Driving out the Demons

Solitude in Me at Deviant Art 1

PHOTO CREDIT: DEVIANT ART

How do you deal with your inner demons? I’m not talking about a Debbie Downer day where it feels like you’re walking under a black cloud all day and nothing goes your way.

No, I’m talking about a real wrestle-with-God, wrestle-with-your-own-soul day of darkness. The sixteenth century Spanish poet St. John of the Cross calls it The Dark night of the Soul. Sometimes it lasts a day or two, a week, perhaps a season. For him, it lasted forty-five years! However long it lasts though, it’s tough. It’s challenging to find even a pinhole of light anywhere, when it seems darkness surrounds you everywhere.

I call it fighting the demons. These demons are like riding out a storm at sea. Sometimes with these tall looming ocean waves, you have no choice but to bob up and down with it, rather than exhaustively fight it and drown.

A Christian writer that I greatly admire, Joyce Meyers, has an acronym for FEAR that has always made sense to me:   FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL

Well, I’d like to piggy-back on her acronym, and add my own: DEMONS

DOUBT (and) EMOTIONS MERGING (with) OUR NARCISSISTIC SIDE

Basically it works like this:

Our feelings and opinions shape our perspective regarding the trials and challenges of our daily life.   You can’t help it. They just do. This is the lens of how we see the world–our filter. Some of us naturally just have a sunnier, brighter disposition and see things from a lighter perspective. Others are a bit more cynical and jaded. We see life through a polarizer lens—everything is a bit darker as if looking out through sunglasses. Yet when light shines through, it is definitely sharper! It provides a nice contrast to the dark around it. Perhaps because sometimes we’re not expecting the light to break through.   Doubts are the demons we get to wrestle with.

Fear and demons go together actually. Both have the ability to paralyze us, rendering us unable to act. Both make us focus on and inflate our sense of self, rather than something so much bigger: God.   Doubt at its core tries to reduce and diminish God to a point of non-existence. The problem with doubt is: It puts the whole burden on us to make sense of it all.

Since our feelings and emotional thoughts drive our decision-making process, we need to remember that a logic based on faith would serve us better at being the DD (designated driver) of our lives.

BUT HOW?

How do you find light (hope and a sense of peace)?

How do you find logic (soundness of mind, an ability to see a situation sensibly and rationally)?

Above all how do you have faith (confidence and assurance that everything is going to turn out okay or at least in a way used for good)?

How do you find light, logic,and faith while you are in that season of darkness, or questioning, or your doubts seem taller than your faith? Feelings and emotions seem to trump all. Logic seems like a first sweetheart that dumped you decades ago. Faith sometimes feels like the imaginary friend you had in childhood, but gave up years ago as you slowly grew up.

I’m no expert. I have no degrees in psychology or theology.   Unless you count all the pedigrees I’ve earned from the School of Hard Knocks.

So how do you drive out those pesky demons? Those dark thoughts that threaten your peace, and sometimes your sanity? Especially when you have too many situations brewing? Or one or two that is just really more than you can bear?

I suppose the simple answer is YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE IT.   For me, I have to remember to believe:

  • Things are not always as they appear and unconditional acceptance of what is: My take on the situation may not be accurate. And even if it is, I have to accept that I do not have the power to control or change it. The only thing I have the power to control or change are: My perspective and my decisions on how I act.
  • There is a God and He is good. Because if not, then life is just a bunch of random events, chaos essentially, and then there is nothing to assign meaning or significance to. Then I am reduced to explaining the pain, cause, and results of these things beyond my control by the limitations of my own thinking, or even more mind-confusing: the expertise of others. This option has never worked in my life; I feel like a rat in a maze, forever frustrated while trying to find a way out. The key is to find the way UP in order to GET OUT.
  • God is in control. I choose to believe that God is not unaware of injustice, cruelty, tragedy, hardship, and the evils of humanity. Nor is He unaware of goodness, giving, kindness, faithfulness, and a love for others. And though I can’t explain the whys of situations on earth, God can. I believe God’s word in Isaiah 55:9: As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. I’m not delusional and tell myself God enjoys giving us hard unfair things to deal with because it’s for the best. No! Rather I choose to look at life’s hard trials and dark emotions as something God will use for my best and His glory. Romans 8:28 All things work together for the good, for those that love him and are called according to His purposes.
  • I can freely choose to love and have faith in God. I’m not forced to submit to a rule-enforcing, legalistic, dictator-type God. No! I get to freely choose to obey and serve and LOVE a grace-giving God that says His love for me is unending, that I’m even worth dying for. I can read His promises knowing His hand is actively involved in my life.   Hebrews 11:1 says that Faith is the CONFIDENCE in what we hope for, and the ASSURANCE of what we do not see.

