they get to cross it off the list.

This makes sense to me. If something is a minor task that will take you only 2 minutes, go ahead and do it; regardless of where it is on the list or even if it’s not the most important task on the list. That way you can cross it off, get rid of it, feel accomplished, and move on. If you tackle the 2 day task first, then you may feel like you didn’t get as much accomplished in an 8 hour day because you didn’t get to cross anything off.

(Side note: I am that girl who will add something to the bottom of the to-do list that I have already done, just so I can cross it off!)

Anyway, where am I going with this…..oh yeah, did you realize that God has a to-do list for us to follow? Well, it’s kind of a “to-do” list and kind of a “not-to-do” list. But it’s a list nevertheless. Now I will caveat this by saying that this is not your typical list. This is not a list where we can cross things off and be done with them. This is a list that we need to start over with at the beginning of each and every day. After all, His mercies are new every morning, so why should the list of tasks from God go away?

Ephesians 4:25 – 5:4 has been reworded a little here, and I pulled some from the NIV version and some from The Message version, but overall, here is our “to-do” list from God:

· Speak truthfully (don’t lie)
· Don’t seek revenge
· Don’t go to bed angry (It’s ok to be angry, we just need to resolve it)
· Don’t steal
· Don’t use foul and dirty language
· Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger
· Be kind and compassionate
· Forgive each other
· Imitate God
· Don’t be sexually immoral
· Don’t be greedy
· Don’t use obscenities or coarse joking
· Love extravagantly

So does that “to-do” list seem doable? Do you see what I mean about how we can’t check things off and never deal with them again; rather, we must have this as our list EVERY SINGLE DAY? The good news is, it’s always right there for us in the Bible in case we forget.

This list is made up of things that we have the responsibility to consider as we make decisions moment to moment, opportunity to opportunity. Not just one time tasks.

A few years ago, I joined Weight Watchers to lose those pounds that had packed on over several years while enjoying the food and drink in Australia a little (or a lot!) too much. One of the most important lessons I learned was that every decision matters. Just because I ate a horrible breakfast didn’t mean that I should just write off the rest of the day or the entire weekend and say “I’ll start over again tomorrow or on Monday”. It meant that I needed to get my butt to yoga or for a jog around the park AND be very careful with what I ate for the next 24 hours.

I think this works the same way with God’s to-do list for us. Without a doubt, there are times when each one of us will fail to do something on this list or do something that we aren’t supposed to. When I harbor feelings of anger or resentment towards someone, that doesn’t mean that I should continue doing it just because I have been for weeks. It means that I should find a way to deal with it and move on. And when I get caught up in a topic of conversation that is not appropriate, it doesn’t mean that I have to stay in it. I can change the subject or walk away.

I think that God must appreciate when we, as His children, recognize when we are doing something wrong, and we make the conscious decision to change it. I can almost see Him looking down upon us with a smile and saying, “Finally. She gets it. I am so proud of her for making the effort.” He will love us with His perfect love regardless of whether or not we make mistakes, but He will just well up with pride when we are trying.

Likewise, when I am kind and compassionate to someone, I don’t just check that off the list and consider it done. I keep it on there as a “to-do” item so that I can be kind and compassionate to the next person too. And I am called to love extravagantly at all times! I love that – love extravagantly. Doesn’t that sound like it’s a privilege to be able to do that?

I may need a little time to be able to effectively use God’s to-do list. I think I have a long way to go before I can consider some of the things on this list temporarily complete. But I like having it there as a reminder of the things that I need to get done, along with my grocery shopping and laundry. I need to make these decisions on a regular basis. I’m a to-do list girl, and God’s to-do list will be with me every single day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Straight From The Heart

I’m 33 years old. I know in my description of myself on the left side of my blog, I say that I’m thirty-something, but I’m putting it out there – I’m 33 years old. Just barely 33, but 33 nevertheless. I’m single. I am reminded of that every single day. Most people around me are happily married, engaged, or dating, and are parents, aunts, uncles, and all kinds of things. I met someone the other day whose mother had six kids by the age of 33.

