Who is the blanket on your life-bed?

Security is a blanket
laid upon me with the gentleness
of the Father’s touch.
He clothes me with the safety
of His presence
and comforts me with the warmth
of His love.
I learn that I can rest beneath
the weight of the divine covering
it is His glory
to bestow.

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Love endures all things

I saw an interesting little icon today, showing a picture of Christ. In it, He was bruised, having been beaten like a criminal. On His bowed head, He wore a spiky crown of thorns that mocked His mission; the mission God gave His Son to link His divinity with our humanity–first in His body destined for death and then in our bodies, destined for life. And from His arm and chest, poured blood that had been called to abandon its assignment to sustain His body. Four pure white words silently blinked above him in the blackness. They were:

Love…endures…all…things.

The whole tableau brought a hush to my soul. Then a question slowly began to be unfurled in the silence:

Have…I…ever…really…known…what…those…words…mean?

For the first time I realized I truly did not. I had never deduced that their first association was with Christ. It startled me that I had missed it’s deepest meaning because I’d always made those words revolve around me.

Before this moment I had only ever thought of those words as they applied to my own sanctification: how I would learn to love when I endured all things. When I read this verse with the others in 1 Corinthians 13, I pictured these precepts being represented as a gate; one that I would never really get all the way through.

For instance, when I read the verse, my thoughts are: Yes, I need to be reminded again; I have to endure “all things” if I am to prove that I have love. I can’t have any boundaries to what I choose to accept from others. And the thoughts always ended with Ugh! I’m never going to be able to make this work! Why does the Bible have to be a house of such impossible expectations for us? I don’t even know why I keep reading this, trying to pretend that I’m actually going to be able to do this! It’s just so hard and unlike me.

But I never thought of these verses as something that relates who God is to me more than it relates who I am to others. They are a description of who God is and what He went through because of me. But, not just because of me; because of Him as well. If He had not been love, He would not have endured any of the all things that I did wrong to Him. He would have made that verse read: “Love makes the aggrieving party endure all the things that they have deserved.”

But that is not what it says. It says that Love endures all things. Love endured all things. He didn’t hold back from anything He could experience as a result of me. He endured it all so that there could be a relationship between us. He endured it all, so that maybe I would see that He was the only way I could be free; He was the only One who would account for my sins and make me snow-white before God.

In this new interpretation of the words, the fact that Love endures all things, is something to celebrate. It reflects a gift that is unparalleled in its generosity and grace. It makes me want to know this Love in all its infinite grandeur, rather than wanting to try to duplicate it. I can do nothing to improve this love, nor would it be more precious to me if I could make it my own by separating it from Him. This love is a Person. If love were less than a person it could not endure. In all things it could be only a vapor of substance.

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So, love looks like what…?

I used to freak out all the time. I had a gazillion worries and concerns. But there was no doubt about the one that topped the list. Love was the biggest thing I worried about. I worried about whether I was loved and whether I was really loving others. I worried that if I didn’t love others sincerely enough, they wouldn’t love me. I worried that if I sought love more than I tried to give it that God would be displeased with me and be unloving toward me.

Love was something I had to master, not something I let master me. Needless to say, I didn’t know much about what love was, I just knew I wanted it. I thought it could be earned, so I decided I would be the most winsome creature and obtain it. I thought all of this would work because I little believed that God was truly disposed to love. I thought He used our need for love as leverage for Him to make us keep the law.

I didn’t realize that the law was built on love. If you took away love from it, it had no point. I didn’t realize that love was the only way to fulfill the law. I never fancied that God wanted to so fill us with His love that the law would be revealed in the orientation of our heart–that I would want to serve God in all things.

I started with the law and tried to squeeze love out of it, rather than starting with love and letting the law flow out of it. What I’m saying might not be making a lot of sense. But, don’t get discouraged, it didn’t make sense to me for the longest time. What I’m saying are things that don’t fully make sense to us until they are deeply rooted in our hearts and only the Holy Spirit can make that happen.

