Celebrating Valentine’s Day can be a joy or a burden. Some struggle with the constant reminders of romantic love. Some struggle with the pressure to buy traditional gifts regardless of personal preference or finance. Some mourn a love lost. Some mourn a love that has never been. Others are truly celebrating. They are full of love and want the whole world to know. There are often surprises for some and for others life changing decisions. No matter how you feel about Valentine’s Day, God loves you.
God loves you completely and unconditionally. It is a love larger than any love that one person can feel for another person. It is a love larger than what we feel for ourselves at times. It is a love that is present before we are even aware, and it is a love that continues always. This love is not only for us, but it is a love God has for everyone.
This Valentine’s Day maybe we should consider how we respond to God’s love. In this season of reflection and preparation, maybe it is time that we look at how we share God’s love with others in the world. Are we as loving as we can be, or are we pre-occupied with our own feelings? Are we wrapped up in ourselves and our circle of friends, or do we consider those beyond our personal circle? Do you show care for those in your daily life, or do you demand that they march to the beat of your drum?
Many in our world spend a great deal of time and energy on finding and cultivating a romantic love. What if you gave God a tenth of that time to showing love to other people? If we reached out to one new person each day for the rest of Lent, would our perspective change?
English: Boston, MA, September 16, 2008 — Beethoven Elementary School Class prepares for emergencies with the STEP program. Students learn how to build an emergency kit and form a family communication plan with their teacher and principal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As many head back to school, they are thinking about relationships. There is the relationship with the teacher. How much homework? Will I like my teacher? Will my teacher like me? What does he or she expect? There are also peer relationships that many are considering. Who will I sit beside at lunch? Do we have assigned seats in home room? Who will I play with? Will I have friends? Will I be lonely? Will they like me? In the midst of all of the learning that happens in school, relationships are often a key part of our school experience. We want good relationships. We want others to like us, to care about us, and to respect us.
This human desire for good relationships does not change as we get older. We may couch our wants and needs in different ways, but we are all still yearning for relationships in which we are accepted. We want others to care about us. We want to be loved. We want good relationships even if we do not know how to express our feelings. Remember that the boy who is teasing the girl probably likes her, but he doesn’t know how to deal with the fact that he likes her.
Instead of teasing and pulling pigtails, let’s find a way to share our feelings with those around us. Let us build up others by building relationships. Let us find a way to show that others are accepted and loved. Let us look the stranger in the eye. Let us smile at others we pass in the grocery store. Let us remember the insecurity we all felt at the beginning of the school year. Let us love others as Christ has loved us.
English: me and my friend (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Most, if not all, of us have been in those situations where we find we have nothing to say. Recently it happened to me, again. There is a friend who is hurting. The pain is real, and the pain is not going away. She is hurting. I want to help her. I want to ease her pain, but there is nothing I can do. This is a situation that she must go through rather than around. Oh, if I could just find the words to take away her hurt. I want to ease the sadness. There are no words.
We all have to accept a certain amount of helplessness in our lives, including me. I cannot take away the pain, hurt, and suffering. But I can be present. I can sit beside my friend without words. I can pray for my her wherever I am. I can ask God to be with her in her suffering. I can learn to trust more full in God’s presence, love, and healing especially when I don’t have the words.
When we are hurting or when others are hurting, we have a choice to make. We can rage against the ineffectiveness of ourselves and others to ease the hurt, or we can trust God to deal with the hurt. We can trust God with our friends hurts that we know about as well as the hurts are not publicly know. We can trust God to walk through us through the hard, sad, difficult, and painful times of our own lives as well. We can open ourselves up to God’s presence with us when we are hurting rather than trying to fix things ourselves. This dependence does not make us weak, but it allows us to grow stronger. This reliance on God allows us to accept our own limitations as well as the limitations of those around us.
What choice will you make? Will you put your trust in God or in your words? For me, I will trust God because I know that I sometimes have nothing to say.
