Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Love Isn't. . .

Years ago, back when I still acquired my daily dose of news from a newspaper, I always finished up by turning to the comic page looking for the touching, single frame cartoon titled “Love Is...” by artist Kim Casali.  It featured two cherub-like characters sketched in scenarios that represented a simplistic definition of what love is. “Love is...your anchor” “Love is...when it’s just great being together” “Love is...sharing the same dream”. The sweet little couple expressed the never ending positive views of love and over time “Love is...” became an industry and familiar iconic phrase in modern lexicon. 

Love is... (fill in the blank).

In the English language the word “love” is more or less generic and used to cover all manner of ways for one to express devotion or affection for another unlike in the Greek which distinguishes love in several senses depending on the way in which the word is used. For example, ancient Greek has the words philia, or brotherly love, eros, physical love, agape, idealistic love, and storge, for child/parent love. 

Christians believe that to love God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself are the two most important kinds of love in life. The Apostle Paul glorified love as the most important virtue of all. Describing love in the famous poem in 1 Corinthians, he wrote, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres."

The short version of first Corinthians 13:4-8, as used frequently in wedding ceremonies, lists fifteen attributes of love, seven of which speaks of what love is and does. The remaining eight items addresses things that love isn’t. For example, love is not jealous, envious or possessive.

In my life I have had more than enough experience with the complex and various manifestations of love that has taught me how to discern when love is genuine, whether  it is agape, philos, eros, or storge, and when it is something else masquerading as love. Unfortunately, because love taps into emotions instead of intellect, love is easy to imitate. Love can often be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a dark devourer dressed in artificial light. Synthetic love is enticing and speaks glibly, making promises it rarely keeps or, even worse, enslaves with guilt because of promises endowed. In comparison, real love does more and speaks less. 

Of all the things that love is, there are as many attributes that love, real love, is not.  Most importantly, among these, love does not loudly demand loyalty, rather it chooses to earn devotion gently, quietly. Sometimes, because of circumstances and affiliations, one might find it easier to capitulate to the dictates of imitation love, if only to silence the din. That’s when real love shows its true character by remaining even more silent. That’s when real love waits patiently, never drawing attention to itself, never issuing ultimatums or imposing its own will. For this reason real love is often taken for granted and/or ignored. It is the first great failing of humans, to misinterpret what love really is. The second is assuming that real love never needs anything in return. But even love eventually needs affirmation of love and loyalty back, needs reciprocating, because though real love is indeed patient... it isn’t blind. 

Love is...often better revealed in what love isn’t.

The beginning of a brand new year is the best time to figure out and stand up for real love. 

For Christ,

(Rev. 2:1) To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, he that walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks:  (2:2) I know thy works, and thy toil and patience, and that thou canst not bear evil men, and didst try them that call themselves apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false;  (2:3) and thou hast patience and didst bear for my name's sake, and hast not grown weary.  (2:4) But I have [this] against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love.  (2:5) Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013


As the year wraps up, it’s a common practice to reflect on the previous twelve months and count blessings, failures, successes and, above all, what was learned, if anything. At least I do. I’ve been measuring my progress in yearly increments since childhood. Some years I proudly note strides, other years I barely manage to claim having maintained status quo. All in all, in this winding down stage, I am grateful for anything and everything, including status quo. Mostly I live in my own little world anyway, but they know me here so it’s okay. Whatever I do, or don’t do, accomplish or not, isn’t earth-changing and isn’t the thing that everything else is hinged upon, which is not a small comfort, I admit.

This year, however, I’m more focused on something other than my own report; I’ve been thinking about the impact of silence and when it is a good thing as well as when it is bad.

Silence is a noun but it can also be a powerful verb. In the doing it can often accomplish ten-fold more than the noise of disingenuous words. So, silence used properly can shut down contentious debates and quickly remove the vehicle for nefarious lying. Who hasn’t resorted to silence on occasion to put an end to conflict? When one is hiding from a threat, one instinctively goes silent and thus silence becomes a defense mechanism. Sometimes silence is often the only possible equalizer in a situation where there can never be balance or consensus. Faced with knowing that what one has to say has no chance of being heard, one is effectively muted for lack of fuel to continue.

