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Posts Tagged ‘love’

Beauty-and-the-Beast1

Beauty and the Beast has been my personal favorite Disney story for many years now.  If you know my husband, it’s easy to see why I identify.  Kidding! Ok, maybe just a little truth there.

The truth is, about 20 years ago, we both started out as beasts.  It was nothing but the Lord who has made us more like the Beauty and less Beastly to one another over the course of time and trials.

A lot of reviews have already been written about this long-awaited real-life remake.  Rather than do that, I just want to focus on one particular aspect that many might miss if they are not paying attention.

Belle is trying to reason through how the living objects in the castle must feel about their sentence of not being human again.  She says something to the effect of, “I can see why he (the beast) deserved this, but you – you did nothing wrong.”

It is at that point that Mrs. Potts pipes up like only a talking tea kettle can do and, from my perspective, speaks the most important line of the entire movie.  She quickly responds without even a second to bask in the expected hesitation, groveling, or self-victimization and says, “You’re right deary, we did nothing…” (when the beast was but a boy grieving over the loss of his mother and became the victim of an abusive, self-absorbed father.)

There is so much to learn from the attitude that Mrs. Potts’ character displays in that one single exchange.  Here’s what we can take from it and perhaps teach our children:

Firstly, no matter what your circumstance or how desperately unfortunate it is, you must never think of yourself as a victim.  A victim mentality will always hurt you.  Personal responsibility and owning up to our own failures in all circumstances is the key to being a person of character.

Next, if it is clear that someone else has been dealt a very difficult hand, we must consider their stressors over their responsibilities and act appropriately towards them.

For ourselves, we overlook the reasons we have to claim a victim status and rise up responsibly.  For others, we look for those same reasons and empathize when they act irresponsibly.  We do not compare circumstances, ever.  We do not compare reactions, grief, or evaluate and/or determine how any other person should be dealing with their own circumstance from an emotional standpoint.  The most important thing to do is serve them.  That’s what Mrs. Potts does.  That’s what her child does.  And, while they do not always agree with or even obey the beast in his unkind and ridiculous demands, they always seek to serve and help him in ways that are beneficial to him.

Finally, Mrs. Potts’s profound statement teaches us the often neglected truth that what we do not do is just as damaging as what we do wrong.  She says, “We did nothing…” (when this little boy’s whole world fell apart.)

That was an admission of guilt – a taking part in the making of a self-centered, unkind, now cursed, beast.  What we do not do for those who we know are suffering and being abused right before our eyes is what will convict and condemn us right alongside them if and when they become beasts in their own right.

Again, this idea does not erase personal responsibility for the beasts of the world.  Each man is wholly responsible for his own actions, always.  What this perspective does is it helps us to understand and own our personal responsibility toward those in need – namely children within our sphere of influence – before they morph into individuals who kill, steal, and destroy just like their teachers.

In other words, we do not get to dislike and avoid people we do not prefer and then turn around and blame them because they are bitter about it.  Our job is to see only our own faults and look past the faults of others in as much as we possibly can and love and serve them despite those faults.

What a great perspective to have.

– Own responsibility no matter how difficult your circumstances.

– Empathize, don’t criticize when others fail.

– Recognize that doing nothing is just as damaging as doing wrong to others.

That’s as true as it can be.

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unhappy-valentine-s-day-t-shirts

We’re having a party!  You’re invited!  Come!  It’s all about love.  Bring your empty box!  Decorate it pretty so we can share love notes with you!

Valentine’s Day never seemed so exciting.  We shopped and we crafted.  We wrote out love notes and we waited in happy expectation.  But somehow, somewhere between Mommy’s phone ringing, baby’s fall breaking, and passing out our love notes to one another, something went terribly wrong.

My 3 older kids were alone in the party room.  I was standing just outside talking about my own desperate need for prayer.  Something happened that I did not witness personally.

Enter: Irate mom.  Irate mom interrupted my tears brimming, baby rocking, broken heart on my sleeve conversation by yelling at me about how terrible my children are and how her precious snowflake was crying because of my monsters.