I guess it comes down to this: As I wrestle, I wrestle WITH FAITH, not against it. I fight my inner demons (negative, hopeless, or unsure thoughts) in partnership with God. I know He does battle on my behalf where I am weak. I do not go onto the battlefield alone. He equips me with confidence because I know and believe in His trustworthiness even when I can’t see God. Even when I can’t feel God’s presence.

So I eat, run, work, sleep, think, parent, write, love, and do WHILE I wrestle and pray, strive and hope, all the while: believing.

So I read God’s word. I question Him. I cry alone with Him sometimes.  I tell Him my doubts and my hopes and my fears and my dreams. I read some more. I pray. I think on it. I STOP thinking on it (that helps a lot!) I wait. All the while,I persevere in my choice to believe and trust.   A funny thing happens:

My faith grows. Slowly, sometimes erratically, but still it grows.

Belief (faith in God) is like running a marathon. You simply take a step. And then one more. You just keep going. It is this endless HOPE that propels you towards the finish line.  And with every step, the demons grow smaller and less powerful and the light and love of God and for God grows closer, and bigger. And on some days the whole sky is not big enough to contain it all.

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Don’t Get Caught By the Eyeball Police!

Photo Credit: Lambert Hulton Archives/guardian.co.uk

      That’s because in our house Little Brother is watching you!  Yes, he roams the kitchen table like a roaring lion waiting and watching for a disobedient dinner patron to commit this most dreadful of sins:

Praying with your eyes OPEN!

If there was a word that described the pace and structure of our house, it would be this:  HAPHAZARD.   So on the nights I cook dinner, if I’m not utterly exhausted, and if I happen to muster up the energy to clear off random acts of homework, unfinished Lego kits, half-sorted piles of junk and legitimate mail, and other miscellaneous objects from our kitchen table in order to have a “family dinner”, then I usually insist that we say a blessing.

It’s only fitting that we should ask God to bless our food for the nourishment of our bodies and oh did I mention the “hands that lovingly prepared it”?  Anyway, my six year old son still prefers the standard:

God is Great

God is Good

Let us thank Him for our food

By his hands we all are fed

Thank you God for daily bread

 

Sometimes I throw in a quick extra request before everyone can shout Amen and start digging in.  I’ll wiggle a sentence or two sideways in that brief interval before the first mouth utters first syllable “A” and mutter something about a world event, “and Lord, please bless our soldiers who are digging in and trying to stay safe from enemy fire” or “please bless the starving children in Africa.”   Or I may say, “Please bless our daughter as she travels out of town this weekend.”     The point is I try.

Prayer is important.  It’s important to me.  But generally my family just wants to eat, if there are actually full plates sitting before them.  The “please bless and save the world” prayers are preferred at bedtime, not meals.    See my son likes the prayers, but what he really likes is to be the enforcer and check the table for any wandering eyeballs that happen to reveal themselves behind lids that should be closed.

“(Sinful person name)’s eyes were open!”  he gleefully proclaims if anyone opens their eye at any point during the prayer before Amen is stated.

He should be a lawyer I think.  He expects obedience to “the law.”  No mercy is granted, and if my son was sheriff, you would be flogged in the public square for not adhering to the Eyes Remain Shut regulation of mealtime prayers.

I sometimes sigh and wish our grace at meals were more full of….well, grace!  Less legalism, more words full of thanksgiving and grace and Godly requests for others.    I want prayer to be our habit of love, not our obligation to following a rule.

