Thursday, May 10, 2012

Love & Loyalty

Psalm 85:10

New Living Translation (NLT)

Unfailing love and truth have met together.  
Righteousness and peace have kissed!

"Psalm 85" by John August Swanson.

I'm thinking much, tonight, about what a big deal it was for Jonathan to deceive and betray his father--who was also his king--in order to protect his beloved friend/brother, David. 

Perhaps some people would say that Jonathan was acting out of righteousness...defending his friend against his father's bad behavior for God's sake. Perhaps. But honestly, nothing and no one defends righteousness, truth, and holiness better than God defends them himself. In his treatise on Ephesians 6:10-20, William Gurnall said that God's power exists for its own defense. It is by His defense of his own character and nature that we too are defended. 

God did not give Jonathan the job of defending righteousness. Jonathan was entrusted with the heart and life of his friend. Big difference.

The story of Jonathan's loyalty to David focuses on the deep love Jonathan had for his covenant friend. God had knit their souls together. 

Jonathan gave David the best of all he had...all that signified his status as the son of the king, and all the best armor that served to protect the son of the king. Jonathan's oath and his sacrifice were huge because his heart and soul were even bigger!

I'm sure that Jonathan knew his father was acting sinfully, but I am just as sure that he loved his father very much. It must have been truly painful and confusing to have to decide between loyalty to his father and honoring his covenant...acting on the love and truth God had knit within his soul.

Jonathan was probably eager to see righteousness triumph, but I'm sure he felt badly about disobeying his father. I believe very much that this young man still desired to be loyal to his father and king. Young Jonathan must have been a person of great honor because he died on the battlefield with Saul.

Even so, by following his heart, honoring his covenant, and helping David, Jonathan risked being disowned. He risked his life at the hand of his own father! History has shown that when it comes to power, many a father, son, and brother have turned against one another to a brutal, bloody end. 

Given Saul's erratic fits of jealousy and rage, there was no way Jonathan could be certain of his own safety. Yet the truth of his unfailing love for David gave him peace that God would take care of the righteousness. And God did just that.
We seldom hear stories of love and loyalty like this one. Jonathan's heart and his covenant (his feelings and his promise) stood up against even the close and powerful bond of father and son, and the honorable expectations of allegiance to the king. 

No one would have faulted Jonathan for obeying his father and hanging David out to dry. In fact, I'd say that Jonathan's reputation was more than just a little bit on the line. Undoubtedly most people then, like most people now, expected blood to be thicker than water. Jonathan managed to honor blood and the expense of his own life.

I guess I wonder how many of us, myself included, would sacrifice ourselves for the love of a friend, the way Jonathan did, and still honor the ones we are bound to by blood, or by service. 

Would I risk dishonoring a relative in the wrong for the sake of a soul mate in need? Would I take a stand against my boss in order to honor a covenant and show love to a friend? 

In the end, I hope I'd decide, as Jonathan seemed to have decided, to put his life and his honor in God's hands. He risked his life and honor for his friend, for his father, and for his nation...all without question.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
 Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
 Rode the six hundred.


And one can ride just as well.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Watching the Horizon

I was talking recently to my friend, Shelby, whose life experiences I'd never wish to live. Shelby and his sweet wife had to do the unthinkable a few years ago...bury their previously healthy 22 year old son, Paul, who died suddenly from a stroke. Paul's family donated his organs and have even met the recipient of their son's heart. Bravery personified.

Just two years later the Shelby's family was hurled again into the matrix of grief when their oldest son, Ben, went missing after a cave diving expedition in Florida. Despite countless efforts, investigations, and increased rewards for information, Ben's body has never been recovered. More bravery.

Shelby and I try to connect and catch up every few weeks. We have been encouraging each other in our shared Christian faith, and praying for one another's deepest burdens. You can guess what Shelby's burdens are.

My burdens have been for the hearts and spirits of dear ones in my life who also know the anguish and suffering of parental and sibling bereavement. Several precious families in our lives carry this pain. We have been praying and clinging to faith for them and with them for a few years.

The sorrow often catches me as if it were my own because when those nearest and dearest to you walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, your heart walks with them. You learn something no one ever tells you. When parents face this sort of horror there may be a few memorial events, but there are many deaths. Nothing is ever the same.

