Monthly Archives: February 2014

On RECOGNIZING L O V E

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To begin with,  Webster’s Dictionary  tells us that love is “a deep, tender feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person,”  that it is  “a feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair.”

The modern perspective of love conjures up ,  first of all,  romantic love:  that emotional involvement  of thoughts and feelings between two individuals. In any discussion of this topic,   we must first establish  that love  involves a  a two-way relationship between two people:  a  lov—er – –  that one who chooses of her own volition to offer,  to give this powerful emotion – – and a lov – -ee  – –  the  object of that love,   that one who chooses [or not ]  to accept/to receive  same emotion.   To initiate this action, the  lover chances vulnerability.   She “puts herself out there.”

To offer the love or not, this is the risk the lov–er takes.  To receive the offering of love, or not,  this is the risk the lov–ee takes.  Such risky business is not for the faint of heart!  Still,  February is a time when  one’s “fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love” as Tennyson tells us in “Locksley Hall.”

We must recognize two perspectives on this kind of risky relationship,  one is romantic, the other spiritual.   The spiritual  perspective shall be first.   Expounding on God as the perfect Lov – -er  is where we must begin, for he initiated the  personally designed love relationship that each of us as believers  experiences with him.   Now we have this love union because we chose to receive and return God’s love.  We can know that our declaring we love God makes happy both the lov — er and  the lov – -ee.

A good place to examine such a kind of spiritual relationship  is Psalm 63,  where David expresses his desire and acceptance of, confidence in and gratitude for God’s presence, his provision and his protection.  Here is a man truly in a love relationship  with God.  David not only receives God’s love, but he revels confidently in it.  He makes his boast in it;  he experiences and expects  it continually.  Even though David is presently in a  geographically hard place,   the Wilderness of Judah,  he reminds himself of the faithfulness of his Lover to attend to his well-being. Consider the tone of this passage:

O God, You are my God, earnestly will I seek You; my inner self thirsts for You, my flesh longs and is faint for You, in a dry and weary land where no water is.

So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary to see Your power and Your glory.

Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.

So will I bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.

My whole being shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips

When I remember You upon my bed and meditate on You in the night watches.

For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings will I rejoice.

My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You; Your right hand upholds me.

We can also find information in the Bible to help us recognize romantic love as well.

Think of   the “Love Chapter,”   1 Corinthians 13,  where we find a descriptive definition of love.  Consider this translation from the Amplified Bible:

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.

It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way,  for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]

Also consider a  succinct description of  the  same passage and attribute from MESSAGE Bible:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

8-Love never dies.

FRIEND,  WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Are  you offering/giving these attributes, so far as you are able?

Is the person choosing to receive[or not receive] so far as that person is able?

Is someone offering them to you, as far as s/he is able?

Are you choosing to receive [or not receive]  as far as you are able?

Do you know what you’re looking at?

Both  spiritually and romantically?

Do you  recognize who loves you?

Both  spiritually and romantically?

Whose love are you receiving?

Are you recognizing love in your own life?

Both  spiritually and romantically?

May   L –O-V-E   be more obvious this week on your journey!

On Keeping . . . S I L E N C E . . .

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BLACK HISTORY MONTH is still eminently relevant to the collective psyche of the citizens of this country, the United States of America.  During this season of remembrance, we acknowledge the excruciation of  the  struggles  and imbibe the elixir of the successes of our African American ancestors.   One salient and continual purpose of Black History month is to teach/ remind ourselves of the “coping strength” of our elders:  How they “got over”  their physical and mental impediments  – – slavery, discrimination, hardships, beatings, and other well-documented atrocities.  I submit that prayer was their first line of defense – – the through line to victory from the dark,  brutal  days of Sojourner Truth to the hard-won enlightenment of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We can benefit greatly from focusing on pray-ING, the “coping strength”  that our elders relied upon to sustain them in their noble efforts.  I submit, further, that often  SILENCE is our best usher into prayer.  Maintaining silence in the face of adversity can be  the ultimate demonstration/ utilization of meekness  – – strength under pressure.  In fact, earnest prayer often comes from  pressure, patience and perseverance.  Force yourself to keep silence despite a rash desire to rant; instead let patience have her perfect work in you,  for patience is the very  foundation for your cultivation of the fruit of the Spirit.  This is faith under pressure.  Keep silence until you hear the instructions of the Lord.  The psalmist speaks about this:

I said to myself, I’m going to quit complaining! I’ll keep quiet, especially when the ungodly are around me.   But as I stood there silently the turmoil within me grew to the bursting point. The more I mused, the hotter the fires inside.  Then at last I spoke with God.   Psalm 39:1-3 

Follow the example of the psalmist and other scriptural recommendations:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven

. . . A time to keep silence,  and  a time to speak           Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b  

But the Lord is in His holy temple:

Let all the earth keep silence before him.    Habakkuk 2:20

Out of fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks — Luke 6:45

At this point, the psalmist speaks from the deeply private issue of his heart : his journey through this world  –  his time of existence on earth – –

 Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more.  My life is no longer than my hand! My whole lifetime is but a moment to you. Proud man!  Frail as breath!  A shadow!  And all his busy rushing ends in nothing. He heaps up riches for someone else to spend.   And so, Lord, my only hope is in you.   Save me from being overpowered by my sins, for even fools will mock me then.   Lord, I am speechless before you.  I will not open my mouth to speak one word of complaint, for my punishment is from you.  Psalm 39 vv. 4-13 , NLT

The psalmist ends his prayer feeling comfortably confident that his only hope is in God whose control he can securely trust.