I believe that is how Jesus wants us to come to him…with thankful hearts, with prayer and petition making our requests made known.  And then the peace that surpasses human understanding will guard our hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.

That’s the idea anyway.  It’s just that sometimes that’s when the cat jumps up on the table.  The solicitor phone call rings.  Ding Dong goes the doorbell.  The forgotten oven timer finally sounds reminding us that the food I prematurely took out is now ready.  Prayers are started and quickly interrupted.  Eyes open and my son is taking names and calling them out.

We live in a busy world and when did it get so hard to just make a family meal happen?  You know; the table is cleared and set, steaming hot healthy food waits to be ladled onto shiny white plates, iced drinks await to be sipped, napkins are in laps, prayers are said, and Dad is ready to slice the meatloaf.  Sweet children patiently await the food to be served.  Then we’ll all talk about our glorious day and how blessed we are.

OK, scratch the record at this point.  Still as moms we try, and dads too!  Interruption is our standard and peace seems to be our exception, but still we press on with endurance to have a family meal, complete with meaningful prayer and good food that we are indeed thankful for.

As for me and my household?  Well, we all try to keep our eyes shut as long as possible.  Never mind the plank that frequently juts out from them, we just don’t feel like getting a verbal citation from the Eyeball Police.

A QUICK prayer for your family dinner: 

Lord Jesus, please bless the mother’s hands today who tried her darndest to lovingly prepare a family meal after a full day of work and responsibilities, for kids who are not perfectly behaved or quiet, and a husband who doesn’t make it home on time because he works so hard.  Bless the solicitor who calls because they’re just arriving at their second job because times are tight, and the cat who reminds us he’d like to eat too, if it wouldn’t be too much of a bother, and the little Cub Scout who just happened to sell popcorn at an inopportune time to raise money for his troop.  Bless our over-scheduled lives and our sometimes under-nourished souls.  May we remember that even when we don’t give You the praise for our dinner and even more so for our lives, that You are still watching over us, blessing us, and in control.    We thank you for not only the food that nourishes our bodies, but for You who feeds our spirit and nourishes our life.  Help order our time so that we may enjoy eating as a family and with minimal distraction and drama.  And Lord, please keep us safe from the Eyeball Police!  Amen!

PS – I’ve made this meatloaf and it’s really good. Especially the bacon topper! It’s essentially the same as my mother in law’s recipe, but I was too lazy too type it, so I pulled this from About.Com

1950s Meatloaf Recipe:

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef (chuck is best)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork sausage (seasoned or not)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1 to 2 large cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup diced green bell pepper (sweet capsicum)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 package dry onion soup mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste, divided use
  • 2 to 4 strips bacon, cut in half (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine ground beef, pork sausage, eggs, bread crumbs, garlic, sweet onion, bell pepper, oregano, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, onion soup mix, milk, and half of the tomato paste. Gently mix only until combined. Do not overwork the meat or it will become tough. Form into a loaf. Cover with the remaining half can of tomato paste. Weave the bacon strips over the top.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let meatloaf rest 15 minutes before cutting to serve.

Yield: 8 servings

1950’s-style Meatloaf Recipe Photo © 2010 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Trying to Undertand Evil

Photo: Jeremy Papasso – Reuters

Courage is to feel the daily daggers of relentless steel and keep on living.  ~Douglas Malloch

    It’s been a tough week in America.  We are all having to come to grips, again, with another random, senseless act of slaughter and mayhem; this time it’s the Colorado movie shootings.  TV and Blogland is rife with details, and all try to answer the question everyone wants to know:

Why?

     Anyone who attempts to answer the question is going to fall short.  My six year old who is just barely old enough to process such horror is starting to realize the world of reality is far more sinister than the Disneyesque existence he’s experienced the first five or so years.  Somewhere around six he’s learned that people not only die and loss is unavoidable, but sometimes it’s even a result of something completely nonsensical that defies understanding.

     Evil exists.  That is what I told him, when he asked me the one word question, “Why?”   We were at the beach and I turned on the news only for a few moments late Saturday evening.   I had gotten word even while playing in the ocean tide and completely absent from technology.   When it comes to the sensational and dreadful, word travels fast.