As someone whom God has chosen to leave behind for the comfort and care of our precious ones, I can tell you that the emptiness has a long reach. We miss the ones who are in the Lord's care...and we miss the sweeter days with those whose hearts are aching so painfully now. It's like waiting for someone you cherish to come home, but not knowing whether or not they will.  

I asked Shelby if he thought the father of the prodigal son continued praying for his son's return, or if the father grew depressed and gave up. Shelby said, "I'm sure he was watching the horizon." 

That thought--that beautiful image of hope--has sustained me through countless nights of fitful sleep and all night prayer vigils.  

I think Shelby is right. That father was surely watching the horizon and keeping up with his work. If he had grown idle and hopeless, he'd have been in the house, and there would have been no special robes or fatted feast or rejoicing.  

Only a man with hope could feast at a moment's notice.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Logic: Anything, everything, ever, every, all, everything

[7] 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]. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:7 (Amplified Bible)

Each time I return to this verse I am convicted. Love's measuring rod is long! Tonight, as I focused on the repetitious assertions of love's scope, I couldn't help thinking about the things that draw us away from our promises of permanent love and devotion.  Here is what I came up with...


Our problem is the "but" because what but really means is no.

Imagine the verse above as follows...

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

Isn't it interesting that the instant you add an exception, even just one, the whole thing is negated? The logic breaks down. It can't be anything, everything, ever, every, all, everything AND have exceptions.  Exceptions, by default, mean NOT anything, everything, ever, every, all, everything.

And once it's not...then, if we take the Word as HIS word...then it's not love. 

I guess we can throw our hands up in the air and just say, "Oh, one can love like that..." or "maybe I didn't know what love was when I professed it before, so I take it back."  But doesn't that open up a long, hard slide to all kinds of other exceptions?  Yikes!  Sounds dangerous.

Today, I'm thinking about the ramifications of doubling back on love, and what it means eternally when we give ourselves permission to add exceptions where God stated none, or to revoke our love based on this new understanding.

I can't say that I have all the answers for this one, but it sure seems worth thinking on for awhile. For the moment, it sure seems like there is more harm to come (personally, and on a much broader scale) when we add the exception to relieve the pressure of an immediate situation, than when we let anything, everything, ever, every, all, and everything suffer a bit under the burdens each may bear.  

Legalism...?  I hope not.  Challenging...? For sure.  

No + anything = Temporary
Yes = anything = Eternity

Go figure.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


To be unforgiven is hell.

To be unforgiven is to be cast off with the most vicious criminals, twisted sociopaths, and disordered psychopaths...the ones most people wish dead.

To be unforgiven is to be counted unworthy...not worth the time, not worth the effort, and not worth the risk.

To be be unforgiven is to have your humanity if others in this world are allowed to make mistakes, but not you; others are allowed to have faults, but not you; others are allowed to have weaknesses, but not you.

To be unforgiven is to be thrown mercilessly into a vortex of fear and confusion...Don't other people make mistakes? Was mine the worst ever? What if I make another one? What if I make a worse one?

To be unforgiven is to be being buried alive, like being rejected for being human, like being haunted by your own ghost, and like being abandoned in a crowd.

To be unforgiven is death...for everyone.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Of a certain, beautiful age

Maybe I won't truly understand the phenomenon until I cross some invisible line between middle age and "older," but for now I'm a bit perplexed about why women of a certain age have so much trouble seeing their beauty.

With a nice round number creeping up to mark off the years of my life, I find myself looking around at women 10 to 20 years or so older than I am. I know that a lot of women my age are still very much of a mind to compare themselves to their contemporaries, as well as to women much younger, but I find that exercise pointless.  It edifies no one.

But when I look through my car window and see a woman in a car across from mine--one who is old enough to be an older sister or mother to me--I can't help feeling like I want to put the window down and say, "Has anyone told you recently how divinely beautiful you are? Has anyone told you how thankful they are for you and your life?" If I actually pulled a stunt like that I'm sure there would be a lot of awkward responses and quick getaways, but the idea of "older" women finding a new cache of beauty in themselves warms my heart just the same.

