Love is God, not a chameleon

“All you need is love.  All you need is love. All you need is love, love.  Love is all you need.”

The lyrics to the Beatles’ famous song play like a soundtrack in my mind.  A classic. It’s a catchy feel good song.  Each beat like an anthem declaring itself to my heart.

Everywhere I turn lately, it’s all I hear.  Love is the answer to everything.  We are love warriors and we have hashtags stating #loveisloveislove, Madonna even chanting it at the end of her speech at a recent women’s march. “We choose LOVE! We choose Love! We choose Love!!!!” She screams this into the very same microphone that only moments before amplified her thoughts of blowing up the White House.

And I wonder….Is this really all we need? Is this the love we need? If we just chant the word enough, or if we scream it loudly from a microphone, or maybe if we hashtag it to death, will something change then?  Will the word love be enough to heal our our broken hearts? our communities? our country?

It seems as though love has taken on a loftiness about it as of late.  Tenuous in nature, it is sweeping across our nation making unsubstantiated claims.  It has become an abstract, vaporous idea that invites people to adhere their own personal definitions to it.  Suddenly, love can be whatever you’d like it to be.  And while this idea presents itself as being inclusive and freeing, I believe it does us a disservice.  How can we all claim that love is the answer when our definition of love is so vastly different from one another?

It feels to me like the word love has taken on the properties of a chameleon, changing its definition to blend into its surroundings. 

Even in Christian circles, the word love has been touted to rally people together for a cause.  And sometimes, just for personal agenda.  It has lost its meaning in a world saturated with muddied definitions. Oh, don’t get me wrong, love is really all we need.  But perhaps a clearer understanding of the word is what is really needed.  Because there is only one love that can bring true freedom and healing.

The world’s greatest love story ever told is one that includes us.  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” It’s in the pages of this great love story where we discover what true love really is.

The Bible tells us that love is very patient & kind. Never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud.  Never haughty or selfish or rude. Love doesn’t demand its own way.  It’s not irritable or touchy.  It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. (1 Corinthians 13)

The Biblical definition of love is not a formless fluidity that changes its shape and meaning on a whim.  Nor is it a self-serving idea that is used to manipulate people or things to our advantage. It is not something that if we just dig deep enough into ourselves that we can unearth and it’s not something that the universe is calling us to.

Love- true authentic love, the kind that can heal individual hearts and change the landscape of a nation is…

born of human flesh, torn and bruised for us. 

It is bloodied and beaten and given freely while we are yet sinners. 

It is weighty, substantial and concrete. 

It’s a love that we can depend on.  A strong, selfless, sacrificial love that comes from God, who is himself love.

1 John 4:7 says, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God.”  I love how the author here uses the words continue to love.  It’s a reminder to us that it’s an ongoing process. We must continue on in the love that He gives us as we extend it to those around us. Whether we agree or disagree, we must continue to love.  Whether we are experiencing warm fuzzies or cool indifference, our call is to love.  Whether it’s to our advantage or our disadvantage, our job is to continue on in love.  So how exactly are we supposed to do this?  We can’t. Not by ourselves and not in our own strength.

It’s only through him that we can love at all.  Love doesn’t come from just chanting words or holding hands or singing a song in solidarity.  Love comes from God alone.  “Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God.  The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love- so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about-not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” 1 John 4:8-10

Love is God and God is love. 

Perhaps a more fitting hashtag would be this: #loveisgodislove.

We crave love. We were designed by our Creator to crave love.  So when the word love is tossed out in a passionate speech, people cling to it like a life preserver.  We want to believe it will save us, that it will free us and that it will set everything right.   We hope and long for something like love to come along and pick up all the broken pieces and put them back together. We are desperate for love because we are desperate for God.

His love is the only love that can do all of that! His love saves, redeems, restores and frees.   It’s nothing we can muster up on our own. It’s not some lofty notion floating around in the universe.  It was birthed in the heart of God and is offered to all.  His love for you, for me, and for anyone who is willing to believe is the greatest love story ever told.   

 

Eight Years Out

Eight years.

It’s been eight years to the day that my father-in-law passed away.  And the old cliche, “time heals all wounds” this many years out, seems both true and an awful lie all at once.