So I did what any reasonable person would do.  I apologized.  I asked what had happened.  I made them apologize.  I explained to both mom and daughter that it seems my girls may have just wanted to be her friend and didn’t know how to introduce themselves appropriately. My girls sat crying for a long time while their accuser showed no evidence of any personal pain.

When we came home we talked about the love gone wrong party.  I do not presume to know exactly what actually happened.  What I do know very well is my own children.  I know exactly who they are and who they are not.  They sin just like me.  They hurt just like me.  They love just like me.  And they tell me the truth when it really matters.

So what happens when a bully calls you a bully and cries fake tears to get you in trouble?  What happens when that bully has an authority (bully mom) who does the same?  When bully mom singles you out and yells in your pint size face in full view of all your friends?  When bully mom goes on a tirade among all the other authorities yelling about how despicable you and best friend (sister) really are?  What happens then?

Well.  You stand by your apology.  Perhaps you did cause some small injury unintentionally.  Perhaps you did.  And then you sit back and you realize that sincere apologies do not matter to bullies.  You realize that forgiveness will never be extended no matter what you say or do because the animosity is not coming from a place of honest offense.  It is coming from a place of hatred and jealousy; malice and deceit; pride and envy.

 Then you cry.  You sit at the party you so looked forward to and you cry about how you’ve been treated.  You take quite some time to listen to the one who loves you most when she says it is going to be OK because her love never depended on your behavior.  You finally get the courage to wipe your tears and go back to playing with the other kids but when the day is done you go home and you appeal to the one who loves you again.  You realize that there is no place for the likes of you at the next love party because you have learned that there is no love at those kind of parties after all.  You wait, hoping love comes back and loves you, apologizes to you, sits next to you, embraces you, and rights the wrongs it did, or, at the very least, shows you how you have wronged it.

You realize that the truth is, love does.  Love will.  Love reconciles.  Love forgives.  Love lives on after our preferences, our pettiness, and all our imperfections.  Love does and will do all of those things and so, so much more if it is, indeed, love after all.  If not, well, then I need to be more wise and discerning the next time I’m invited to a party labeled “love” to that fact that it may have nothing whatsoever to do with what I know love actually is all about.  I have no interest in fake love parties.  Those aren’t for me and they certainly aren’t for my children.

Love is not something we can celebrate if we are looking for a self-centered pity party over our every whim and want.  Love is messy, painful, sacrificial, and other-serving.  You cannot accuse, fail to forgive, hold in contempt, and wait with binoculars and your detective hat for the next offense just hold onto the upper hand; the control; the selfish benefits of being the boss without the selfless service of being the leader.

Everyone likes to be invited.  Everyone wants to celebrate love because love is the greatest of all things we have been given on the entire earth.  But we cannot invite others to love parties that do not both display and convey true love accurately and appropriately.  If we do, we should not wonder why they won’t ever come back once they figure out how this thing works.  You can’t bait and switch and expect the bait to keep fooling the fish.  Our Lord only gave us two commands.  Two.

1. Love ME (God)

2.Love each other

If we cannot do that, we have nothing to celebrate, nothing to share, and nothing worth inviting anyone to come and be a part of.

And you know, God has his ways.  He always shows up just when we need Him most.  It just so happened that we were invited to anther love party.  It was last minute and unexpected.  It was hosted by one who had nothing prepared save her heart.  She wanted to love.  She sought to serve.  She gave the little she had to me and my daughters freely without even knowing how hurt we’d been by the last party labeled “love.”  What grace He gives in our time of need.  What a good, good God we serve.

With that, I leave you the words of a wild thing and a king:

” Judith: Psst. Psst. (signals for Max to come over)  What were you doing with Carol just now?

Max: Just talking.

Judith: Oh, a secret, huh?  Let me ask you something.  How does it work around here?  Are we all the same or are some of us better than others or – ?  You like to play favorites, huh, king?

Max: No, I like all you guys equally.

Judith: Don’t give me that.  I can see how it is.  The king has favorites.  That’s really cute.  Do you have a favorite color?  Hey, can I be your favorite color? (laughs)

Max: (imitates her laugh)

Judith: (does it back)

Max: (does it again, with more effort)

Judith: Ahahahaha

Max: Har har har!

