Quotes on Marriage

I’m currently reading Gary Thomas’ Sacred Marriage and I wanted to share some incredible quotes from his book and from others today:

“Merely being faithful to your spouse is quite a testimony in this society. But as you go beyond that to communicate love for your spouse in a consistent, creative, and uninhibited way, the world can’t help but notice. God will be honored.” – Betsy and Gary Ricucci (from Sacred Marriage, pg. 153)

“The couple is unlike the individual in that it must act for its own preservation in a much more deliberate way than the individual. Individuals might contemplate suicide, but rarely forget to eat, whereas couples often forget to nourish their relationship.” – Mary Anne McPherson Oliver (Sacred Marriage, pg. 153)

“Passivity is as foreign to Christian love as the moon is to the earth. Christian love is an aggressive movement and an active commitment. In reality we choose where to place our affections.” (Thomas, 155)

“Marriage based on romanticism embraces an idealized lie (infatuation) and divorces the reality once it presents itself. Marriage based on life in Jesus Christ invites us to divorce the lie (an idealized view of our spouse) and embrace reality (two sinful people struggling to maintain a lifelong commitment)” (Thomas, 165).

These are just a few of the ones that have impacted my heart a lot this week. Whether you are single, engaged, or married, I highly encourage you to read this book! It will encourage your pursuit of Christlikeness and will help to eradicate our culture’s definitions of love, commitment, and marriage from your heart.

Initial Thoughts on Marriage

I know that I haven’t been married all that long and that I probably don’t have the right to starting writing about marriage until after I’ve been married for more than a month. So take everything I say with a grain of salt and if you prefer, you can wait for my 20 year anniversary in 2031 to begin believing me. All of that aside, I think it’s important to capture some initial thoughts in these first few weeks.

Marriage is, in just one word, incredible. It’s not at all about butterflies and rainbows, or even the “oneness” experience that many people described it to us as, nor is it the extremely difficult transition that the other half of couples described. So far it’s quite ordinary and normal in the sense that we already know each other so well that there have been only nominal disagreements and surprises. That’s not to say that eventually disagreements and surprises won’t come, but there’s definitely the sense that because we have been such good friends for such a long time, we already know one another’s pet peeves, likes, dislikes, and preferences.

That’s not to say that loving him is without difficulty. He tends to not hear me when he’s reading Twitter or watching Sports Center and he also annoyingly tends to leave dishes in the sink instead of putting them straight into the dishwasher. But I step on the shower mat soaking wet instead of dripping off in the shower, so I guess I probably annoy him too.

I think what we discovered during our honeymoon was that the oneness described by all of our counselors and friends isn’t something that wedding vows or living together automatically create; instead, those things merely lay the foundation and create the atmosphere in which oneness can grow. We’ve decided that oneness is likely the result of 20 years of marriage, several kids, and years of struggles, ministry, commingled finances, and lots of prayer.

All of that said, it’s great! We love it. It’s really awesome to wake up next to your best friend every morning and go to sleep with them at night. But it also takes work. I’m learning that to be successful in marriage one must be extremely intentional. Without intentionality, a couple could go through life and merely live together.

Before I was married, I never realized how easy it would be to just cohabitate  or to serve my husband merely just to get things done, without ensuring that the love and glory of Christ is the catalyst of such service.

It would be so easy to do a poor job of reflecting the relationship between Christ and the Church, merely because I lack love. I’ve realized how important it is that the love and glory of Christ be my motivation in every area of life, and especially in my marriage.

Love is such an interesting word. I’m realizing that I’ve only ever scratched the surface. It’s a word that, like the word “oneness,” is likely going to take me a lifestyle shift and an entire lifetime to figure out in its entirety. And if I’m going to live my life by Scripture, this season of life requires me to turn again to Scripture to ask “what is love?” I know in my head and in my heart that it is defined as God and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but practically, how am I going to live that out? How do I lay down my life for Josh?