I can recall several occasions, and for different reasons, that I have utilized silence as a way to declare there was nothing left to say. In each case I will never know whether or not my silence caused angst or frustration or any kind of detriment though I can assume it did because the absence of sound usually leaves a void of unanswered questions on both ends. Life is rarely tidy and sometimes things must simply hang out unfinished, unresolved and left to ongoing speculation, if for nothing else, in the interest of prudence. Sometimes this kind of non-ending is merited because it was inevitable anyway, other times it’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when it wasn’t expected or foreseen. It just happens, like a blow from behind, and then...nothing, no reason, no explanation. 

There have been times when I elected to go silent to stop myself from saying something I instinctively knew I might regret someday; a classic example of silence being golden. 

Many times I have been able to walk away from strife of one kind or another by choosing to shut up so I can easily sympathize with someone else who takes that road. And this is why I am unable to judge another for doing so; I get it, completely. But there is a subtle difference between acquiescing to keep the peace, and knuckling under to sinister intentions or influence. That is when silence, coerced in one way or another, is most assuredly not gold. 

The decision to speak or not speak is always a painful judgment call. There are times when words left unspoken are the very ones that should have been said even though breaking the silence risks causing discord. Wars have be launched on less. Stephen, the Apostle, found out the dire consequences of choosing to speak over remaining silent. But what he said needed saying and though he paid the ultimate price for it, he looked up to glimpse his reward for having said it.

Personally, and keeping it real, I’ve never experienced a reconciliation once silence has fully closed a door, whether I closed it or it was closed on me. But I am experienced enough to realize and accept that, even though silence most definitely is better than witless yammering, a day is rapidly approaching, if not already here, when those who choose silence for the wrong reasons, find out that while a thing said cannot be unsaid, a thing that ought to be said does far more damage in all directions when it is silenced.

What I learned in 2013 about silence is that it works both ways, for good and for bad.  Knowing the difference is the blessing. 

For Christ,

(Acts 7:57) But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord;  (7:58) and they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.  (7:59) And they stoned Stephen, calling upon [the Lord], and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.  (7:60) And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

And The Day Came

On the last day of school, in June, 1965, I stood in the parking lot and paused to look back at the buildings that had been the central focus of my life for the previous four years and marveled. It was almost too much to absorb–I was graduating. It was over. All the fun, the angst, the work, the studying, homework, tests, the daily structure, routine. Done. The day that I had only imagined for most of my life what it would feel like had finally come. 

In the decades since, I’ve had numerous similarly epiphanic days, wedding day, childbirth, grandchildren birth, death of a parent, each and all moments noted with a sober recognition of how a thing hoped for, dreaded, or otherwise anticipated, finally does happen, no matter how long it seemed to take in the coming. 

Twenty-eight centuries ago, God’s prophet, Isaiah, proclaimed a child would be born who would change everything. Isaiah didn’t say when this miracle would occur, just that it would. Eight centuries after Isaiah’s prediction, Jesus was indeed born in a most unexpected way and place in Bethlehem. In the lengthy time span from the original prophesy to the ultimate fulfillment, there was plenty of speculation about how and when the day would unfold. Over time, assumptions distorted the great Jewish hope from birth of a savior to expectation of a warrior deliverer. Some had all but forgotten about the promise altogether. Not surprisingly, when the day did come, many did not recognize the meek and non-warrior like personage of Jesus. If it had not been for some selective angel visits to shepherds and a dedicated group of wise men, the birth of Emmanuel, God With Us, might have gone completely unnoticed. And surely this was by Divine design. 

The thing about time is that God owns it and He is therefore not bound by our clocks and calendars so He does things in His way and in His time, to our dismay. But, without a doubt, He does keep His promises. Isaiah counted on the birth of the Prince of Peace, though he didn’t live to see Him, but because he trusted implicitly that God does keep promises. 

Two thousand years hence, Christians still celebrate the Promise that Jesus will return. Those who like to point out that it isn’t going to happen because it has taken too long just don’t understand about God’s timing, God’s expectations of patience from His faithful and God’s undeniable reliability. Like the Jews before us, we anticipate the Day without giving up because we know He is faithful. He will come, as promised. It’s scheduled. Not even Jesus could say the hour or the day, only our Father in Heaven has that privileged information. 

But one day, just when many have forgotten or given up, when the concept of Christ’s return has become a vague memory, He will keep the appointment and the long awaited Day will happen. 