But why does evil exist?  And a dozen other reasonable follow up questions that still, when boiled down to the core, come down to why.  I don’t know and it just does seems like such a lame answer.  Yet it’s the only truth I can provide.  This is where our faith is tested.  Many want to know how a good and loving God can allow this to happen.  It seems reasonable to me.

I am not a theologian, just a person who is trying to navigate life and keep believing and trusting in a God who remains in control, even when I am not, and clearly the world isn’t it either.  That’s where the rubber meets the road and your faith is truly tested.  This is where choice actually comes in to play.

It’s essential to choose well in life.  If we begin to doubt God’s goodness, it’s easy to then wear shades of cynicism and doubt.  This causes us to pull back in life, unplug, and lament rather than to seek ways to alleviate suffering or bring about peace.

Events like this are always our reminder to hug our own families, and not get out the door without reminding them of the three little words.  Eternal words our hearts can carry with us as a shield against the evils of this world!  I LOVE YOU!  Say it more.  Say it TO more.  Show it more.  Live it more.  Don’t hold back.  Find those in life who are isolated and intervene with love. 

I don’t know if the shooter James Holmes was adequately loved.  Plenty of people don’t feel adequately loved, and don’t respond the same way.  To me the scariest part is how someone can live a so-called normal life, and then something snaps inside them.  It starts with a one-second decision, but from that point on, they decide to follow and promote a culture of darkness, evil, and death.  It is one thing to acknowledge evil exists; I think that’s why so many people wanted to go see Batman.  We love a superhero who vanquishes evil!  It’s another thing to emulate evil and join it.

I’m sure in the days ahead media will analyze what caused this.  Was it lax gun laws?  Were the fictitious characters Batman or Joker responsible for his delusions?  In the end, it won’t matter.   Evil exists.  We can’t legislate it away; we can only choose which trait we wish to nourish in our own life:

  Good or Evil

      I find it interesting that EVIL spelled backwards is LIVE.  Even more true, is that when we speak and make our choices that value and promote LIFE by valuing others, even those that believe and behave differently than we do, we promote a culture that respects life.   Jesus said, “He that tries to keep his life will lose it, and He that loses his life will save it.”  (Luke 17:33)

The shooter will get his fifteen minutes of notoriety for his despicable act of evil. His potential for living a good and productive life are now completely over.  He will live in that reality much longer than his few moments of fame.

Yet the victims of his carnage and their survivors will have the last word, because of the way they lived.   Those will be the stories that the majority of people will remember:  When superheroes stepped in, when the brave successfully rescued the injured despite personal risk, or when one sacrificed one’s self so that another could live—these people and memories are the people we became inspired by.  They represent the love and hope we cling to.

Aurora and America will move forward.  The families of the victims have no choice now but to live life and see it and appreciate it in all its magnificence, and sometimes heartache, not only for themselves, but they will be required to see with a vision for their loved ones whose lives were cut too short.  In order to most honor their loved ones, they must rise above the evil, and truly live.

I pray the survivors can find ways to enjoy life again after their time of grieving, and even during.  I pray they can eventually not dwell on the manner in which their loved ones died, but in the ways that they lived.  I pray they can live without fear and love without limits.  I especially pray they can find big and small ways to forgive others so that they may live in freedom and not bondage to that which they never had control of anyway.  I pray they will know that God is good and that He loves them.  I hope they feel the prayers of America and the world surrounding them during this devastating time.  I hope every tear of sorrow will be redeemed and ultimately turned into tears of joy.  Above all, I pray they live.   I pray they live long, they choose to do good and love well, and that they live strong.

When we choose love and life intentionally in our own life, the oxygen is removed for evil to thrive and its roots shrivel until they die.  Choose life.  Choose love.

Isaiah 41:13
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

I’m Messed Up; And You’re Totally Wack!

