Tag Archives: love

4th Sunday after the Epiphany, 2016

4th Sunday after the Epiphany, year C, 2016 (preached 1/31/16)

first reading:  Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 71:1-6

second reading:  1 Corinthians 13:1-13

gospel reading:  Luke 4:21-30


Our second reading for today is so famous that if we’re not careful we could daydream right through it.

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The LOVE chapter.  It’s become a standard reading at weddings as counsel on how spouses should treat one another.

But St. Paul wasn’t writing this “love chapter” to newlywed couples.  He was writing this to a broken community – a community that was broken, fighting, fractured.  The Corinthians were in trouble.  Paul was telling them how to work through their disagreements and jostling for power so they didn’t destroy themselves.

This reading isn’t about romantic love at all.  It’s about a state of being.  It’s about how we live our lives. This kind of love isn’t directed at an individual, it’s something we have in ourselves that flows out of us. For while I’ve said over and over that “love” is a verb, “love” is also a quality that we exude.

And love isn’t something we can manufacture ourselves.  When the pastor preached at my wedding, (not on this reading – we chose something different), he was clear to tell my husband and I that any kind of love we think we can “make” is a pitiful kind of love.

REAL love doesn’t come from us at all, it only flows through us to others.  Real love comes from God.  

  • In 1 John 4:7 we read, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
  • The gospel of John tells us the reason Jesus was born among us was love.  “For God so loved the world…”
  • And Jesus gives us the new command to carry this love that comes from God through him – to one another.  “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must also love one another” (John 13:34).

And not only that, but this – Jesus also calls us to love our enemies!  We like to forget this inconvenient teaching, but it’s part of the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:44,46 – “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… For if you love those who lo e you what reward to you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”  The Corinthians were certainly dealing with enemies outside of, and even within, their community.

So, like I said, this chapter has very little to do with romantic love, and everything to do with how we conduct ourselves – our demeanor, our personality.  It is meant for each one of us as believers.  St. Paul wrote this for you and me and all who follow Jesus.  It speaks the truth about how we are to BE in the world as believers, and part of that is how we treat one another.

And St. Paul is wise here, because he not only tells us what love looks like, he tells us what love does NOT look like. First, what love IS:  it is

  1. patient,
  2. kind,
  3. rejoicing in truth
  4. bears,
  5. believes,
  6. hopes, and
  7. endures all things.
  8. It is also eternal because it “never ends.”

What love is NOT:  it is not

  1. envious
  2. boastful,
  3. arrogant,
  4. rude,
  5. insistent,
  6. irritable,
  7. resentful,
  8. or rejoicing in wrongdoing.

This is hard work.  Love is hard work.  It is a commitment that goes beyond hugs and kisses, candy hearts and Hallmark cards.

  • Try being patient with a three year old whose new mantra is “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy…”
  • Try not being irritable when you’ve had a horrible night’s sleep and a full day of things to do ahead of you.
  • Try not being envious of your neighbor as they fly off on their next vacation while you’re just trying to pay your monthly bills.
  • Try being kind when you have to spend the next two hours with someone who grates on your last nerve.

THIS is what St. Paul is talking about.  This is how you and I are called to live and conduct ourselves with our loved ones and NOT loved ones.

Actually it’s impossible.  Jesus is the ideal for 1 Corinthians 13, you and I are just poor imitations.  It’s a perfect example of Lutheran theology’s “saint and sinner.”  We try, we fail, we try again, we fail, we try again, and so on and so on – with our only fuel for going on being God’s forgiveness – God’s love.

So why love?  Why work so hard to let the love that is in us flow out?  Why try at something when we know we’ll never be perfect at it?  Because, although we know we’ll never love perfectly, love gives our lives meaning, purpose and shape.  It DEFINES us.

It defines us because love is the eternal thing that binds us to God and one another.

All the trappings with which we surround ourselves, even the gifts that God has given us to serve – these are only temporary comforts, successes and talents.

St. Paul opens and closes this chapter with reminding us that our earthly power and success and talent are just just noisy and clumsy without love, and that one day all those things will pass away, just like us. All our earthly gifts will end.  Love will not.  It is only love that carries on – the love from God through Jesus to you and me, and from you and me to each other.

So why love?  Because there is really no other way for us to BE.

It’s work, and it’s painful sometimes – to love does mean to grieve – but the alternative is living death.

Creation came from love, Jesus came from love – Jesus IS love – and Jesus calls us to love.  It’s as simple, and as complicated, as that.

Love is the hardest, but as St. Paul wrote, it’s also the “greatest.”

AMEN.

