A Special Kind of Love

God is love, but He is a special kind of love. He isn’t the hearts and flowers love found in romance novels or Valentine’s Day cards, but He does understand our need for such love. He is covenant love, and that is unlike any other love. I can miss experiencing covenant love if I allow myself to get tangled in my own desires, but I can know the depth of its beauty when I trust God with all of my heart. He will never force His love upon me because that would destroy His very nature, but He does give the perfect example of covenant love in His Son, Jesus Christ.

No one loved Jesus more than the apostle John, so a great place to get an idea of covenant love is by looking at what he says about it in John 3:16-17

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (NLT)

The two verses together give a beautiful definition of covenant love that even my little third-grade Sunday School class could understand. When I ask if their parents would die trying to save them, they gave a resounding “YES!!” in unison. They also agreed that their parents would risk their lives for others. Several had fathers who were law enforcement officers or soldiers, so the idea of putting your life on the line for someone else was familiar to them. My next question was no less confusing. When I asked if their parents would offer up the lives of their children to save someone else. Their “NO!!” was even louder than their earlier “YES!”

I told them I, too, would risk my life to save others; my son was at the top of my list of those I would die for, and they were on it, as well. I made it very clear that there was nothing for which I cared enough to give my son’s life. They completely understood and marveled that God could love them enough to give up His Son’s life to save them.

Verse sixteen is the most familiar in the Bible, but verse seventeen is just as powerful. God not only loves us more than we are capable of understanding, His Son didn’t come to judge us. He came to save us. That’s covenant love in a nutshell. There is a special Hebrew word for such love-hesed. It is the word used beautifully in Isaiah 54:10.

“For the mountains may move
    and the hills disappear,
but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
    My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”
    says the Lord, who has mercy on you.” (NLT)

To love with God’s loyalty is not possible for a mere human being, but Jesus did it beautifully. His precious love encourages me to try, and that trying is what walking in God’s kingdom is all about. Christ’s love reflects His Father’s love and puts all other love into perspective. Romance is great, and brotherly love is powerful. Our hearts need all kinds of love to grow as God desires, but covenant love is necessary if I want to walk in His kingdom now.

Covenant love isn’t in all our relationships. It is very special and should be cherished and nurtured when found because it is a sweet taste of heaven. I thank God for allowing me to experience such love; it changes everything. Covenant love isn’t an easy love to embrace and can easily be lost. God knew how difficult it would be for us, so He sent His Son and His Holy Spirit to help us experience its wonder.

Christ’s precious love comes from God, the Father, and the seeds He planted over two thousand years ago in His Son’s heart still flourish in those willing to let them take root in their own hearts.

Religion or Relationship?

Christ’s love allows me to go from religion to relationship. Hebrews 8:5-13 describes how His precious love changes everything. God didn’t revise or amend His old covenant. His Son’s precious love forged a brand new one.

But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.

If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people, he said:

“The day is coming, says the Lord,
    when I will make a new covenant
    with the people of Israel and Judah.
This covenant will not be like the one
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
    so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
But this is the new covenant I will make
    with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
    and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
And they will not need to teach their neighbors,
    nor will they need to teach their relatives,
    saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’
For everyone, from the least to the greatest,
    will know me already.
And I will forgive their wickedness,
    and I will never again remember their sin

When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear. (NLT)

I’m preparing to move into a new home that is nothing like the one I’m in now. I’m going from 4000 square foot house sitting on top of a mountain to a tiny apartment downtown. I love the fact that my new home is a brand new house. New houses are wonderful, but new covenants can be uncomfortable.

Going from religion to relationship is difficult. Relationship is personal, and that means exposing my heart. God knows me, forgives me, and loves me. That makes the old way of relating obsolete. Religions cannot compete or compare with relationships, and no one understands that better than God. He prefers a loving family to a religious hierarchy. He always has, and He always will.
It’s difficult to do business with someone when you’re in love with them; that keeps love out of board rooms and office buildings. God didn’t, doesn’t, and never will run a business. He is love and sent His only Son to replace the “business” of religion with the love of relationship. Even the disciples didn’t completely get the point at first.  They wanted to know who would be in what position, but the resurrection made it crystal clear that Christ changed business as usual. Love had come down, and it was the new authority.
I wish we could all just love one another as God desires, but I know that won’t be possible as long as the world has a hold on us. God may have made a new covenant, but this world is still driven by business. I can allow myself to be driven by the world or let love do the driving. When I go with love, God opens the road and frees my heart in a way the world may not understand but does notice 🙂
Open Road

Attached at the Heart

1 Corinthians 7:29-31 invites me to look at my attachments and see how they affect my focus. Paul isn’t just talking about relationships in his letter to Corinth; he’s talking about accomplishments, regrets, possessions, or anything to which I may be too attached. There’s nothing wrong with a happy marriage, an engaging job, a time of grief, or nice things as long as my heart isn’t attached so tightly that my focus is misdirected.