Image

When I was a child, I remember my mom owned a book titled “I’m Ok; You’re Ok”.  OK, blogger’s disclosure here:  I have never read the book.  Sixty seconds of research on Amazon clearly puts me in my place; this is a distinguished writer who not only has the letters “M.D.” stenciled by his name, but has sold copies in the millions!  As if psychoanalyzing the dynamics of our parent/adult/child relationships to one another wasn’t totally gratifying, this doctor ultimately skyrocketed to fame with his book and subsequent movie “Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal”.    Second disclosure:  Glad I didn’t share couch time with him!

Ladies and gentleman, allow me to present myself:  Liz, amateur blogger who has zip, zero, nada credentials other than The School of Hard Knocks and The University of Life’s Experiences.   I am an expert in many subjects though; particularly the ones I deem worthy of arguing over.  Everything else is irrelevant.  Capishe?

Anyway, in my humblest of opinions, I really think most people would find ourselves and could skip years of therapy and countless thousands of dollars if they could just read one of dozens of books I eventually plan to write –barring unforeseen distractions of course!   I will call it:

“I’m Messed Up; And You’re Totally Wack!”

Born just a few decades shy of the new millennium, I, like many of you experienced big life events.  Off the top of my head I remember these events, both external and internal, in a world that started out with time moving slowly. Now time seems to move at the speed of light thanks to the exponential increase in technology and access to world and interpersonal events simultaneously.    This is my truth as I remember it:

  • I turned four in a new house.  This time, it was a two-story home.
  • Our family got a brand new color TV!
  • The next day we saw Neil Armstrong take the first steps on the moon.
  • Our new color TV became my mom’s CNN when the Watergate Hearings started.
  • I turned eight that day.  “As the World Turns” was suspended.    I was covered in poison ivy.
  • President Nixon said he was not a crook.  I remember he was like the Beatles in this regard; he was famous and he also gave America the peace sign.
  • I repeatedly sat in the scorching heat and was bored to death in the back of my mom’s Impala as we waited forever to get gas before it ran out.
  • President Nixon, besieged by scandal, scowly jaws, and a neck that always seemed to turtle into his shoulders, resigned.
  • My cat had kittens and then my dad didn’t come back one day.  Then my parents divorced.  And I had to give all the kittens away.
  • Life was not always sunshine and lollipops.
  • I turned eleven.  On my birthday my dad stopped by.  He tied a red bandana around my eyes, put a cowgirl hat on my head, and gave me some genuine leather cowgirl boots.  We rode in his Porsche convertible 911 Targa to an unknown destination.  When he took off my blindfold, I was standing at a field near a stable. He had bought me a horse—the horse of my dreams!   I was so lucky!
  • I got the consolation prize but my mom got stuck with all the responsibility of raising me during the height of my future rebellion.  We are still very close to this day.
  • Then Elvis fell off his porcelain throne and died on his bathroom floor.  The whole world cried.  Did I?  I can’t remember.
  • I read CS Lewis’s “Alice and Wonderland” and got lost for a few days.  A love affair with words and imagination ensued.
  • I turned 12.  My horse got very sick.  I lay against her belly and cried copious tears on the hard ground when we had to put her to sleep.  I’m not a brave person, but I learned I could face it when the time comes to tell our pets good-bye.
  • I got my period and then over 900 people died in Jonestown, Guyana.  I do remember crying over that when I realized this scene repeated itself hundreds of times:  Parents gave their kids Kool-Aid.  Then they died.   Why?
  • I started high school.  My friend’s brother drove me to school in a 1970 VW Bus with a silver foot shaped gas pedal.  The van always smelled like reefer, but it didn’t bother me because I had a secret crush on him.  We never talked to each other.
  • John Lennon was assassinated.  Then my mom and I celebrated Christmas, just us two and our cats, for the fifth time.
  • Summer came.  I started liking boys more than girls.
  • Second year of high school was in session and John Hinckley Jr. tried to kill President Reagan to impress Jodi Foster.    Then I got my driver’s license.
  • That summer the sandy haired boy with the reefer bus committed suicide.  He left behind a daughter and girlfriend.  He never knew I liked him “more than a chauffeur.”  I was not a good friend to the sister he left behind.  Death makes people who aren’t grown up yet drift apart.  I wish I could tell her I’m sorry now.
  • Next I dated someone who was immature and sometimes cruel.  I got smart quick.  I dumped him fast.
  • I met my second boyfriend.
  • I worked all through high school.  Then I graduated.
  • A week later I moved out into a brand new mobile home with my boyfriend.  It hurt my mom because I didn’t give her any warning.
  • After four years I married that second boyfriend.  We had ups and downs, and stayed busy with three amazing kids who did every activity under the sun.  We traveled, we camped, we loved, we lost, and we loved again.  The cycle of life’s events big and small, internal and external happened, all over again.  Only this time it seemed to go by even faster, and with more of us.  We have a mostly good life today.  Some say blessed; I do.