Follow, again, the psalmist’s example:   Feel the prompting that will come  from restraining your  impulsivity while allowing the Holy Spirit to “word your mouth.” Acts 2:4 tells us that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, then He will give us utterance.  In other words, your perseverance in silence will lead you to pray insightfully   to our Heavenly Father  about whatever matter is tugging at your heart.  I urge you to follow the spirit of your encounter with God and pray aloud.

This sincere meditation and prayer came forth out of the fullness of the psalmist’s heart.   What  will  come  from  yours ?

MAY YOU GO FORTH ON YOUR JOURNEY TODAY

IN THE C O P I N G    S T R E N G T H 

OF THIS ENCOUNTER !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A TIME FOR L O V E

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Valentine’s Day! Yes, love is in the air, on the web, definitely in the stores. At this time our cultural awareness impels most of us – – believers and non-believers alike– to embrace the same affinity – -LOVE. By consensus, no one expresses the expansiveness of one person’s love for another human being better than Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Here her rhetorical question and answer:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Anyone who is the object of such well-spoken affection –whoever he/she may be—must be over-flabbergasted to receive it. Wouldn’t you be? And what about the author? From what well of expressive largess does such deep emotion spring? Phenomenal!

Lest we get too absorbed in Elizabeth Browning’s titillating expression of her love for her beloved husband, Robert Browning – –
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Lest we overspend our time , examining our own personal coterie of special friends searching for THE one person upon whom we will dotingly lavish such exalted expression – –

Before we become so engrossed – -this seems to me to be a good time to recall the admonition of Apostle Paul: Don’t be conformed to the world. He reminds us that believers are to think differently. [Romans 12:1-2] Therefore, let us renew our minds about the topic of love. Ever wonder how many times the word LOVE appears in the Bible? Or what Jesus had to say about love? To begin with, notice that he explains how God, himself, set the example for demonstrating love, for Jesus asserts in John 3:16 that God “S O” loved the world that he gave. Here, love motivates God, the lover of mankind, to give his best gift to the loved ones. This
“S O” kind of love: That is deeply profound, too much love for most of us. And it is indiscriminate! Don’t we find it acceptably easier to love some persons more than others? What about those we “feed with a long-handled spoon” because hey have hurt us? And how about those whom we just lump together as “people”? Is he saying – – same degree of love motivation for all persons? What about the “less fortunate”? Isn’t targeted financial beneficence enough for “these people”? Won’t giving of our finances – -especially if we add portions of our time and talents – -to charitable organizations satisfy the world’s standards? Maybe.

According to James, however, believers must fulfill the requirements of the “royal law.” He insists:

8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. [James 2: 8-9]

Believers must satisfy this royal law by loving SO much in the spirit of the love demonstrated by God as referred to above. We must exhibit the “S O ” kind of love to our neighbor. WHO, THEN, IS OUR NEIGHBOR? A neighbor is anyone we discover or who comes into our path and who can benefit from our personal attention and/or largess.

Yes, love is a basic Christian tenet. Jesus even summarizes the entire Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17] as LOVE: love God and love your neighbor. [Matthew 22:36-38] A neighbor is anyone we can love by giving, by sharing.

Jesus teaches this essence in his parable of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-27], where a traveler interrupts his journey to attend to the needs of a severely beaten person whom he encounters. He gives compassion, time, resources and finance to someone in need whom he does not know. In a few words, he loves. Isn’t Jesus teaching here again, that believers must extend/give their love indiscriminately to our neighbors? And that we must love each neighbor with the same kind of love we have for ourselves?

Further, Jesus teaches us about this kind of neighborly sharing in his parable about a feast in which the host sends messengers out into the “neighborhood” to convince unlikely attendees to come enjoy his hospitality. The host prepares to share with others by: sending out save the date notices, making preparations, then when all things were ready, issuing the formal invitation. Consider this host’s determination to share as recorded in Luke 14:22-24:

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

But even more instructive for me concerning sharing is Jesus’ parable about the Rich man and the beggar, Lazarus.

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot , nor can anyone cross over from to us. 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Lazarus was in the rich man’s neighborhood. But the rich man ignored Lazarus. Forget about his inviting Lazarus to dine sufficiently with him , this rich man didn’t even offer Lazarus the CRUMBS from his sumptuous table. Certainly the rich man had enough and to spare. He seems more bloated with insensitivity than with food.

What about us ? Are we equally as insensitive of those in our neighborhood who would be satisfied with the crumbs from OUR tables? I will admit that giving the “S O” kind of love requires the spiritual fortitude to which some of us believers still aspire. However, we can make the intermediate step that will lead us toward that hallowed state. For now, let’s just focus on the table in the parable: the overflow of crumbs. What about the table God has set before each of us? Are there crumbs that a neighbor would gratefully receive? Do we have enough to share? If we have anything at all – –money, time, talent, influence, whatever- – then we have enough to share! We do!

Now the question is for me and for you: What are you doing with YOUR crumbs?

Finally, let’s pray now that the Holy Spirit will guide us to those in our neighborhood to whom we can demonstrate our love by sharing.

My friend, on your journey this week, may you dare to love your neighbor by sharing , even if only the crumbs!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!