Some have gorgeous skin and twinkling eyes.  Some are wrinkled and worn. Some look younger than their years, and some look much older. Yet each woman is a treasure...someone special with much to continue sharing into the world...and into our lives...into my life.

Today I met a lovely woman named Deborah. She was just beautiful. Her voice. Her demeanor. Her smile. The gleam in her eyes...everything about her was attractive, and she looked, acted, and sounded so remarkably like someone I hold dear that I was a bit overcome with emotion. When Deborah noticed how flustered I became I couldn't help fidgeting with my phone and pulling up a photo for her to see.

The revelation in the air between Deborah and me was extraordinary. I was breathing in the sacred sweetness of God's little gift to me at a moment when I was sorely missing the beautiful woman in the photograph. And Deborah was exhaling gratitude for having seen herself in that same woman's though she'd forgotten her own extraordinary loveliness, and had been given a glamorous self-portrait.  

Deborah wasn't looking at the photo and remembering herself as a once-attractive, middle aged woman of declining worth and beauty. Deborah looked at the photo and saw herself beautiful in the here and now. If I could only reproduce and package the sudden, glorious awareness that Deborah exuded! I'd run around giving it away free to every woman I could find. It was a spectacular moment.

I couldn't help wishing that I could at least capture Deborah's precious self-recognition.  I'd have fused it through the picture and into the woman whose face was smiling out from my screen. After all, when you receive a compliment like the one Deborah emitted so delightfully and spontaneously, you should be able to feast on it a bit.

Perhaps this post is no great insight for anyone--no clever or wise commentary on the things of the Spirit--but I can't help putting these thoughts out into the world, and hoping that everyone who stumbles upon them will be inspired to raise up and celebrate each woman they encounter...especially women of a certain, beautiful age.

Here's a few examples of what they look like so you'll be sure to recognize 'em all around you...

Aren't they just beautiful...?!?!?!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sometimes People Just Love You

While The Littlest Miss (a.k.a. The Wee Lass) and I were praying our goodnight prayers tonight, an image floated through my mind and then pitched a tent. I could see the person we were praying for (actually I mostly saw her workspace) and my prayer words were not my own. I believe the Holy Spirit formed each thought and syllable--articulated each word. It was one of those blessed moments when you know you're not driving and God is present.

The prayer was centered around the request that, in His mercy, God would provide someone we love with a that really opened up a pathway to rediscovering faith, God, passion, and purpose. Tears flowed warm and gentle as the words flowed likewise. The power of God's unfailing love was in the room.

When prayer time was over and I kissed The Wee Lass goodnight, I remembered the famous line from Nat King Cole's song, "Nature Boy."

The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

The line just repeated quietly in the background of my thoughts, as I took in the sweetness of being so close to God. I couldn't help thinking about how much we miss of love's beautiful simplicity...the "just" in the "just to love" that has no concern about failures or fears about expectations or exposure. It just is. 

Just love and be loved in return. Just stop worrying about your facades...the you it feels like you should be, or the you people think you are, the you that you think people want you to be. All of that gets in the way and kills us off from the inside out.

Just love and be loved in return. Just stop fretting about whether what you have to give is enough, whether it is what others want, or whether you think you have anything left to give at all.  Just love and be loved in return.

I know that when I pray for the people I love, especially the people I love and cherish from the depths of my soul, I cannot avoid wanting to be loved in return. That's natural. We all want to be loved by the ones we love. 

But we waste so much energy and time and light worrying about trying to keep some perfect balance where no one in the mix ever feels deprived of their share, or like they are receiving more than they can return. What a waste of ATP! What a terrible, imposing weight to put on the experience that should be the best to live in and the lightest to carry.

That doesn't mean that love has no price, or that it never pushes us beyond our comfort zones.  It means that that you just except love as a grand transaction created, directed, and purposed for God...for His honor and glory...and you just give just receive it.

Sometimes...people just love you...whoever you are, whatever you are, however you are, wherever you are, why-ever you are...whenever you are...forever. Sometimes people just love you...because God made them, and brought them into your life for just that reason...

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

New King James Version (NKJV)
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.