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THE most important thing you can do on Valentine’s Day

THE most important thing you can do on Valentine’s Day is…

LOVE YOURSELF

Honestly.  And I’m not channeling Whitney Houston (I actually don’t like the song “The Greatest Love of All” – BAD theology, but that’s another post).

This day has been blown SO out of proportion, that for many it’s become a nightmare.  My husband and I really don’t celebrate – for us, our anniversary is our special day to demonstrate in special ways our love for one another.

But there are many who are alone, and still others who are lonely (not all who are alone are lonely, and there are many people who NOT alone who are desperately lonely).  I’ve been in both situations.

When I was alone AND lonely, I was also depressed.  I realized that I wouldn’t be good in a relationship or HAVE a good relationship until I did the hard work on MYSELF so that I could be happy regardless of my relationship status.  It wasn’t until I decided that I’d be happy alone for the rest of my life, that I met the man who would become my husband.  It wasn’t until I didn’t want a relationship that I found one.

Love yourself.  It’s easier said than done, I know.  Many times in our lives we have to work very HARD to love ourselves.  But if we don’t value ourselves as individuals – alone, without anyone else’s judgments – then we may find ourselves looking to others for our self-worth, putting too much value in what others think about us, feeling somehow “less-than” if we’re not attached.

stock-illustration-7706805-heart-of-heartsSo if there is no one “out there” for you to share a Valentine with – then give one to yourself!  You deserve it!  Or accept this one from me.  →

You are unique, special, precious and irreplaceable!  And I believe that you are a beautiful child of God, loved beyond all measure by the One who created you.

So Happy Valentine’s Day.  You amazing person.

Love,

Lisa

one of THESE conversations

Now that my oldest daughter is in high school she has to be out of the house earlier than her siblings.  I drive her to school first, then wait for my autistic daughter’s bus to pick her up, then I go out again and drive my son.  It’s a busy morning.  But one of the things I enjoy about this schedule is the 10 minute ride to school with my son.  It’s just the two of us now.  Sometimes the ride is quiet,  other times we have very interesting conversations and I get a glimpse into how he sees the world.

This morning, he was asking questions about death.  Since both my husband and I are pastors, death is not an unusual topic.  My children have known quite a few people who have died in the church, and we’ve had people in our immediate family who have died and they’ve been to funerals.

But this morning’s conversation disturbed me.  It wasn’t his wanting to talk about it, it was the specificity of his questions, his focus, and my stumbling over answers that were out of my comfort zone with an eight year old boy.  He asked me, “Do you miss your dad?” (My father died before my children were born.  If you’ve spent any time reading this blog you know my father was not the nicest person, in fact could be downright mean.  When he died, my overwhelming emotion was relief, not grief.)

“Do you miss your dad?”

After weighing (in about 5 seconds) whether I should be honest or lie, I decided to take the honest path.  I was also awake enough to remember who I was with and refrained from saying, “hell no!” but at that moment I also realized that I hadn’t really started to share my father/daughter relationship with my son yet.  While I try to be honest, I also try to be age-appropriate, and talking about my fearsome alcoholic father hasn’t felt right with my son yet.  All of this thinking in the span of about five seconds while driving the car!  What ended up coming out of my mouth was, “No, not really.” It was the best I could do.  But I didn’t realize the minefield I had stepped into, and wasn’t prepared for his shock and follow-up questions.  I should’ve been, but again, it was morning, pre-coffee, while driving…  Why do our kids always pick the most inopportune times to have these kinds of conversations!?

“Why don’t you miss your dad?”  “Didn’t you love your dad?”  How I wished my son hadn’t been paying such close attention, that it was just passing conversation.  Both his, and my, sense of timing for this question/answer conversation were not very good.  How could I explain the complexity of my feelings about my father in an age appropriate way, with only five minutes left in the car?

So I lied a little.  I left a bunch of stuff out.  I kept it simple.  “Well, your grandpa worked a lot, and he didn’t play with Uncle L and I the way daddy plays with you.”  “I didn’t spend a lot of time with him, so I don’t miss him.”    Silence.  Then he asked it again, the most complex question of all, “Didn’t you love your dad?”  Kids have the uncanny ability to get right to the point.  No sugar-coating, no social niceties, no polite distancing.  Damn.  The best answer I could give him in the short amount of time we had left in the car, and considering his age, was, “Yes, I loved my father.”

The truth?  I did.  In a weird kind of way.  It’s not the kind of longing and missing love I have for my father-in-law, whom I adored.  It’s not love made up of happy memories and shared experiences.  It’s not love that comes from admiration or imparted wisdom.  What I think is that I love the man my father could have been, had he been able to confront his demons instead of letting them rule him.