Judith: Ahahahahahaha

Max: HAR HAR HAR

Judith: You know what? You can’t do that back to me.  If we’re upset, your job is not to get upset back at us.  Our job is to be upset.  If I get mad and want eat you, then you have to say, “Oh, okay, you can eat me.  I love you.  Whatever makes you happy, Judith.”  That’s what you’re supposed to do!”

~Where the Wild Things Are, 2009, Jonze and Dave Eggers

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water

God had been so faithful to his people.  He did many miracles, signs, and wonders.  He delivered them from their enemies.  He gave them a cloud and a fire.  He gave them an oasis.  He perpetually gave them daily bread to eat.  He gave them rest.  They fought and failed to trust him the whole way but God just keeps on blessing them anyway.

When they come to a place in the wilderness where there is no water once again, you would think they would be inclined to consider all of that goodness.  Matthew Henry reminds that, “Eaten bread must not be forgotten.”  But they do forget.  They were not inclined in the least to consider all the blessings they had been given and were continuing to receive on behalf of God himself.  Once again, the selfish desires and distrust of God and his prophet leads them into severe and serious sin.

When their need becomes great, their quarrels become evident once again.  They indict the prophet (Moses) God had given for their good.  They not only demand that he meet their needs, they malign and accuse him of ill-motives, they actually say, again – this is twice now that this crazy story is spewed from their mouths – that when he delivered them by the mighty hand of God that he did so with the singular intention of murdering them.  How absolutely absurd!

The truth is that that was precisely what they were doing to him.  Because he did not produce and provide what only God could for them, they falsely accused Moses as a result of their ill-motives.  They sought a trial and they wanted to kill him.  Essentially, they accused Moses (twice now) of doing the very (evil) things that they themselves were actually doing to him.

Isn’t it funny how that works?  The guilty turn the tables to make the innocent appear to be what they actually are.

“Many that have not only designed well, but done well, for their generation, have had their best services thus misconstrued, and their patience thereby tried, by unthinking unthankful people…Ungoverned passions, provoked by the crossing of unbridled appetites, sometimes make men guilty of the greatest absurdities, and act like madmen, that cast firebrands, arrows, and death, among their best friends.” Matthew Henry

These people question and accuse God’s prophet and that, in itself, proves that they are actually questioning and accusing God himself.  This was the man he’d given to them for blessing and intercession and deliverance and provision.  In questioning him, they question God, God’s providence, God’s provision, God’s presence, and God’s promises all at the same time.

The most amazing part of this story is not only what God does, but what the falsely accused prophet does.  Moses, who, by the way was a former murderer himself, does not argue with his accusers about their outrageous claims and charges.  Moses goes directly to God.  He cried to the Lord in his desperation and grief.  Moses seeks their good.  He does exactly what God commands and God shows up.  God puts himself on trial.  Instead of making the guilty murmurers stand before him, he stands before Moses!  He tells Moses to strike the rock.  In doing so, he is essentially taking the blow for their gross disobedience.  Not only does God put himself in the place of the guilty, he gives a blessing as he is struck.

 He is the rock.  The rock is Christ.  Christ is the rock upon whom God builds his church.  God builds his church on Christ and those who are willing to forgive when falsely accused, seek God on behalf of the guilty, absorb pain that they do not deserve, and bring a blessing afterward to the very people who sin against God and they.

 That is what God did here.  That is what Jesus did on the cross.  That is what we are called to do in his church.

Kyrie eleison

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son

“Mom, why do we have lips?” asks my oddly inquisitive eleven year old.

“I don’t know. I guess God thought we needed them.”

“But why do we have them?  What are they for?”

“Appearance?  Well, actually they are for kisses.”

Cue awkward face of preteen disgust.  Moms do not talk about kissing.  Moms especially do not talk about kissing when said preteen was clearly asking a purely scientific question and attempting to formulate a very serious hypothesis based upon nothing less than observation and factual information.

But that’s my oldest daughter.  My youngest daughter has different ideas about both lips and kissing.  One year-olds love kisses.  Well, at least mine does…usually.