Focus people focus. We often hear that we need to focus, but how many of us consider where are focus is?
A crowd leaves the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU station on the Washington Metro on July 4, 2006. The crowd behaves like a granular fluid, and people, having the same aim, are more confined than they would normally choose to be. This induces frustration and loss of manners, possibly up to putting individuals into jeopardy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sometimes we focus on ourselves. After all, we are very busy people. We are important people. We have things to do, people to see, goals to achieve, and mountains to conquer. If we don’t focus on what we want or need, then we may not finish the list or achieve the goal. While there is a certain amount of focus required for our lives, it may be something else. We may focus on ourselves for different reasons. We may be afraid of looking beyond ourselves. We may feel unsure of whatever is out there beyond us, so we keep our eyes focused only on us. If we pretend that out there is not there, then we do not take any chances with what is beyond us.
Other times we may be concerned that if we expose ourselves to the world, then the world will reject us. The world will tell us that we are less than we thought we were. The world will tell us that we are lacking. The world will reject us. So, we don’t look at the world. We stay focused on us. If we focus on us, then we won’t notice if the world rejects us.
Instead of focusing on ourselves, let’s focus on God. God made each of us in God’s image. We are made in God’s image, and we can look out to others also created in the image of God. If we are focusing on God, then there is no reason to fear rejection. God loves us. God is love. (1 John 4:8). That part of the world that we are focused on is God. God is love. God is not rejection. Also, God assures us that for God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26). If we keep our focus on God, then it is possible to get the list done without become absorbed in ourselves. For today, focus on God. Let your fears be put aside. Let your worries about getting things done be put aside. Focus on God, and God will guide you.
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Recently I spent my weekend with family. On Saturday I was with church family, most I had never met before. We were together for a conference/learning experience. On Sunday I spent time in worship with my local church family. I know most of them. I spend time with them. Then, I was with some of my biological family and thinking about our extended family. My extended family is large. I know some better than others, but we share a lot of traits. It was a family weekend!
Family is many things to us. As I watched, heard about, and thought about these different aspects of family, I started thinking about the family of God. In God’s family there are some we know well, and there are some family members we have never met. Some family members share traits with us, but other family members appear completely different from us. Some families members have unique character traits that we are aware of while other family members surprise us with their behavior and responses.
One of our responsibilities is to love the other members of the family of God. This is easier with some members of the family. It is easier to love the members who are like us, who understand us, who are familiar to us. We are not called just to love those who are easier to love. God calls us to love all the members of the family. This includes those who seem very different, those who are not like us, those who are strangers to us, and those who chose a different way of doing and being.
Being a part of the family is not always easy, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges. Stretch yourself to love those who are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Accept the family members who are different. Love one another as Christ has loved you.
Jesus says: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
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Several years ago I had an encounter with a woman in a parking lot. She was very angry at me. She felt that I was taking way too . . . long to park my mini van. I know this because she told me. It was spring, and we both had our windows down. She was yelling for me to hurry up. She needed for me to park so that she could pass in her vehicle. She was obviously upset.
It was all I could do to grit my teeth together and not respond in a harsh manner. After all, I was doing the best I could! Patience is a virtue. It was a small parking place and a large mini van. I had all sorts of retorts in my mind and on the tip of my tongue. I held back. I was not rude. I was proud of myself for not stooping to her level. I passed judgment on her for her behavior, and I was so self-righteous because I had not responded in kind.
I doubt I am the only person who has ever had this type of encounter. We come away feeling good about us, but we do judge that other person. I believe that God is calling us to go farther. It is not enough to keep silent. It is not enough to keep our judgments internal. We must be loving to this person. I could have been more loving that day. I could have shown compassion for this woman. I could have prayed for her. I could have been more like Jesus and less self-righteous.
We have opportunities to shine the light of Christ into the world. We have the opportunity to be Jesus to the world. Be willing to be Jesus to the world. Be willing to go beyond self-righteousness.