I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 13’s description of love – “love is patient and kind; love does not enjoy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (vs. 4-7).” And also, like forgiving someone 70 x 7, “love never ends” (vs. 8), which means that I need a limitless reservoir of love for Josh.

But not just love for Josh or because of Josh. Not because he’s amazing or I love him, but because of God – because all I do and all we are is meant to project the love of Christ’s love for the Church to the world. All I do is worthless without love. I could be the best wife, but if I’m not operating out of an overflow of love for Christ, it is all worthless. I’ve been extended limitless grace and I can only extend it in return. Furthermore, every single thing I do, whether its organizing the pantry, making dinner, or unloading the dishwasher – if I do it with any hesitation or without love, I negate it and I do not do it as unto the Lord.

It seems silly to me that this is so revolutionary to my heart today, but it was an amazing revelation and it makes Josh even easier to love well and live with. God is so good and so faithful to sanctify me in this time and use marriage to do so.

Love songs, Dave Barnes, and Christianity

okay, I’ll just go ahead and admit it – I’m a hopeless romantic. so there’s your disclaimer for this post – it’s gonna be a little sappy.

The problem with being both a Christian and a hopeless romantic is that so many love songs (and love stories, for that matter) mischaracterize the role of love, romance, and relationships/marriage in our lives… they focus on sensuality or place far too much value on the feelings that accompany relationships instead of what commitment really means. Maybe I’m thinking about this because I’ve got six or seven wedding invitations sitting on my desk. Or maybe I’m thinking about it because one of the invites is to my little sister’s wedding.

Regardless, I have discovered an artist whose songs I like A LOT. I recently went to a Dave Barnes concert and loved the lyrics in his songs… they seem to convey love and adoration without giving the focus of his affection a position that doesn’t belong to her.  His songs keep playing on repeat in my head (thanks to Karen) and I think they’re beautiful. The third one below, I Have and Always Will, is the perfect wedding song and it’s definitely my favorite. I’ll have to play it for Courtney once I get to Texas!

God Gave Me You – Dave Barnes
I’ve been a walking heartache
I’ve made a mess of me
The person that I’ve been lately
Ain’t who I wanna be

But you stay here right beside me
Watch as the storm goes through
And I need you

God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
For when I think I’ve lost my way
There are no words here left to say, it’s true
God gave me you

There’s more here than what were seeing
A divine conspiracy
That you, an angel lovely
Could somehow fall for me
You’ll always be love’s great martyr
Ill be the flattered fool
and I need you

God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
For when I think I’ve lost my way
There are no words here left to say, it’s true
God gave me you

On my own I’m only
Half of what I could be
I can’t do without you
We are stitched together
And what love has tethered
I pray we never undo

God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
For when I think I’ve lost my way
There are no words here left to say, it’s true
God gave me you, gave me you.
Gave me you.

Crazyboutya – Dave Barnes

You don’t have to tell me, girl, I know it
And hallelujah is coming out my mouth
Cause you’re my girl and girl I don’t deserve you
But deserving love is not what you’re about
Im gonna tell the whole wide world about you
Tell them what you mean to me
Ooh, Im crazy bout ya, baby, and I just can’t help it
Some might call it selfish
I need you by my side
I’m crazy bout ya baby
And there’s no denying
No use even trying
I need you by my side
All the girls in the papers and the movies
And the covers of the dirty magazines
They got nothing on your beauty, pretty baby
Cause you’re everything that they wish they could be
Im gonna tell the whole wide world about you
And tell them what you mean to me
Ooh, Im crazy bout ya, baby, and I just can’t help it
Some might call it selfish
But I need you to myself
Ooh, I’m crazy bout ya baby
And there’s no denying
No use even trying
I need you by my side