When I say, “kisses,” she leans her head towards me and waits for my kiss to be planted on the back of her head.  We are still working on the lips part.

Generally, Little Miss Congeniality loves kisses.  The only problem is that she turns her face away from me when I ask for them.  She only knows how to receive kisses.  She hasn’t mastered the art of giving them.

I try to teach her each day.  She is at the point where if I say, “kisses,” and I don’t plant one on the back of her turned head, she looks at me and sticks out her tongue.  “No, Sonny.  Not tongue; lips.”

It is an arduous process wherein her tongue stays out and I resort to raspberries all over her face because tongues are not easily put back away and the cuteness of one year-olds does not allow for any option wherein they do not get kissed regardless of their slowness or complete failure to learn proper methods and techniques.

We usually move on to blowing kisses once the emergent tongue enters the lesson.  She thinks it’s funny to watch me blow kisses but she hasn’t reciprocated yet.  Don’t worry, there will be a two hour video once this milestone is mastered and I am almost certain it will go viral.  I know you can’t wait either.

Babies are easy to love.  Babies are hard to love.  Children are easy to love.  Children are hard to love.  Just like kisses are more easily accepted than they are given by my baby, we children of God often need to be given repeated daily examples of love from our Father before we even begin to learn how to give love back.  We must feel loved and be shown how to give and receive love before we even begin to figure out that it isn’t about turning our head as much as it is about being face to mad about you face.   Finally, we realize it isn’t about turning our head at all.  It is about turning toward the other every time, and never, ever turning away from the ones we love.

We need so very much to be loved, to be shown love, to be adored by one who adores before we can even begin to learn how it is that we can possibly get Mister Slimy Slobber inserted back where he belongs and plant our very own puckered presents upon the proper people.

Learning how to love well does not boil down to a science lesson.  Learning how to love well does not emerge from a self-preserving, safe-staying cocoon of systematic daily lessons on proper lip mechanics.  (Although that may well be additionally necessary when delving into what comes forth from those sneaky pink gates.  In that case, just use emergency mom language: “Zip it, child.”)  No.  Learning how to love well results from being loved well.  It is not something we teach.  It is something we do.

Learning how to love well results from being loved well.  It is not something we teach.  It is something we do.

Brothers, sisters, consider your children.  Think about your babies – the ones you have been so graciously given; the ones you long to be given; the ones who were and are and will be.  Close your eyes and appraise their faces.  Reflect upon your deep, deep love for them, wherever they may be today.

Are you there?  Do you have their picture in your mind?

Now, open your eyes.  That is how God sees you.  That is how your Father loves you.  Go.  Love that much, always.  We are all but children in need of love and grace.

From one sister to all her siblings, please give grace.  I need grace.  We need grace.  Love covers a multitude of sin.  So, here are my hugs; kisses; love.  How I long to embrace you and let my tears fall upon your shoulder!  Written words are my heart on paper saying what my lips never seem to get out quite right. Happy St. Valentine’s Day.  There is much love in my heart for you all.

xoxoxo

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beauty

He calls me on his birthday.  Seventy-one today.  A true father to the fatherless, he cares to listen.  He asks my condition.  He encourages, advises, and patiently instructs.  Here is a man who loves unconditionally.  I know,  not because he says it; I know because he does it.

If only we knew how much we are loved.  If only we loved like Dennis.  What grace!

Flooding in comes all the grand examples of the providence of God.  The red birds’ appearing.  The chance meeting with Daddy’s best friend.  The parable of daily bread read to a dying woman after holding out my empty hand repeating softly, “I trust you, Lord.”  The tender, unmistakable instructions to eat; to rest.  The dinner date planned months prior.  The revelatory dream.  The friend who just happened to be there.  The song that prepared.  The woman with the expensive perfume.  The beatitudes.  The movie.

Yes, the movie.  Collateral Beauty.  Pain is not collateral damage.  Pain is collateral beauty.  If we hurt, we know we love.  We have love.  We share love.  We do love.  Even the deepest pain reflects our grandiose blessedness.

