Friday, November 25, 2016

Foolishly Called Love

Love is an action, not an emotion.

   Loving people is hard. There are good people and bad people, selfish people and kind people, people who have everything going for them and will never do anything for you and people who just need someone to show them love.

  God does not expect us to love people on our own. Christ set an example of what it means to love one another. Our job is merely to tap into Christ's strength and to love one another using that example.

 The story of Desmond Doss at Hacksaw Ridge during World War 2 is a story of love. Doss had a strong relationship with God and his church and a conviction that he was not supposed to use a weapon. He also felt a strong call to support the war effort as a "non-combatant". Doss was ridiculed by his fellow soldiers and his commanding officers and was put through many trials including an attempt to "Section 8" discharge him on grounds of mental instability. His charges were dropped and he was labeled a "Conscientious Objector" and sent off to war. At the tender age of seventeen, Doss and his men deployed. In April of 1945, they found themselves on Okinawa in a battle referred to as the deadliest in the Pacific Theater during WW2. The Japanese were embedded into the small island and for the Americans to even get to them they had to scale a thirty foot ridge. After a particularly bloody counterattack by the Japanese, Doss' entire battalion retreated down the side of the ridge. Doss, however, stayed and felt the God was leading him to do so. He scurried around the rugged and bloodied battlefield, ducking Japanese patrols who were finishing off wounded soldiers and trying to beat them to his men. The men he found who were still alive would be treated and lowered down the ridge. Working through the night and under gunfire, Doss' 150lb frame was able to retrieve 75 wounded men, drag them through the destroyed terrain, and lower them down the side of the ridge. Doss said of the feat, "I just kept praying, 'Lord help me get one more. Just one more'." This was certainly a supernatural feat and one that earned Doss the first Medal of Honor awarded to a conscientious objector. Doss was eighteen at the time.

True and pure love knows no age. It knows no circumstances. It is stirred up inside of us after experiencing God pouring it out on us and it is what we are able to turn around and pour on others. Only when it is a reflection of God's example is it true love.

1 Corinthians 13 describes the many attributes of love:

  • Love is patient
  • Love is kind
  • Love is not jealous
  • Love does not brag
  • Love is not arrogant
  • Love does not act unbecomingly
  • Love does not seek its own
  • Love is not provoked
  • Love does not rejoice in the failure of others
  • Love rejoices with truth
  • Love bears all things
  • Love believes all things
  • Love hopes all things
  • Love endures all things
Those are deep. I will be exploring the individuality of each of these on my own time but considering each of these attributes can become overwhelming. Instead, consider what Christ would do in the individual circumstance. If ready to fine-tune your love, then do so but do not try to tackle the entire list when beginning. Small, consistent steps are what it takes. God knows our hearts and if we are truly seeking to love like Him, He will help us.

I waited a long time to tell a man "I love you" and when I finally did, I was disappointed. I had forgotten the reason I had waited so long and in so doing had forgotten the actual meaning of the word "love". To truly love someone comes with no chance of disappointment. Do you think Christ is truly disappointed in our imperfect love? Not truly so because He knew that He was getting imperfect lovers and thus expected imperfect love. 

To return to the story of Doss, he was young and in many ways simple, almost childlike. Captains, Majors, and even Generals would look on him and scoff at his "ignorance" and attempt to talk him out of the war. His fellow soldiers berated him and made life as difficult as possible. The difference that allowed Doss to perform the supernatural was that he loved God and truly understood loving his fellow man. He did not need a degree from West Point to be able to love his brother. The best love we could ever afford to another would be simple and childlike; knowing and trusting that our Father is the biggest and the strongest guy out there and will always look out for us!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Dissapointed in God

Pity party. We all do it at some point. We hear how well our friends are doing or see the posts on Facebook and comparing our struggles begin to question if God really is paying attention to us. It's ok, even the best of us do it. Jesus said of John, "among those born of women, there is none greater than he". Yet even this "Hero" questioned God. When John was arrested and sitting in jail and hearing of how Jesus was healing complete strangers yet not doing anything to help His own cousin out of jail, John began to wonder. John could only see the jail cell in front of him. He didn't have social media to update him on Jesus' whereabouts and as he sat there thinking about his potential being wasted in a jail cell, he began to wonder if his whole life of preparing the people for Jesus had been wrong. The more he wondered, the more upset he became so he sent Jesus a message asking if He really was the Messiah.