And we will marvel.

Merry Christmas
(not happy holidays or season’s greetings)

For Him,

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

In The Bleak Mid-Winter

In the bleak mid-winter, the frosty wind did moan
The earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone
Snow had fallen softly, snow on snow on snow
In the bleak mid-winter, oh so long ago

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him nor the earth sustain
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign
In the bleak mid-winter a stable place sufficed

For the Lord almighty, Jesus Christ
Oh, what can I give Him, woeful as I am
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb
If I were a wise man, oh, I would do my part

Yet, what can I give Him 
I will give my heart
Oh, what can I give Him 
I will give my heart 

In the timeline of modern mankind, regardless how one perceives the when, how and why homo sapiens came into existence, there are repeating patterns of periods of humankind rising to a state of relative excellence and then subsequently plummeting into abject misery, which seems to be fallen man’s natural state. 

Keeping it real, there has never been a Utopian time on earth, nor can there be as devised by man. Nevertheless, there have been eras when peace was more prevalent than strife, creative human endeavors–art, literature,  music–impacted civilization positively instead of negatively, and psychotic behavior, deemed unacceptable, was a more manageable social ill. 

In these short periods of civilized growth, reason, logic and innovation flourished. The hallmarks of mankind on the ascent include, but are not limited to, the attributes of, honesty, honor/personal integrity, benevolence, selflessness, and a humble recognition of a fundamental moral law as set in place by a divine higher authority.  

Conversely, on the descent, mankind firstly and always adamantly rejects all notion of divine authority and moral law, readily embraces lies, lying, and liars as the norm and therefore becomes, by choice, untrustworthy, self-centered, and given over to crass, simple-minded language and lewd visual/auditory stimulus, abandoning any and all things time-proven, in a mindless pursuit to satisfy addictions to and insatiable hungers for counter-productive things that lead ultimately to self-destruction. 

In a declining era, any possibility of great uplifting thinking, common sense, and pursuit of true spiritual righteousness must be abandoned and dismissed as archaic, out of date, and useless in order to further the cause of a society based on self-worship. In the last stages, these qualities often must be made illegal. 

This is not new; it is an ancient pattern and the Bible chronicles this continuing process, from way back when to right now, the rising up and falling down, and the subsequent crying out for the very mercy so easily having been dismissed as myth and superstition. The woefully addicted shake their fists and shout, “Where is God?” when they finally hit bottom, analogous to children who disobey in self-assured insubordination only to instantly wail for help when things go awry, illusions dissolve, and life becomes untenably real.

In His unfathomable mercy, God, having grown tired of watching the reruns, gave us a way out of this unfortunate accumulatively destructive pattern. He gave us a new, indestructible temple, not made with hands, and a balanced, sustaining way of life. Not a new religion, not an updated, revised, more tolerant moral law. But a Divinely Ordered, Unimpeachable Standard that is not bound to the vulnerabilities and whims of this doomed planet. 

As the bleak mid-winter of decimated morals and self-idolization implodes into itself, as it must, know there is a warm safe place, where in to hide from the chaos, that He established for those who are willing to enter. But also know that the call, once and always a gentle offer to, “Come ye out” is now being effectively silenced by the roar of the beast. To hear it, your ears must be fully open. To obey it, you must be willing to be an unacceptable, rejected oddball. 

To trust it, you must completely let go of your own understanding and give Him your heart, fearlessly.

For Christ,


“Merry Christmas!” She said, and then she winked, as they hauled her off to a reeducation camp. No one ever saw her again but some never forgot her smile. It wasn’t so much defiant as it was peaceful, as though she was assured completely how it all would end–no matter what they wanted everyone to believe.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Taking a Break

Sometimes I have so much to say, I work on drafts of two or three posts simultaneously. It's as though everything is mixed together in the bottom of a long-necked bottle and fighting to get out the narrow passage. I often struggle with hanging it up and quitting because, in fact, it matters very little what I think, so why say it? This is where I am today so I conclude that perhaps I need a break, need to get quiet, ask some questions, get some clarity.

In the meantime, I'll leave this up for the joy of it.

Uniquely Performed 'Angels We Have Heard On High' Will Astound You from djbeats on GodTube.

For Christ,

(Luke 2:8) And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.  (2:9) And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  (2:10) And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people:  (2:11) for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.