But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.(NLT)

Unhealthy attachments cause my heart to fuse, and fusion leads to confusion. God isn’t controlling, or I would be a mindless drone in His field or a heartless statue at His feet. God has the power to make me do exactly what He wants, but He will not use His power to make me love or obey Him. He knows obedience is worthless without free will, and love will never be forced or coerced.

Self differentiation is necessary for love to grow as God desires. Fusion appears to forge a powerful bond, but it only confines and defines in negative ways. Self differentiation frees my heart and leads to healthy connections. God is the ultimate example of self differentiation. He is the great “I Am.” He is who He is, and He wants me to be who He created me to be. That requires putting my focus upon His love and getting away from unhealthy attachments.

I love being a daughter, sister, mother, mother-in-law, Gigi, teacher, friend, etc., but if I cannot have an unhealthy attachment to any role. I am me, and if I fail to be the true me, no relationship, title, or possession will fill the void left in my heart. I believe it’s what Paul is trying to tell the Corinthians.  This world is not permanent, and nothing in it will last. Rather than making me sad, I should find great joy in knowing that the essence of my truest self isn’t about the things in this world. I am created for eternity, and I am free to live and love in a way that reflects that beautiful truth.

Heart in the Sand

I Want What You’ve Got!

When it comes to relationships, there is no way to duplicate what happens between two people. Christ never changes, but each relationship with Him is different because each of us is unique. Folks sometimes say, “I want what you’ve got. How do I get it?”  There are two people in each relationship, and I’m the only one who can have what I have with Christ or with anyone else in this world. God loves us the same, but we respond to His love differently.

There are a plethora of people with advice on how to do this or improve that, and I’ve tried many of them to no avail. I’ve also given advice because I knew what I needed to do; I just didn’t seem to be able to do it:) In fact, I used to say that the title of my autobiography should be, “Take My Advice Because I’m Not Using It!”

If there is a secret to success, happiness, or love, I believe it is honest communion with God, myself, and those in my path. The truth is not easy to hear or to speak, and it often comes at a great cost. I have to stop believing the lies and open my eyes to what God has for me. God’s love gives space and shows me truth. That sets my heart free!

John 8:31-36 says it best.

“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” NASB

Sin is what keeps me from truth and love, and it destroys relationships by disguising itself as truth and love. Therein lies the rub as the Bard would say:) Sin either rubs the heart raw or hardens it. It keeps the heart in a state of hurt or numbness putting Christ and others at arm’s length. I can’t love someone if sin has a hold of my heart.

I’m learning that I can walk in God’s kingdom now and have what He wants for me, and that makes this life a wonderful one. God makes it clear to me that I cannot have what I see in others because I am not them. I have tried to duplicate what I’ve seen in others or, God forbid, what I’ve see in the media. No one is like me; God made me to be who He created me to be. Therefore, I am the only one who can relate to Him and others as me. The truth is all about being who I am meant to be and loving God as only I can.

The world encourages me to want what others have. Wall Street’s bottom line depends upon my frustration in that regard. The Holy Spirit has a different bottom line and breathes God’s love and light into my life when I accept Christ’s offer of God’s love. He opens my eyes and lets me see the truth. Once I get a glimpse of truth and love, I can easily let go of the lies that surround sin and the need to be someone other than who I am. Christ peels back the layers and helps me see my heart and His so we and I can have a wonderful relationship. Wanting what others have leads to misery. Embracing what Christ has leads to love. Christ’s love allows me to hear His heart and the hearts of others, and that is what love is all about:)

Love is Meant to be Shared:)

The community Thanksgiving service reminded me of the importance of gathering together in worship. I love it when the churches join to give thanks and share a simple meal. It is what worship is all about. Like all families, God’s sometimes is too busy to stop and enjoy one another.

As I was thinking of cooking earlier today, I was reminded of the importance of spending time with those I love. Life happens and love often falls by the wayside in the process. Time is a precious commodity, and commitments call us away. God’s sweet lesson today was cherish each moment of love I am given.

Love isn’t about time or even being together. It’s about knowing one another deeply, and that encourages me as nothing else can. I sometimes long for more than God gives, and I know that shows a lack of faith and a selfish nature. Being with those I love lifts my spirit and soothes my soul. My heart is whole when it connects to God’s love in another. That is what love is all about, and I thank God for helping me come to a place of understanding and embracing it. I suppose it’s natural to want to hold on to those special moments, but then they wouldn’t be special would they?

It’s taken me a long time to find and appreciate God’s love. The more I understand it, the more I am able to let it flow through me. God is love, so He knows what He is doing when it comes to love:) I need to remember that when I get whiny and want what I want when I want it. God designed love to be shared, so I plan to cherish each moment God allows me to spend with those I love.