So, if you want to understand; if you want to experience the transformation that comes by abiding in His love, ask Him. The Holy Spirit is given to everyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God who cleanses from all sin those who come to Him for salvation. The Holy Spirit will make clear to you all things that Jesus came to declare to us about love and the law and everything else that concerns our new life in Christ. So, please don’t hesitate to seek the Spirit that you might know what you must about love!

“I do”, but not perfectly

Is “pristine” the only thing that glorifies God and benefits us? Can love have mistakes in it? Certainly God’s love has no mistakes in it, but what about mine? Can it still be called love if it’s blemished and misshapen? Is it good-enough to offer up?

I don’t think our love should be the focus of our gaze. I believe our love should be a response to His love. His love is perfect–that’s why we focus on it and that’s why it makes us righteous in His sight. His love is the One that went to the cross; ours is the one that exists because of the cross. Our love should not be our shame because it does not define us. His love does–if we’ll let it.

Therefore, we should no more desire only that the glory of God would shine forth from our lives; may we also plead that His glory would shine into our lives. In love is glory and in Him it rests. Let us rest there as well…

When “I love you” is a mistake

I love you.

It can be such an easy thing to say, we can end up using it only flippantly. Maybe throwing it out during a lull in conversation. Maybe treating it as a farewell akin to goodbye. We think we should love, we’re expected to love, so we say we do. We sometimes skip right over “like” and use “love” just as a means to impress the one we address.

But is love really something that can so easily be thrown around? Is it merely a souvenir of a couples’ time together; a bauble that looks pretty on a ladie’s finger?

Does it really mean anything? Is it the conveyor of our deepest sentiments, or just something to fill up the space in our interactions with others?

Well, if we separate love from God, I think it is exactly what I’ve just described: a cheep trinket used to impress both those who give it and those who get it–and hopefully those who observe from the sidelines!

But shouldn’t there be another name for this kind of thing–something that suits it better than the misconstrued L-term? Maybe the other L-word: lust? Or, Infatuation? Self-interest? Keeping up appearances? Relationship insurance?

I think that last one hits what I’m trying to get at right on the head! (Am I glad I just picked up that telemarketing phone call that was advertizing life-insurance!) How many of us do things, say things, pretend things just to insure that our relationships stay where they are, stay a part of our life? Far too often I think.

The problem with this is not always that it doesn’t work, but in its deceit it insulates us from the other person and establishes the relationship on less than true love and commitment.

Self-love and self-commitment is not love or commitment–at least not what can be considered worthy currency to invest in a relationship. Then it is not a relationship which offers mutual benefits, but a service agreement that subsists on the level of personal pleasure derived from it.

That doesn’t sound a lot like God’s love. That sounds like man (meaning humans) loving for the sake of giving to himself. How do we get away from this? How do we learn to not only acknowledge what real love is, but practice it consistently?

We connect with God, who is love, and then we connect with others so that His love can flow through us and into others. We don’t let our love get in the way. In fact, we move ourselves out of the way, out of the center, and let God be God. Then we give Him our will as a free-will offering, knowing that when God has the will, He has the man. And that man will no longer live for Himself because Christ will live in him and make love full in him.

Where did God get that crazy idea from — I can take care of my self!

It can be painful to realize that we need other people. We don’t like having to admit that we don’t have it altogether all by ourselves. Worse, living like we don’t need them and even, we are better off remaining in the exclusive club of “me”, seems to be absolutely necessary in the world we live in. It seems to be unsafe to chance enlarging our boundaries from self-care to mutual-care.

Agh! I’m so afraid of that. What if that other person can’t come through for me? Or more frightening, what if it’s revealed that I am not fully capable of coming through for them?

Is this what relationships are about: being willing to fall on our faces in front of those we’ve committed ourselves to love?

Oh, I’m afraid I really don’t like that! I would rather pretend that love was something else. That it were only good-intentioned feelings when I do not want or know how to act. And that it were solely confined to actions that I could fulfill and feel at ease though my heart were cold.