Jesus could have responded in an offended or ungracious way, but He did not. He put Himself in John's position and told the messengers to update John on the wonderful miracles Jesus was doing. At the end of his message to them, Jesus said something that I find incredible. He said, "Blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of me." 

Step back and think about that statement. Jesus was saying that he could be a hinderance to others who are trying to do what God would have them do. Essentially that He could "get in the way" of their serving God. How is that possible?? 

Andy Stanley put it like this, "Your personal circumstances do not necessarily coincide with how God feels about you. Proof of how God feels about you is His Son given for you on the cross." We have all heard those people who talk about the bad circumstances in our lives meaning that we must be in sin, but that is not the case. We don't always get to understand the bigger picture and we shouldn't use that as an excuse to turn away. When God is silent, it doesn't mean that He is absent or doesn't care. It just means that it is time for us to reflect on the goodness that He has done in the past in our life. 

Jesus says, "Blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of me". Another version says "Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me". WE are that blessed! We are called BLESSED when we are consistent with God in spite of our circumstances and what appears to be God's absence. 

We each have trials to face, but how will we respond? "Your personal circumstances do not necessarily coincide with how God feels about you". 

Some of the best advice I have ever gotten from my mother was to "get out of the way, it's not about you." I came to her with my hurt and my pain. I had CLEARLY been wronged and was upset. Momma listened to me pour out my heart, she did the verbal hug that showed me love but did not feed my pain, then said "Sweetheart, I understand you hurt and are upset, but there is a bigger picture. You need to stop making it all about you. If you are able to get out of the way and realize the bigger picture, you will not be as personally hurt." Disappointment stems from expectation. Expectations from humans ALWAYS have the potential to be let down. God's faithfulness, however, will never disappoint.  

Two things to remember:
"Your personal circumstances do not necessarily coincide with how God feels about you."

"Stop making it all about you."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!

Busy schedules run our lives. In our society, being idle is looked down upon and staying "insanely busy" is applauded. "You must be someone really important to have so many demands on your time" is part of the logic. We've all heard the phrase, "Well don't just stand there, do something" but why do we think so negatively on just standing there?

I have recently taken a job in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is a summer position and afterwards, I will return to the reality of not living at the beach and so close to the vast and incredible ocean. This is a less commercialized area with many opportunities for spending time alone in nature. After living in D.C., it is a welcome change.

The most incredible part about this experience though is the intentional simplification I am going through. Due to chronic allergies worsening, I have cut out gluten, dairy, and almost all refined sugar to see if my health improves. I have downsized and gotten rid of my tv. I pulled out the beautiful guitar I have never made time to use and the camera I have always wanted to learn. The books I've never read are being dusted off. The quiet time with God is recharging. The phone is being left random places and social media experiences more neglect.

I recently read, "Sometimes individuals or churches are so busy carrying out plans they think will help achieve God's purposes that they don't bother to find out what He actually wants" (Experiencing God). It's like when a child attempts to help a parent but ends up making a bigger mess. Sometimes it is healthier for a relationship to go slow and not necessarily "do" things all of the time but step back and listen and experience the lack of doing something.

I am at fault for allowing lots of extra "noise" to cloud out situations and blind me to what is happening before my eyes. The other night I was helping with a patient who was rapidly declining. As I am new to this facility, I am still learning to recognize the different equipment they use. Their crash cart is much different looking than most I have worked with and as I called out and began to go get the crash cart in the place it normally was, I rushed right by the CRASH CART! My coworker thankfully re-routed me and embarrassed I pulled it into the room. The problem was not that I didn't have good intentions, the problem was that I hadn't trained myself well enough on the subtle things (like the colors of the cart) and I didn't pause and get enough situational awareness.

