New Year’s Resolution: Leaning into Love

Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.

~C.S. Lewis

Romantic love is a relatively new idea in the long history of mankind.  

We moderns take for granted that in order to DO something kind and loving for another person, we must FEEL kind and loving toward that person.

But that’s not really what love is all about. 

We act in love all the time without feeling love.

Changing diapers.  Changing oil.  Cooking chicken nuggets when you really want coq au vin.

I am absolutely convinced God makes babies utterly helpless because as parents care for them, they come to love them more deeply and in ways that would never happen without hours and weeks and YEARS of hands-on ministration.

That same principle can be transferred to anyone.  

If I am having a hard time “loving” my neighbor or my co-worker or my family member, if I begin to DO loving things for them, my heart will follow.

Maybe not in a day or a week.  It might well take a year or more.  But eventually, the feelings will develop.

And if they don’t because the person continues his or her prickly ways? 

Well, then I will have become a more loving and patient and kind person regardless of their response to me.  

Either way, I win.  

So this year I am purposing to choose three people in my life that are hard to love and begin actively loving them.

I am going to make sure I contact them often, speak kindly, include them in events and reach out in other ways.  I will look for small favors to do that can brighten their days.  I will remember birthdays and anniversaries and other special days,  I will speak well of them to others.

And I will pray that grace flows both ways from them to me and back again until it blossoms into love.  

Stay tuned.  🙂

small things with great love

 

It’s Never Too Late to be a Friend!

We’ve all been there-something traumatic or earth-shattering happens to someone we know and we mean to get in touch.  

I put “write a note” or “call” on my list and then don’t do it.

Days, weeks months pass by.  Now I feel awkward.

And the need to let her know I care is overshadowed by my sense of shame at not doing it sooner.

But it is NEVER too late to be a friend!

friends hugging

I won’t let pride stand between me and someone I love.  I won’t allow fear to keep me away from a heart that needs help.

nothing on earth to be more prized than friendship

Who knows?

Maybe my outstretched hand will be exactly the hope someone needs to hold on to?

no act of kindness kitten

 

 

 

 

Living Gentle Lives

One of the things grief is teaching me is that I too often walk through the world like an angry giant, stomping around without any care as to where my large footprints land and what they crush underneath.  I am intent on pursuing MY agenda, MY “to do” list, getting to My appointment or paying for MY groceries and heaven help the one who gets in my way.

I don’t want to be like that.

I want to be like Jesus.

I want to be gentle.

A broken reed He will not break [off] And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish [He will not harm those who are weak and suffering]; He will faithfully bring forth justice.

Isaiah 42:3  AMP

Jesus rested securely in the truth that His Father was near, that His Father had things under control and that His Father would redeem and was redeeming every little thing.

He was not anxious about outcomes.  He didn’t have to prove anything or fight for status or control.  He was completely free.  

When I lean into the truth that God is My Abba Father and that He will and is redeeming every little thing in my life as well, I am equally free.  

I don’t have to step on someone else to step up.  I don’t have to put out someone else’s light so mine shines brighter.

My position is secured by the blood of Jesus.  My light is the love of Christ shed abroad in my heart.

It’s ALL a gift.

It’s all GRACE.

It’s my privilege to live gently, be kind and give freely what has been given to me.  

a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle

 

 

I Don’t Get to Be Ugly

It’s easy to justify bad behavior when I am hurting.  

As the saying goes, “Hurt people, hurt people”.

But if I know Jesus, I don’t get a pass.  I don’t get to act ugly or pretend I don’t know better or have His Spirit to help me BE better.

Sometimes I AM ugly.  Sometimes I do act badly.  I am ashamed that even though I am fully aware of my own desperate need for grace and mercy I sometimes withhold it from others.

I’m also ashamed that I can be judgmental and hateful and short-tempered and short-sighted. I can exclude others and run out of patience and choose to turn away when I should be tuning in.

And I’m really, really sorry.

hands-passing-heart

I’m trying to lean more fully on the grace available to me through God’s Holy Spirit.  I am trying to pause so that the first thing that springs to mind doesn’t always fly out of my mouth.  I am learning to wait before returning phone calls, emails and text messages.

I try to take a walk when my heart is twisted ugly so that the ugly doesn’t spill out onto others and ruin THEIR day.

I don’t get to lay aside the calling to love because I’ve laid a child to rest.  

I’m working hard to remember that.  

love God love others rocks

 

 

Which Weighs More?

Remember the childhood riddle, “Which is heavier, a ton of bricks or a ton of feathers?”

feathers

It was great fun to catch someone giving the wrong answer.

Because, of course, a ton is a ton is a ton.  Weight is an absolute measure.