Why?

It’s because we’ve both learned how to graciously—well, on most days, accept one another and those around us in the world as they truly are.  That is, “I’m Messed Up; And You’re Totally Wack!”

We both had childhoods that were indeed mostly happy, full of play, and learning, friends and family.  Yet from time to time, we took turns getting suddenly thrown out of “Happyville”.  Leaving Happyville, was always followed up by temporary internments in the tenement slum housing known as “Dysfunction City”.

We all went through this.    Yes, we children of the Age of Aquarius, this new dawn of enlightenment and reason, all had to endure these universal hardships of life:

Hurt.  Sadness.  Disappointment.  Unfairness.  Events beyond our control.

But here’s the good news:   The bad didn’t last.  It never does!  As God wove the threads of our life’s tapestry, these hard things became the torn threads that gave our life, our tapestry, its character and its absolute richness.    The master weaver is still at work.

We live and we dream and the world just keeps on turning.   God is in control.  And we’re all going to be okay.  Mostly.

And we know that in all things,  God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

ImageLiz and Her Horse Patches – 1976

LMFAO! (Live My Faith; Accept Others!)

The other day I was having a lovely lunch with my young son and mother.   Though my mom is an extremely youthful octogenarian, she amused me when she asked, “Liz, tell me something, what does LMFAO mean when people comment with that on their Facebook page?”  Oh boy!  Not one who enjoys cursing in front of my mom, I told her what the acronym’s letters stood for and assured her that I never use it with the middle letter attached when someone tells me something funny.

Long after I answered her question, I was still thinking about what it could stand for.  You see, in the deep cranial cavities of Liz Logic, I am kind of an acronym aficionado, if there is such a thing.  When I see unfamiliar acronyms, I love to see if I can figure out what they stand for based on context of a website or article etc.

At church, we have sermon notes, with blanks left out for key words that will be divulged during the sermon.  Pastor, I’m one step ahead of you; I got this one I always think to myself.  I like to think I know my bible well enough, that I can guess the key words before he teaches us with an amazing sermon.  And you guessed it, I often get it wrong.    I see an L__________ (fill in the blank) and go ahead and put LOVE!   Only to find out, the answer was Live!

It’s a mental game I play with myself, seeing if I can decipher answers before sitting still long enough to receive the answers from someone who just may possibly know more than I do.

Get to the point Liz!  OK, here’s the thing.  So I was pondering a better answer I could have given my mom for the off-colored acronym for a response to a humorous comment one makes on Facebook.   EUREKA!  It just came to me, like this, in a Liz-Flash of inspiration.

Live My Faith; Accept Others

It seems like the last year of my life has been one of the best years I’ve ever had.  But it’s not because every situation in my life is hunky dory all the time.  Far from it!    I don’t know if it’s because the sands of the hour glass are heavier on the bottom side of my life, or God has just graced me with more wisdom, but this message just keeps ringing true these days–repeatedly!

Here’s why:  I have been involved in a neighborhood bible study group with the loveliest friends I have ever known for the last fifteen years.  Some of us leave for a season and come back; some simply move on to other things in life, but the core friendships remain the same.  We are a platoon of moms, wives, daughters, sisters, and friends and we have seen it all and been through it all in our own lives.  We’ve been through multiple deaths, births, and struggles with our families and deep within ourselves.  We’ve laughed and cried together all these years and probably wouldn’t have had the strength to face some of the things we faced, had it not been for one another.    Sometimes we look back, and think, how in the world did we even survive that?    Only one answer rings true, but for God.