My son seemed satisfied to end the conversation there, so I let him.  Really, I breathed a huge sigh of relief it was over.  Until the next time – and there’s always a next time.  These kinds of conversations always pop up when you least expect them.

My love…

The other day after posting about my recent vacation, a twitter friend responded that I should write something “good” about my husband for a change.  This friend said I had the “he irritates me” thing covered.  Really?  Is that the impression I give all of you about the totality of my feelings for a man I’ve been with for 20 years?  OUCH.

Perhaps it’s because I tend to write when I’m upset or angry or needing to vent or pondering my life’s truths.  Maybe it’s because I haven’t written much about him aside from a comment here or there since he’s very private and doesn’t like me sharing too many details of himself.  I also write about things I’m still trying to process, like motherhood, or autism, or faith – not that I have marriage all figured out BELIEVE ME but since writing about marital “stuff” might mean sharing things about him (which he doesn’t like), I’ve been staying away from that topic pretty much.

So, let’s call this post a tribute to my wonderful, loving, sensitive, amazing, handsome hard working hubby!

We met when I was beginning to come out of a bad depressive fog.  After my divorce I went through some serious soul-searching, one clumsy attempt at a relationship, and another relationship that everyone around me agreed had been a bad idea.  This was the totality of my romantic involvement in the FOUR years since my divorce – one almost boyfriend, and one not-so-good boyfriend.  I had finally gotten to the point in my life, thanks to a lot of therapy, where I felt that if I never found “that special someone,” if I never got married again, I would be ok.  I was starting to like myself.  I was content to be alone.  Then HE came along.

I was determined to take it slow, after all I wasn’t even looking for a relationship.  But pretty soon it was clear that this relationship was more than casual.  It felt BIG.  Very BIG.  And we were tested.  I should say, HE was tested.  I came with baggage.  I had been divorced.  I grew up in an abusive home.  I was on medication and in therapy.  And I was well on the way to being stalked, which eventually became scary for the both of us (I wrote about that here if you’re interested).  Being with me was no walk in the park.  But his patience and desire to learn about my experiences and be supportive knew no bounds.  What man reads a book his girlfriend’s therapist recommends to her, so he can learn and understand what his girlfriend is going through?  A wonderful man, that’s who.

That was our beginning.  And for 20 years we have been with each other through thick and thin.  I’m not saying we haven’t hit bumps in the road.  I’m not saying our relationship is perfect (there is NO such thing).  I’m not saying we never irritate each other (you hear my side of things, but Lord knows I irritate him too!).  What I am saying is that we have a love that recognizes the faults in each other, even speaks them – a love that exists WITH the faults.  Are there things I wish I could change about him?  Heck yes.  Are there things he wishes he could change about me?  Oh, most certainly.  But we DON’T try to change each other, to make the other into an image that we would create for them, except when health or safety is involved (an example of this was a few years ago when I was in another major depression and he said “Enough. You need to find a doctor and get help.”).  We also don’t feel compelled to do everything together.  I don’t like sailing.  He doesn’t like social media.  Yet he is free to go sailing, and I am free to enjoy my internet friends.  He has never tried to force sailing on me, and I would never force Facebook or Twitter or this blog on him.  He does his thing and I do mine, and we’re ok with that.

On our last day at the beach we had to situate ourselves next to a young couple (it was the only spot big enough for all of us that was near the lifeguards and close to the water –  two non-negotiables for me at the beach).  She tenderly rubbed sunscreen on his back, and he longingly moved hair away from her face.  They giggled and stroked one another and held hands. For a few brief moments I wished hub and I were back in that place again.  But I quickly snapped back to reality.  It’s nice to have the passion that comes with youth and a new relationship, but I like the place hub and I are in SO much better.  The shared history, the comfort of knowing (for the most part) what the other is thinking or feeling, the security of knowing each other’s flaws and shortcomings and loving one another in spite of them, and sometimes because of them.  My love has seen my worst and he is still around.  Even after birthing three children and how that’s “changed” my body, he looks at me and still wants me.  He thinks those changes are wonderful.  He thinks I’m beautiful, even when I don’t believe it myself.  And as we age together he is still one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen.

So he may be irritating.  He might annoy the heck out of me sometimes.  We still have fights – sometimes awful fights.  Thankfully though, our fights are few and far between because mostly we are able to talk things out.  He is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, loyal to a fault.  He is affectionate, caring, passionate, always worried about those he loves, and strives to find the best in people.  I am so grateful he is in my life.

IMG_2432We’ve been together for 20 years, and I pray another 20+ years more.