But it takes fewer bricks to reach that quota although it takes just as much strength to lift the burden.

weights-dumbbells

One thing I’m learning in my grief journey is that there are so many people carrying a load.

I find my compassion radar has been fine-tuned to hear even the faintest whisper of hurt in someone’s voice, to see the tiniest gleam of a tear, to notice the smallest stoop of shoulders or the beginning of a frown.

And while some of us have had our ton of pain and sorrow delivered via bricks-suddenly, forcefully and overwhelmingly dumped-others have acquired their ton over a lifetime of disappointment, struggle and testing.

They both weigh a ton.  

And they both require great strength to carry.

It’s a challenge to resist the urge to rank my experience on a continuum of pain.

Although I bridle when people compare their loss of a pet or job to my loss of a child (as I wrote about here), I do try to extend grace when others expose their own wounds.

I want to comfort other people with the comfort I have received.  Not only the comfort from Christ-which is the ultimate comfort-but also the comfort I’ve received from wise friends and caring sisters-in-loss.

I want to be a listening ear, a compassionate heart and an outstretched hand.

Reaching Out to Help Someone in Despair

I want to be a witness, a fellow traveler on the journey, an encourager.

Grief

is grief

is grief.

A ton is a ton is a ton.

Not-So-Random Acts of Kindness

I love the idea of Random Acts of Kindness-it’s a beautiful way to spread love and joy in our broken world.

With a few dollars or a few minutes, I have the opportunity to make someone’s day brighter, their burden lighter and remind them that not everyone is “out to get them”.

BUT-as I’ve written before here:  Relational Acts of Kindness, it’s relatively easy to do my good deed and walk away.

When I bless a stranger, my work is done.

I feel good, they feel good-it’s all good.

I find it much harder to purpose to be kind every day to the people I actually KNOW-the one who may have said cutting things in the past, the one who consistently rubs me the wrong way, the one I feel is lazy or subversive or just holds opinions with which I disagree.

How about the one I thought would show up to help but didn’t?  Or the one who has told tales about me or my family?  The one who lets her children run wild at church? The one who makes others uncomfortable with her dress, or language, or lack of social skill?

Being kind to THAT person is hard.

I want to turn the other way.  I want to make excuses.  I want to pretend that my kindness toward strangers balances my lack of kindness to those with whom I walk daily.

It doesn’t.

I am called to be kind at precisely that place where it is most difficult.  I am called to act in love toward just that person who is most unloveable.  I am called to lay down my life where it looks most likely to be unappreciated.

ephesians-4-31-32

Denying myself is the very method by which Christ builds His kingdom.

Offering my body as a living sacrifice is the pressure He applies to mold my flesh into His likeness

washing-feet-beauty

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the heathen lord it over them and that their great ones have absolute power? But it must not be so among you. No, whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of you all, and if he wants to be first among you he must be your slave—just as the Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life to set many others free.”

Matthew 20:27-29 PHILLIPS

 

 

Choosing to See Wounded Hearts

I can see her all the way down the aisle-even if she doesn’t say a word,  I know.

I know.

widow

She‘s carrying a burden wrapped in love and buried deep inside.  Someone she poured life into is no longer here.  The missing and the daily sorrow is etched on her face even as she smiles.

What to do?  What to do?  

Making a decision without her better half to help her is overwhelming.  She wants to cry but holds back the tears because, “What would people think?”

So I go up to her and tell her what I think:  “Would you like some help?”

That opens the floodgates.

“I’m looking for hairbands-something to match my white hair.  I have so little left-losing it because of stress, you know. “

Silence while I help her look.

“My husband passed three months ago.  We were married 60 years.  I just can’t believe he’s gone.”

I tell her about Dominic-brief version-so she knows that I understand.

“He’s not suffering anymore and I guess I should be better.  But I just miss him!”

I take her hand and look into her beautiful eyes-eyes that are full of love and compassion and sorrow-and tell her that she will miss him as long as she lives.  That’s how we’re made.

Great love means great grief.  A shared lifetime can’t be severed by death.  We carry that sorrow because our hearts still carry the love.

ann voskamp love will always cost you grief

And I tell her that no one has the right to rush her along. Her wounded heart is a witness to love.  It’s a tribute to her husband and the life they shared.  It’s testimony to the power of God in her that she can bear the wound and still remain.

We prayed, and hugged and both went away refreshed.

Walking wounded has made me much more aware that God places people in my path who are wounded too.  

I want to be the person that stops, no matter what.  I want to be who God created me in Christ Jesus to be.  I want to walk in the good works He has laid out for me ahead of time.

It’s a way of redeeming this sorrow and weaving something beautiful from  my tears.

God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us new people so that we would do good works. God had planned in advance those good works for us. He had planned for us to live our lives doing them.

Ephesians 2:10 ICV

ephesians2_10