If only we knew how much we are loved.  If only we loved like Dennis; like God.  His love is everywhere; in everything; always.  Even all that is wrong in the world proves that true love is real, that injustice is wrong, that righteousness is worth striving for, and that pain has great and beautiful purpose.

When a man cannot so much as speak for how much he hurts; how much he loves, therein is the power of God.  Pain is not collateral damage.  Pain is collateral beauty.  My Lord, I trust you.  My God, how great Thou art!

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star

The next day, I prayed again.  I went early to a triathlon race where I ran into a man who had acted as a father figure to me for several years in my mid twenties.  I had not seen this man in quite some time but ten years ago he taught me to swim and trained me for my first marathon.  He always encouraged me like a dad would.

As I got into the pool I realized my goggles were not adjusted right as my kids use them often.  I tried to fix them, but every time I swam a stroke, water entered into my eyes.  I made several attempts but I could not get them right.  I began to swim backstroke instead because I cannot stand water in my eyes.

As I swam, I thought about how I must live this way.  I must live looking up at all times or I am going to be completely blind.  God was teaching me.

When I began the bike portion of the race, I saw a church marquee that read, “Faith for your decisions, Part 2.” I literally laughed out loud because I knew what God was saying.  I have not made my decisions in faith in the past.  Part 1 was not faithful.  But he is opening a new chapter for me concerning how to follow him in true and saving faith.

I biked for several miles and just as I entered a hollow of shade trees, I thought of my dad.  Every time I go through a hollow on a country road, I think of him because when he got sick (when I was 11) we always took 857 to Morgantown to visit him.  I knew when we went though the hollow we were close to seeing daddy – whom I missed terribly.  I knew God would show up.  Just as I entered the hollow and thought of daddy, my friend who had taught me to swim and distance run appeared from around the bend coming the other way.  “Good job, Lori,” he said.  Those are words I never really got to hear from my dad.  What are the chances that he would enter that hollow coming from the other way at that very moment? It was not a coincidence. God, my Father whom I have missed so much was meeting me.

As I was running, I was coming onto the track toward the finish and a song I associate with the excommunication came on.  Next, a song I associate with a severed relationship from the dark period came on.  The two darkest realities I faced over two years ago were both associated with a song and both songs played at the finish of this race.  God was speaking.  He was in that and he is in this – healing.  He showed me that it is finished.

After I finished my father-like friend gave me a hug and said, “I’m proud of you.”  That’s what daddy would have said if he were there.

The doctor told me the reason God wants to heal me is for freedom.  So I will be free from anxiety and worry and discouragement and sin.  The race was put on by an organization known as “Faith in action” – a Christian hospice and home care agency.  Their sign at the end of the race had their motto which read, “A neighbor’s independence depends on you.”

Freedom .  Independence.  Mine and yours.  That is why I am sharing this awesome, bizarre, crazy story with you.  God wants to give us freedom from fear, discouragement, depression, and anxiety.  I know beyond the shadow of a doubt he does.

As I drove home I noticed a cloud in the sky that was shaped like a heart and  – I kid you not – inside that cloud was a brighter white cloud in the form of a “u.”  Love u.  It was God.  No doubt.  Not a moment later a huge billboard read, “Who is Jesus” in all caps and another said, “A father is who picks you up after you fall.”  Then I entered back into Pennsylvania from West Virginia and the sign said, “Welcome to Pennsylvania, state of independence.”  Did you know that was our motto?? I didn’t.  I thought we were the keystone state or something.  God was lavishing his love upon me, assuring me as my father, giving me freedom, and bringing me back home.  That is what he is doing.  I have no doubt no matter how unreal this all sounds to other people.

I was so smitten and overwhelmed by God’s love by this point that I literally missed my exit and did not realize it for many miles.  When I finally realized that I was lost, I got on the toll road and came home a completely different, longer way.  As I came past a church the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to me and said, “Go to that church and pray for the person who is there.”

I second guessed several times but knew the command was clear.  I am not one to do this kind of thing – ever.  I have, but it has probably been fifteen years since – back in those early days when I trusted God like a child.  So, I reluctantly turned around telling myself surely no one will be there at noon on a beautiful Saturday.  No one in sight, so I pulled behind the church to turn around and a man sat on a lawn mower right in front of me.