But, love appears to be neither wholly good-intentioned feelings or wholly actions but rather, both good-intentioned feelings and actions. When I look at the love God talks about I see an onslaught of care and other-centeredness that makes me cry “that’s just not me!” The love He models lays down the self that it might lift up another. It is not an merely an element of who one is, it is supposed to be representative of one’s whole being.

But, the last time I checked, love and I don’t know each other that well (and that was two minutes ago, in case you thought it might be time to check again!). I don’t know what to do with that.

Oh! When I hit that place of desperation, would that I could see that as the whole of the matter on my side, and not just as a plaintive introduction! Unless God teaches me and enfolds me in love, no one is going to know love because of me.

I’m slowly learning to accept the the truth about God’s undefiled love and my defiled self. What a huge grace it is! The more I learn about love, the more I recognize that being filled with and characterized by love must be a grace-dominated thing. There’s just no other way to attempt such a steep assent into His ways!

 

Romance sustained on a shoe-string

In the beginning there was mystery and romance and plenty to fill my thoughts and hold my interest. Any trial can present intrigue to a person who would like to grow and sees the spiritual value to be gained. Whether it is large or small doesn’t matter; you could face the trouble every week, or day-in-and-day-out, yet learn to revel in the gifts God has for you there — even if your only comfort is a bit of His presence to book end each of your weighty days.

But, there comes a point, as with anything when your own personal strength gives out. You didn’t ask it to, it just did. You enthusiasm runs off to revive underground until you come out of this lonesome wilderness. And your spirit begins to shows the wear and tear of life in the desert. This is not your home and it is often unpleasant. You now that the Lord has more for you, but “when, O Lord?” is you cry of despair.

I am living at this point right now. I feel as if I have sucked the bones of romance till my death have hurt enough to stop. I want to quit and allow myself to forget that it exists, and sink into disgust at what God has chosen for me in this window of time. I want to relax, to lower myself to the lowest level of expectation. I don’t want to put all my efforts toward a cause I wish I no longer had to fight.

I struggle to take every thought that seeks to defeat the purpose for my suffering, but I am weak and it would be easier to take down the ship than it would be to continue patching it up and hoping-against-hope that despite every new stormy gale, I will arrive with God at our destination.

I must admit that though the mystery is still there, it now seems cruel without the romance that once came packaged with it to my door. Living with mystery is more work now. It is faith on a shoe-string that’s about to break, rather than a steel girder that has passed every ship-yard test.

I don’t want to go where the shoe-string leads me. Faith is most truly faith in the dark, and just before the dawn when it waits with great anticipation for what it has never seen before. The thought is full of imagery — and pure romance, if I was still willing to see it — but by this time, I’m just not sure I have enough of that anticipation left to see me through.

I want more, but the wait is not over. I want redemption, but it only becomes real for me when I am looking for its evidence not in grand scale productions, but in the infinite number of daily opportunities for beauty from On High to be revealed. When I’m wrapped up in God, He renews my vision for another day and the dailies of my life can be seen for what they are little, unsolicited pieces of His puzzle falling silently into place before my eyes.

Yes, even on the lonely days, when I wake up already feeling in league with traitorous heart attitudes of bitterness and discontentment, a choice lies before me. I have the opportunity to make my day or ruin it. I could be like the woman in Proverbs 9:13 who is described as

brazen, empty-headed, frivolous

or I could be like the lady described in Proverbs 14:1 who for herself

builds a lovely home

and does not behave like the one who

comes along and tears it down brick by brick.

Both choices are open to me. And it is at times when I feel most akin to Mrs. Fool (or Madame Whore as the Message Bible calls her) that these life-giving words are most sobering. And for that moment, that is their power; to wake me up and insist that I climb back up on the Rock, even if I scrape my hands and make a bloody mess of my knees. It is worth it. It is essential. My house, no matter what, must stand.

So, for today I will rise up again and call my Lord blessed. I will live in gratitude for the gift He has given to me in the opportunity to be His every day, all day. I will come to Him and let Him be my Refuge and Strength. I will let myself remember and experience once more that nothing can compare with knowing and being loved by Him. And isn’t this the substance of the romance that I am looking for?