Friday, January 28, 2011

Messenger of Love

I heard an amazing story on the radio yesterday. Apparently a British soldier in Afghanistan called his sweetheart from a phone booth and left a message pouring out his heart to her and proposing to her. He only had a few moments and explained that he will not be able to call her for another month. He talked about a friend and fellow soldier dying. He wanted her to know that he is always thinking of her is holding onto the dream of a future together with her. With death, destruction and danger around every corner, we can only hope he is able to come home to his love and marry her when his tour is over in three months. Here’s what makes this story unique – His girlfriend never got the message, because in his haste, the soldier misdialed the phone number and left the message on a stranger’s voicemail! Not knowing either the young man or his girlfriend and not having any way to reach them directly, the stranger turned to the media to get the message out hoping that the young woman would hear of her sweetheart’s proposal and that he is still safe and thinking of her.

I immediately realized that I am like that stranger who received the message – I too am compelled to pass it on. We have all received a message of love. “Follow me and I will redeem you and hold you in my hand and my heart forever. I will be with you always – I will love and protect you. I have given my life for you and want only to love you faithfully and fully for all time. What’s mine is yours if you will only say yes.” God spoke these words to me and he speaks these words to those around me who have yet to hear it. I must pass on his message of love.

How do I do that though? How do I get that most important message out to those around me who need to hear it? I can’t just walk up to a person I’ve never met and say, “Jesus loves you and died so that you and he could be together forever.” Well, I suppose I could, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. I guess I need to show them that God loves them by just loving them and letting them know that they are important to me because they are loved by him. I need to be the light on the hill that draws them up out of their dark valleys and when they can’t climb that hill, I need to bring that light down into their valley so that we can then climb that mountainside together. I need to be willing to walk with them if I am to guide them into his waiting arms. I need to open my heart and actually care for them so that they can see his love reaching out to them through me. And in doing so, I believe I will be transformed in the process. Perhaps that’s God’s way of telling me that he still loves me and that I am still important to him even after all these years.

About the pictures:
Parkwood Presbyterian Church (July 2009)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Love Already Mine

A single theme has run through the moments of my days this week – LOVE! It all started with a newsletter article written by a friend. He wrote that God could have made the decision to wipe the slate clean and start over with this mess up world of ours, but instead made the costly choice to redeem his creation. Why would God sacrifice his Son for a world who rejected him? I’ll let you read it in Larry’s own words:

Because God so loved the world. Not just the world that He created that was “very good.” Nor the world that is to come where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…” God so loved the crazy, messed up, rebellious, violent world that we all still live in so much that He was willing to come and plant the seed of redemption that would make it possible for our world to become as good as God could imagine it. God came to us and God is not leaving!

Then in a small group devotion on Wednesday, we listened to Chris Tomlin’s "Indescribable" twice. Within 24 hours, I heard that song twice again and the last time the radio DJ made a point of talking about one of the last lines of the song –“You know the depths of my heart and you love me the same.” How great is that! God knows everything – every pain, every sin, every inadequacy in me and he loves me the same as if they were not a part of who I am. Even if I could, I don’t need to hide those unlovable things in me from him – because he knows me fully and loves me as I am.

Today on the way to work, I heard a song by J.J. Heller, “What Love Really Means” and it brought tears to my eyes. Have you ever read something or heard a song and started looking for the camera that was obviously recording your life because it so accurately described you that it was unsettling? Well, this song is the story of my life. I spent decades of my life in despair aching for someone, anyone, to love me for me – not because of what I could do or for the person I could potentially be. I’ve done things (and sometimes still do) that I am so thoroughly ashamed of. I struggle with feelings of inadequacy and the fear that if I were fully known by my friends and family, they would abandon me with great haste.

In this world of couples and families, I find myself alone and lacking the intimacy of those relationships wondering if I will always be alone. And this song reminded me that the kind of love I’ve craved in my heart all of my life is already mine. I have it without a husband or children. I have the kind of love that sees me and loves me as I am and it will not wilt or die or fade away. It will not fluctuate in intensity because of what I do or don’t do. It does not depend on my strength to flourish. I am loved! And so are you.

Read Larry Ruby's full article "For God So Loved the World..."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Something Worth Waiting For

When I was a child, my father had this terrible habit of teasing about my Christmas present, usually beginning December 1st. He’d say with twinkle in his eye and a slight smile, “I know what you’re getting for Christmas and ohhhhhh….is it gooood????!!!!“ or “It’s better than everything you asked for on your list. You're going to love it!” and “You’re never going to guess what it is but I’ve seen it and you are going to go nuts when you open it.” For those twenty-five days, year after year, it was torture hearing him taunt me about the incredible gift to come and how it’s better than anything I’d put on my Christmas wish list.

Those three and half weeks were filled with activity as we prepared for the big day. As a child, I poured my creativity and love into making gifts for my parents, brothers, and grandparents. As Christmas day approached, I became more and more excited, but not for the reason you may think. That big gift was ever present on my mind for sure, but as each day slipped by, I became increasingly excited about how happy my parents, my brothers, and grandparents would be when they saw the gift I made for each of them with all the love my child-sized heart could engender. So excited in fact that every year on Christmas Eve I literally became breathless with anticipation as my over-emotional state would trigger an asthma attack.

This is the memory that came to mind recently as I was reading about all of creation waiting in eager expectation of the future glory that we as God’s children look forward to when Christ returns. (Romans 8:18-27) The Spirit is within me whispering to my heart, “It’s better than anything you could ask for. I’ve seen it and you are going to love it!” Revelation 21 tells us that God will bring a new existence to us – one where he is among us as he once was in the Garden. All barriers and veils that remain between us will be gone and we will be able to see and hear and worship him fully and that experience will be better than anything we can imagine. It’s with this hope of what we have not seen and do not yet have that we endure through this time of preparation. The Spirit is creating in me a heart capable of loving God completely on that day of glory through the trials of the present. He is teaching me to love others so that I may know how to love my Lord. He gives me the opportunity to reach out in his love so that I may understand more fully the love he has for me. When that day of glory comes, I will have my gift – my heart – ready to give to him in breathless anticipation of the joy it will bring to him, my Lord, my Savior, and my God. That’s something worth waiting for!

About the pictures:
North Park (May 2010)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Surrendered Heart

The Paradox of the Surrendered Heart
By Maureen Profeta

I’ve fastened these chains upon myself
forged from egoism, failure, depression,
bound forever to imperfection,
evil’s possession.
To break these crippling shackles
I must relinquish freedom’s claim
and embrace the Servant’s name.

Hope for the future teeters on the edge
quivering between today and tomorrow.
Hope for things I want and need,
for the me I want to be,
for a world of peace and harmony.
Yet to gain its promise and security
I must abandon every ounce of hope I hold
to receive God’s assurance within my soul.

Oh, to be wise in a world of confusion –
a worthy quest and commendable quality.
Knowledge of the ages available to me:
Science, History, Math, Philosophy
Economics, Psychology.
Resources all, in every decision
and yet, to gain the ultimate wisdom,
I must claim the title of fool –
a student in the Master’s school.

Wealth and security are valid concerns
that compel me to greed and yet
all that I have I must give to gain more.
If I am to be rich, I may have to be poor,
give all that I have,
all that I am,
and live in the promise of blessings ensured.
To claim no possession, I’ll hold a great store.

How beautifully agonizing
and yet
agonizingly beautiful is the surrendered heart.

About the picture:
Toronto, Ohio (Sept. 09)