I am nothing more than a daughter, a sister, and a friend. And I’ll be brutally honest here, and I’ll tell you straight from the heart, it bothers me. It bothers me that my parents are not grandparents, and my sister is not an aunt. I’m not a wife, a sister-in-law, or a daughter-in-law. I want to be more than just a daughter and a sister. And I know that there are many other people (particularly women) in the same shoes at me. We thought we'd be married by now. We thought we'd be parents by now. We thought we'd have the life that we had always dreamt of as a little girl by now.

I have a lot to offer people! I’m a great honorary auntie to many of my kids’ friends. And I love them as if they were my real nieces and nephews. I love being a friend, and that‘s an honor that I wear proudly, and I’m blessed with so many special people in my life. And I love those people. They are my world.

But I wish there was someone else to share my life with as well. Someone to call first automatically when something exciting happens, or when something sad happens, or when I just want to talk to someone. Someone who I always have to do things with, not have to hope that one of my friends (most of whom are married by the way) just happens to be available and willing to do something with me.

(Side note: I LOVE my friends’ husbands, and they are just as special to me in their own way as my friends are to me).

I don’t want someone to complete me, but someone to make me even greater than the whole person that I already am. Someone that makes me a better person and joins me in my relationship with my Father.

So I think about all of this. Every. Single. Day. It weighs on my heart and on my mind. I try not to think about it, but that makes me think about it even more. Some days are “good days”, when I talk to God and tell Him that I’m okay being single for the rest of my life, because it’s starting to look like that’s His plan for me. And I just ask Him for peace about whatever His will is for me (and I’m going to need a lot of peace if someone tells me that I’m not going to be a wife or a mother).

And then there are the bad days. When I can feel my ovaries shriveling up. And I look at every single man walking on the street as a prospective husband.

And I honestly wish people would stop telling me “Lisa, you’re not old. You have plenty of time and you’ll find someone and settle down, get married, and have kids”. Really? How do they know that? Do I really have plenty of time? Is there really someone out there for me? The people who tell me that, for the most part, are already married. It’s easy for them to say that, but they really have no basis for saying it do they? But I love them for it. I love that they just want to make me feel better. I love that they are optimistic for me.

I was at Sunday School a few weeks ago and I walked into a class that I had never been to before, and knew only the two people that I was visiting with. And what was the lesson for the day? Marriage. Finding a partner for marriage. Why you shouldn’t settle for a partner. How nobody can fill a void in your life other than the Father and His son. And why we shouldn’t look for someone else to do that. WOW! I mean, it’s not like I didn’t really know any of this, but I can tell that God was working that day. He was working just for me. And He was working in me.

But I’ll tell you what I remember most vividly form that morning’s lesson. Something that I haven’t been thinking this entire time. What I think might just be the golden ticket for me and give me hope.

We will never be ready for a relationship with someone else until we have the right relationship with God.

I’ll say it again:

We will never be ready for a relationship with someone else until we have the right relationship with God.

Can I just say that a wave of relief came over me when I heard that. Why? Because I wholeheartedly believe that it’s true! And I know that I’m currently working on my relationship with God, and getting closer to where it needs to be. And this made me realize that I don’t need to even worry about meeting someone or developing a relationship with someone until I’m right with my God. I need to not think about it until He is the focus of my life, not whether or not I’m going to be single forever. And I have a feeling ,that when I’m right with my God, when I have the relationship that I need and that He wants me to have, that I won’t care if I’m single or married, or a mother or an aunt. All I will care about is that I’m right with my Father. And when I’m there, nothing else will matter and I truly believe that I’ll be a content woman, no matter where my life leads me.

Who am I to question God's timing?

So, I sit here now, feeling hope and feeling excitement about what my future holds. I will not allow myself to despair over being just a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I am proud to be all of those things. And for now, that will be good enough for me. And when the time comes, when I’m ready to meet that special person, God willing, then I will jump into it with open arms and an open heart, and it will be right.