Love’s Simple Gestures

Simple gestures convey love in big ways. Love prefers common ground to extravagant display. A word, a smile, a loving look, or a listening ear causes love to bloom and grow at a sweet, steady pace. Look to romance novels if you want love that doesn’t exist anywhere except in the imagination of those who have never known true love, but look to the everyday if you want to find true love worth loving forever.

When I think of true love, I think of Carl shaving Ann’s hair when it began to fall out during her chemo and telling her she how beautiful she was after a half century of marriage. True love changes the heart and grows stronger with each simple gesture. I think of Wayne talking about Brenda with that silly grin he still has after fifty years:) I think of Charles patiently caring for Kay as her memory slips away. I think of Jack lighting up when he talks about Dorothy who has been with God for a while now. Nothing extravagant in the way they display love, but all show a connection to God that makes those simple gestures so much more than the love this world promotes.

None of the couples I know who exemplify true love will ever be the subjects of a made for TV movie, and their stories will not be on the best seller list. I’m afraid no one would watch or buy because we want passion, and sex sells! The irony is that true love is much better than sex. True love withstands the trials of time and moves mountains, but it does so one loving gesture at a time. Unfortunately, we are a throw away society that wants immediate gratification. We toss and turn in life and in bed because we just cannot get the satisfaction Mick Jaggar screams about in his song.

The body screams like Jaggar, and the inner voice of the heart is drowned out in the process. I suppose it’s human nature to want what we want when we want it, but I’m slowly learning that asking for God’s desires to become mine has quieted my body’s screaming and allowed my heart to sing a new song. I’m learning that love is quiet and best expressed simply.  God’s love is the key to all love. Sharing His love is what makes simple loving gestures so profound. If God is in a knowing look, a held hand, a smile, or a listening ear, then true love’s soft voice is loud and clear and changes the heart forever.

Putting the Pieces Together

God helped me see the importance of finding the edges and staying centered when it comes to love. As I adjusted to life after mama’s death, my heart needed direction. Learning and love go hand in hand and are what the journey is all about. God knows how much I love to learn, and I pray I always will.  The best lessons always come from my mistakes, and that is especially true in matters of the heart.  I’ve always loved with my heart wide open and pouring out in hopes of being loved. I now see the futility of that plan.  God helped me find balance in a way that makes perfect sense now that I get it:) I was searching for the center without knowing where the edges were. Mama loved jigsaw puzzles, but I only tolerated them. She often had a puzzle going and taught me to get the end pieces finished first and the rest would fall into place. 

God used that image to help me find the edges of my heart so I could work my way to the center. When it comes to love and my heart, I’ve been searching for the edges all my life. It’s funny that I find that funny considering all the frustration it has brought me:) God is a master teacher and uses humor effectively, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve also learned to laugh at myself and see the humor in the situation.  My motto when it comes to mistakes is, “Eventually, this will be funny!” Sometimes it’s funny in five minutes, and sometimes it takes a few decades! I’ve wandered in many directions and fallen off a few cliffs, but I always managed to work my way back to the path.

Daddy told me I was like Billy in the Family Circus comic, and he was right. In fact, he used to laugh sometimes when I would take a difficult path and remind me that when I was tiny, I told him I was going “way awound” when I was wandering around the yard instead of taking the straight path to the neighbor’s house. I have spent much of my life going “way awound” when it comes to finding love. From God’s perspective, I know my journey closely resembles those little dashed lines in Family Circus. I also knows He finds the humor in my convoluted path.

Knowing the edges is important, and the image of mama and her jigsaw puzzles helped me move forward, or should I say work my way to the middle of the puzzle I’ve been piecing together for decades. The pieces are beginning to make sense now that I have a framework. I have a framed puzzle that a dear friend gave me when I left the middle school. It is 24” by 36” and is comprised of 50 hearts. They are ordinary objects shaped like hearts. Clouds, flowers, leaves, rocks, and so on… She knew  I was obsessed with looking for heart-shaped objects, and she was especially touched by the heart-shaped leaf I found after a special hike. She took the leaf and laminated it for me; I had it professionally framed, and it was beautiful. It decided to give it to the gentleman I had been dating for two years; we had found the leaf on our first date, and he had taken a beautiful picture of it. I searched for the edge and in all honesty told him how I felt. The honesty was too much, and the relationship ended. He didn’t love me, and that broke my heart. I realize now that it was important for me to be honest, but his reaction to my honesty was not what I expected and caused me to run back to the safety of my cage. 

Lilly had a similar lesson when she reached for a hot cookie right out of the oven and got burned. My heart felt like her little hand, and I learned not to do that again. Thank God, I have learned since then that honesty and love do go together beautifully. If honesty doesn’t sit well in a relationship, that is a sure sign that love isn’t present. Live and love and learn. My heart is filled with hope because my God is a god of hope. I plan to keep reaching out because it what hearts are designed to do. Sweet the way He used a puzzle to solve a puzzle:) I love it when He does that!