As Christians, we have to be careful to not get caught up in the tasks and visible, extraordinary experiences and miss the entire point of getting closer to God. Many people have experienced a loved one who doesn't seem to just stop and listen to what you are saying and continues to fail to get your point. I wonder how often God feels that way about us. Psalm 37:7 says, "Rest in Jehovah, and wait patiently for him: Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way." Essentially David is saying, "Stop and just relax in who God is and what He is doing and stop comparing yourself and trying to keep up with those around you!" Social media allows us to see what everyone that we have ever made contact with and decided to be "friends" with is up to. It often provides us a terrible opportunity for comparison of our lives with the perceived lives of others. This is all for now. Off to the beach!

A Modern Virtuous Woman

A note directed at women.

Have you ever considered how archaic the Proverbs 31 passage is? Do you hear that chapter and, assuming you were raised in a Christian environment, immediately picture long dresses, turtlenecks, poofy hair with excessive hairspray, hymn books, cafeterias with endless potluck clean-ups, and women who are reserved and obedient to their husbands??? Well, the ER nurse writing this tends to speak her mind-appropriate or not. That is often the image I have struggled with.

Proverbs 31 was always the Martha Stewart, picture-perfect woman. But nothing that was attainable for the wild-child in me. I like to play in the dirt and compete with the boys in sports and speak my mind and jump on a horse in jeans. Long dresses and skirts are optional, but often not activity appropriate.

Recently I was reading a book that was describing giving over the "pen" of your love story to God. The author was suggesting allowing the one who created you to be in charge of orchestrating your meeting with the one who was created to be with you. The book spoke of young women who had experienced heartbreak after giving themselves in every way except physically to a man, then finally giving themselves physically and his leaving shortly after. They were crushed because they had stayed "pure" for so long.

I think we need to reconsider this idea of purity and the Proverbs 31 woman. As I celebrate another birthday, I am reconsidering a part of my approach to dating. I put so much into relationships that when they end, I have to take a break in order to recharge my heart. I joke about the "break-up diet" which is basically a heart too broken and sick to even desire food. It has worked like a charm now twice. The amount of energy and effort that I put into my relationships coupled with the pain of the heartbreak afterwards-well I just wonder if it is how God intended things to be. People say you have to try things out or you never live, but I don't think God intended for our hearts to be broken multiple times. I think this is a result of us seeking something instead of preparing ourselves for it and allowing God to bring it to us.

Back to the Proverbs 31 woman. What is described in the chapter is not some meek, mild woman who stays at home and obeys her husband. She is a force to be reckoned with. She goes out and buys land with the utmost wisdom and confidence. She makes the name of her husband better, but does not hide behind his name. She is motherly and provides a loving, nurturing household for her children and for those connected to her household. She teaches others and shares her wisdom and wealth. She is not lazy, but disciplined. She is clever and knows how to properly and wisely manage money. She is beautiful because of what is inside of her.

We spend so much time working on the outward appearance and neglecting the heart. We fail to realize that when we teach the importance of physical purity, emotional purity should be right along with it. Our hearts are just as important as our bodies and if we are throwing them around at whatever guy suits our current "situation" in life, we will have some pretty raw and damaged meat left when the man of our dreams shows up. We are to guard our hearts and our purity and surround ourselves with people who are going to help do the same. Don't get me wrong, everyone wants to be loved and feel that companionship need satisfied, but until we learn to be completely at peace with ourselves and the Lover and Creator of our soul, we will be searching for someone to "ground" us and constantly trying to suck our security from a mere human. Picture sandstone trying to provide the foundation for a bank. That is foolishness because it is so easily broken apart. Now imagine a billionaire who has spent 20 years of his life growing his wealth and carefully investing. Imagine him looking at places to store his money and choosing a location built on sandstone over one built on titanium. That is what we do when we chose man over God. Additionally we put an unfair pressure on the one we supposedly "love" to give us peace instead of obtaining it on our own.

Consider the Proverbs 31 woman again. She did not learn all of these impressive trades from her husband and the description is not of what he does for her, but what she is capable of on her own. He is mentioned as being better because of her. As a woman, I want the man I am with someday to be better because of the woman I have spent my time becoming. I don't want him stuck dealing with the ghosts of relationships past, but instead blessed because of the hard work I have put into my relationship with God and developing myself.