Something one dear friend said, especially grabbed me last night.  She said, “You know the answer in life is just so simple.”  Impossible at times to execute, but so simple to understand:

“Just love one another”

 If we all could just truly love one another, and accept one another, we wouldn’t be at war within our families, or within the world, and even within ourselves.  You don’t think you’re at war within yourself?  Think again.  Do you ever participate in self-condemnation?  I’m so fat or I’m so stupid?   Do you ever participate in pride, or judging others?

See, this truth is the heart of our faith–to just love one another!   Where do you feel the most free in life?  It’s probably in the friendships and relationships where you feel totally accepted in life, despite what they know about you, or your quirks, or your flaws, or your areas that you are working on.

We’ve learned some other things in life too.  It’s not enough to just love each other in our little “holy huddle.”  There is a hurting world outside just beyond the smell of our fresh coffee and raucous laughter.    We know!  That’s the world we always go back to when our time together is up.

Our personalities, political persuasions, professional choices, and how we school and parent our children vary vastly.   Yet we are in agreement on this bedrock principal.  Just love!  We don’t have to beat the others in our family or in the world with bible verses.  It’s not our position to save, but our privilege to share.  We can share our testimonies and our faith as we understand it if asked, but ultimately it is our kindness or love (or sadly, lack of) that tells the truth of who we claim to be.

Sometimes I personally feel like I’m the worst as far as being an effective ambassador or servant of Christ.  I’m so full of inconsistencies!  I’m full of pride sometimes!  I still sin, not only as defined in the bible, but as that voice in my head that says this doesn’t honor God.   Yes, I struggle!    I’m real!    I think we’ve all taken turns passing the self-condemnation ball around but I also know that this is a tactic from an enemy who wishes to see us destroy ourselves, and NOT the wrath of an angry God.

At the end of the day I know God is a mighty big God.  He has a sense of humor and strength that far surpasses mine.  After all He’s God!  He knows my obsessions, my fears, my tears, and my confessions!  (Whoa…that rhyme just tumbled out!).  But He does!  He probably laughs and says, “There, there my precious child.  You’re going to be okay.  I’ve got it covered.  I know ALL about this, but I love you anyway.  That situation that’s making you nuts or you’re totally afraid of?  It’s all going to be ok.  Trust me.  Be patient.  Have faith.  Don’t be angry at others; just love.  Yes, grow in love.”

I’m still growing up.  But the love comes easier these days.  I don’t have to stay confined to this group or that group of people.  I don’t have to put people in a category.   It’d be better if I ignore any splinters in my neighbor’s eye, considering I have enough planks in my eye to build a deck, quite possibly on a ship.

Though I still get mad, and frustrated, and lose it sometimes, I’m learning I have a place to return.    It’s the heart of our creator.  Proverbs 4:23 teaches us “Guard your heart; for it is the wellspring of life” has never been truer than now.    I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want us to build a fortress around it, as to not contaminate it, but to build bridges from it and let the love spill out into the world.  I think this verse is misunderstood as to not let anything corrupt us.  This is true, but I think it also means to not fear those that believe differently, those who have a different opinion of truth.    I think of it as guarding your heart from falling prey to fear, cynicism, judgment, condemnation, or categorizing.  Just breathe life-affirming love into others.  Let God worry about the rest.

Is our faith so fragile, we could lose it by loving those that are different?  I hope not.  That’s not what Jesus did and it’s not what I want to do either.  Though I’ve certainly been guilty of that, it’s not who I am anymore—at least I’m trying not to be that person!

For me, Jesus was perfect and I’m so not, and honestly neither has anyone who speaks in His name for the last two thousand years or so.   I think He would be a lot more popular if the world could see more love from those that claim to follow Him.

Love is not to be contained, or given to only those we deem lovely or loveable.  It is not reserved for the deserving, or folks like us.  It’s so much more than a cliché too; it’s actually a commandment…to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, but don’t forget the second part—to love our neighbor as our self!

The world and its inhabitants have always and will always need more love and peace.  Just start with you.  Start now.  Where is the love?