I stalled a few moments wondering if I should just leave or pretend I needed directions but God said, “Pray for that man!”  So I got out and told him I was reformed but God made me.  He was the pastor and said the man who cuts grass was ill that day.  God wanted to encourage that man through me.

Later that night we went out to dinner for a friend’s birthday and to hear a band.  About halfway through the night, back behind the band I noticed a picture hanging on the wall at a table set back by itself.  As I got closer I realized the picture was of a red bird in the woods.  When I run I always look for red birds because they remind me of my dad.  I used to specifically ask the Lord to show me a red bird when I was thinking of my dad and he often would.

I have no doubt that these seeming coincidences are really and truly God moving in my life to restore, heal, and use me for his glory.

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star

The night before I was called to repentance, my thoughts were on my earthly father.  I was playing softball as we always did when I was young and I had a moment where I felt as though he was actually there with me.  Thinking of him on my way home, I saw a street sign that read, “Lewis Dr.” Lewis was my maiden name.  At that point I felt that my father was with me, just like I did while I was at the ball field and I began to remember a particular memory where he and I laid in the grass outside and looked up at the stars together.  It is one of my favorite memories of my dad.

The following day the man who told me God wanted to heal me (the doctor) told me to repent of my excuses and take time to sit still and pray each day.  That night I took my shoes off, stood in the grass, and I prayed.  I sat down on the porch and watched the sky.  I realized, but not until this point exactly, that I was told by the doctor to do exactly what I had done with my dad so many years ago.  A few moments later, I saw a shooting star move swiftly across the sky.  My husband and I began to talk about the shooting star and I shared how the first time I had ever seen one was with my dad.  I remember it vividly.  My dad had been drinking.  He did not drink often, and even more rarely in front of me,  but on this particular occasion, he was drunk.We had been at a Halloween party and it just so happened to be my birthday.  My mom was driving which is significant because my mom never drove when my dad was in the car.  My dad always drove.  This time, my mom drove and me and daddy watched the sky.  A shooting star moved across the sky and we took note of the time.  It was 10:30 p.m. on 10/30 – October 30, my birthday.  The star fell at 10:30 on 10/30.  Maybe that is why I remember it.

After I talked with my husband for a few minutes and shared this story about how the first time I saw a shooting star was with my dad, and he was drunk, and all about the party and how I was dressed up as a clown and my brother a devil and how he drove us into the woods because he had had too much to drink, probably out of sheer curiosity, he picked up his phone to look at the time.  It was 10:36 p.m.  That star we saw the other night fell at 10:30 p.m.

At that very moment, I remembered how after I had left the doctor’s office that day – after being told to pray – I said a prayer in the truck before pulling out.  I asked God to speak to me and I turned on the radio.  I put on WORD FM to maybe hear a sermon but all I got was static so I changed it.  The song I heard first was , “Drunk on Your Love.”  The Holy Spirit came over me and I began to cry tears of joy.  I knew God was speaking to me about how much he loved me and I could physically feel his love and joy pouring into me in a way I have never experienced before.  This went on for more than 15 minutes or better and I understood it as God’s divine healing for me.  When I saw the shooting star later that night and was reminded of my father being drunk when we saw my first one, I felt my entire body freeze up in utter disbelief.  When I heard the song I did not know yet about the star I was about to see.  When I spoke of his drunkenness I did not think anything about the song until after Tim checked the time.  At that point I felt like I was in the movie interstellar where the father was talking to his daughter from light years away in space.  It was a surreal moment in which I almost felt afraid – not scared, rather, known and as one who had just seen something unmistakably supernatural.

I was listening to a song called “Invisible City” afterward and I decided to look up the meaning of what an invisible city was or if there was a legend about it.  The invisible city was a city who, when under attack did not move or prepare to fight, rather bowed and prayed, and sunk down under the water where their enemies would never find them again.

 Coincidence?  No. Confirmation.  God is calling me to be serious about prayer and he is showing himself time and again to strengthen my faith and so that I and those around me might believe.

 

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