 

Parenting as Torture

My teenage daughter wrote this on my facebook wall for Mother’s Day:

“Happy Mother’s Day!! You are one of my best friends, you understand me more than any other person on this planet and throughout everything you’ve been there for me. No matter what happened you’ve always pulled me through and gave me love and you are the best mother I could ever ask for.”

Damn straight.  Just kidding.

Before you go thinking I’m the best mother on the planet, know that this child has given me a run for my money.  This is the child who gave me 24hr morning sickness, the child who broke my tailbone coming out, the child who broke out in HIVES when her little sister was born, the child who had pneumonia at 4, the child with a nut allergy that needs a traveling epi-pen, the child with asthma, the child who needed anti-depressants after a horrendous 1 1/2yrs that almost had her hospitalized more than once – and now that she’s finally starting to cope better she has her first SERIOUS boyfriend (which, considering all she’s been through in the last year and a half, has me scared to death of sex and a broken heart).  Oh my Lord.  This parenthood thing is torture.

That said, this budding, struggling and finally somewhat happy young woman is one of the most awesome people I have ever known.  She is maddening, frustrating, fierce and stubborn.  Yet she is also kind, more sensitive than she will ever admit, curious, and utterly loyal.  Sometimes I do NOT understand her at all, yet most times I understand her more than she’ll ever know.

On the one hand I am SO enjoying her growing-up, because the conversations we can have now that she’s getting older are intense and WONDERFUL.  At the same time there’s the “parenthood thing is torture” – I want to protect her with a passion so deep I’m afraid I’ll explode.  I call that the “Mama Bear.”  It’s a scary thing for everyone when Mama Bear claws come out, and thus far I’ve been pretty excellent at restraining myself, but we all know the potential is there for me to unleash the Mama’s fury should there be a real threat to my cub’s safety or happiness.  It’s a tightrope walk between giving her too much freedom and suffocating her.  The tightrope walk is definitely NOT fun – for any of us.

Mothering her has been an intense journey so far, filled with a lot of joy and true terror.  But I wouldn’t trade one day.  Okay, I lied.  Maybe I would trade a day or two… but I wouldn’t trade HER for the world.

19 years and counting…

Couldn’t resist playing with the blog title to make it similar to a certain reality tv show (that I DON’T watch, by the way – I actually don’t watch that much tv at all).

Anyway, I realized that I have spent a little time so far on this blog with all the people in my life except my HUSBAND.  Since I’ve only been blogging 11 days, I don’t feel quite so bad, but I thought I would rectify the situation, before guilt set in.

I am grateful for my husband for a whole lot of reasons, mostly that he’s willing to LIVE with me.  I am NOT an easy person to live with (he isn’t either, but I think I’m harder).  I don’t talk a lot.  I keep a lot inside.  I was brought up not to air dirty laundry even inside my own house.  I spent a lot of time when I was growing up silently trying to figure people out, and work around them.  And when I’m having a bout with depression, that silence grows exponentially.   A very good friend of mine has described  me as one of the most stoic people she’s ever met.  My psychiatrist describes me as shut up tight like a drum – so shut up that times I really don’t know what the hell I’m feeling.  But I’m learning.

Now, my husband is a talker.  He talks about everything.  If he thinks it he speaks it, sometimes with very little filter with me, cause he trusts me.  Sometimes he’ll say a certain thing one minute, then contradict himself the next, only because he’s “thinking out loud.”  It drives me crazy.  At the same time he gets VERY frustrated with me because he doesn’t know what’s going on in my head, and I feel for him there.  I may get frustrated with him for not shutting up, but at least with him I know what’s going on.  This is why I said “I’m harder.”

206321_1054870861303_8776_nWe celebrate our 19th anniversary at the end of this month, and that amazes me.  We’ve come through some traumatic and wonderful times.  The writer Glennon Melton has invented a new word – BRUTIFUL.  It’s a combination of “brutal” and “beautiful.”  And that’s been us.  Depression, death, autism, financial stress, and managing our very different personalities has been brutal.  The birth of our three children, watching them grow, laughter, watching us serve one another, late night cuddles, playing name that tune on the 80’s station has been beautiful.

He grew up in a wonderful, loving, stable family.  I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself.  He has helped me learn what a normal family looks and acts like (not a “perfect” family, there’s no such thing, but normal).

We compliment each other.  Sometimes that “complimenting” is HARD work.  As we both get defensive about leaving our comfort zones to understand one another.  Me forcing myself to talk, him to stop.

He is one of the most sincere, kindest people I have ever met.  He is sweet, and deeply loyal.  He worries all the time, because he loves so much.

It’s been quite a “brutiful” journey so far.  Nineteen years and counting…