The sharp pang of loss, the kind that took our breath away for days, weeks, and even months after isn’t our daily companion anymore.  We have whole blocks of time where we don’t even think of him.  But it’s never truly gone either.  It’s in hiding now, jumping out and scaring us at will.  The realness of it sometimes settling in on us again like it did the very first time.  Because there will never be another ANYTHING with him.

There are moments when I catch my husband’s eye and I can read his mind.  He’s smiling on the outside but inside he’s wishing his dad was here.  Here to listen to Levi play the trombone in his Christmas Band Concert, here to receive a homemade card from his little Hannah and here to watch Jake slowly morph into manhood.  The feelings of being robbed of something truly wonderful sets in only to be reminded of the amazing man my mother-in-law has found in the years since.  I remember being so mad back then that my kids wouldn’t have a grandpa to make memories with. This year I spent hours compiling a photo calendar that included precious memories already made with their new grandpa who loves them like they were his very own.

When we are making big life decisions, Aaron will inevitably share how he wishes his dad was here so they could talk and he could gain some wisdom.  He misses his dad’s counsel perhaps most of all.  Not that his dad would ever actually tell us what to do.  No way, that wasn’t his style.  But he would ask questions that would get us thinking and help us look at the situation from different angles so we could make the wisest, most informed choice possible. His was a subtle Jedi-mind trick type of counsel.

I remember back then (we lovingly refer to them as the “dark days”) wondering if I would ever hear my husband’s laughter again.  There was a time so dark and silent that I wasn’t sure we would be able to reach each other again.  The loss of Aaron’s dad was like an earthquake, the perceptible shaking of our world as we knew it, but the aftershocks were the hardest. The magnitude of them although smaller, were also very sporadic, making it almost impossible to prepare for.  They would come without warning and leave destruction in their wake.

As I sit here typing, my husband’s gregarious laugh, the one that is impossible to hear without immediately giving way to a smile, slowly floats up from the basement and settles quietly.  It reminds me that our grief, although not gone, is allowing us to breathe these days.  Just last week, as Aaron was making lefse (a tradition passed down from his father) we locked eyes. Mine quickly clouded with tears as we both felt the loss of his presence in a more tangible way in that moment.

And so, although time has caused a gashing wound to be covered with a layer of love, the wound itself is still there, underneath.  It more closely resembles a scar now, reminding us of the love we shared, the pain we endured & the hope we have in Christ to be reunited again one day.

Here’s to the all the wide open, gashing wounds out there, to the scars, and to those on their journey towards becoming a scar.  Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” May you know today that God is with you in your brokenness and that he alone has the power to save you.

Weary joy

I’m weary.

Maybe you feel it too?

A heaviness from life’s struggles and unmet expectations covers me like a weighted blanket.   Residue from hurt and pain over the past year lingers and makes a case for me to climb up under the covers and never come out.  I’m tired.  And maybe a little sad.  And admitting it only seems to add shame to the mix.

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But I also have joy.  Not a warm, fuzzy, happy feeling dripping with sentiment, but a settled assurance, a quiet confidence and a determined choice.  

Truth Wrapped In Love

I love getting gifts.  Some of my favorite gifts to get are little things that don’t cost very much money but that I rarely buy for myself. A magazine on fashion or decorating, a bottle of new nail polish or a new Starbucks mug from their “You Are Here” series.

0b22b2e92934f55341f22aaaf7d7af24But to tell the truth, what I love almost as much as the gift itself is the way it’s packaged.  I love things that are presented beautifully and lovingly. That can mean a simple piece of twine wrapped around a magazine or a cute little chalkboard tag attached to it.  One of my favorite gifts I ever received was packaged in a brown paper sack, threaded at the top with some twine and tied into a tidy little bow. Inside was tea, a bag of fresh cherries & some chocolate.  It was so simple and so thoughtful.

“Brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things…”

The Tailings of Time

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A couple of weekends ago we traveled up north to our old stomping grounds of Hibbing, MN. As soon as we turned onto Hwy. 53 a receiving line of pine trees appeared and welcomed us, gently guiding us north toward our destination.  If there is a stretch of road that holds more memories for my husband & I than this, I am unaware of it. The 30 plus mile stretch would tell stories of