I Have and Always Will – Dave Barnes

Darling, we’re both scared
But where love is, fear won’t tread
All of these friends here agree
We’re right where we should be
Underneath all your white
My Lady, My Love, My Bride
In your darkest hours
Will I love you still
I have and I always will
I guess it’s because I just do
Following heaven’s clues
This is a big mystery
How I found, you found me
Underneath all your white
My Lady, My Love, My Bride
In your darkest hours
Will I love you still
I have and I always will
And you are changing now
Your part of me somehow
And I will never be alone
In your darkest hours
Well I love you still
I have and I always will
I have and I always will

But seriously. Read the lyrics. And also, always remember this:

“Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God. It displays the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people to the world in a way that no other event or institution does. Marriage, therefore, is not mainly about being in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. And staying married is not about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant and putting the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display. If you are married, this is why. If you hope to be, this should be your dream.” (John Piper, This Momentary Marriage)

And…… done! Normal posts shall resume shortly.

Headbands and little girls

Last Saturday Josh took me out for a day of shopping and to dinner. I’m a quality time girl and so it was definitely one of the best date days we’ve had in awhile. Who can beat something like 13 hours of quality time and all in one day?

He lets me drag him into all the stores and usually doesn’t let me buy very much so it’s a win/win! On Saturday I introduced him to Claire’s and tried on a bunch of headbands and he introduced me to the iPad.

Anyway, on to the point of this story (and the point of the story is not what I did, but how God can use us to love people):

At Claire’s I bought two super cute headbands, one with a large white flower and one with a white bow. They’re definitely my favorite accessory this summer, by far. I really felt like i should buy two, and not just because they were “buy one, get one half off.” We left the mall after spending more time in the Apple store than anywhere else and headed to the Olive Garden for dinner (yum!).

The place was packed but as I walked in and stood in line to give the hostess my name, two little girls caught my eye. They were both staring at me and smiling and one grabbed her mom’s hand and I saw her mouth “Mommy, look at her flower!” I was wearing a hot pink flower headband and I loved that she liked it too (compliments, even from children, make anyone feel good). After I put my name in for a table, I saw the little girls walking over to me, hand in hand. The youngest, wearing a pale yellow gingham dress, looked up at me and said, “I want you to know that I really like your flower!”

They were absolutely adorable and I was so impressed that they were brave enough to approach a complete stranger. I glanced at their parents and smiled, bent down and thanked the girls, shook their hands and introduced myself, and then told them I liked their dresses. Wynn and Maddie were their names, and they were precious. We exchanged other compliments – I liked their names and they thought mine was pretty too. I smiled at their mom again, told the girls that they had made my day, and then walked back over to Josh and told him I’d like to adopt kids someday (these girls were obviously adopted), and then our name was called and it was time to head to our table.

I waved goodbye to Maddie and Wynn, but before I had even gotten to our table I knew exactly why I had bought two headbands at the mall. I sat down, told Josh I needed to go back to the girls, grabbed my Claire’s bag, and headed back to the front of the restaurant. The whole family was surprised to see me again and I got to experience, yet again, the truth of Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I pulled the headbands out of the bag and said, “Girls, I just went shopping and bought these, and I really feel like you’re supposed to have them.” Simultaneously their eyes lit up and their mom’s eyes filled with tears. Their smiles were HUGE!

I support a Compassion Child, but all too often I think I count that as my “giving” and continue on in my more than comfortable lifestyle. Those headbands were easily replaceable but Maddie and Wynn were all I could think about all night. The joy of giving them that gift was exponentially larger than merely the purchase of something I had wanted and it prompted a lot of questions in my heart.

How often do we miss an opportunity to give? How often do I retain what I could so easily give to someone else? And why do I not give more often? It’s one of the best ways to live as Christ and it so easily reminds us that all we have is not our own. And I leave you with these same questions – how long has it been since you gave something to someone you didn’t know or performed a random act of kindness? Have you ever mowed your neighbor’s lawn or bought your best friend’s dinner?

I remember when

So, my little sister is getting married in June. She’s not so little anymore… I’m thrilled that she’s found someone who her heart loves and who loves her immensely in return. Dustin’s an incredible guy (and a very lucky one).

I got a notice about her bridal shower yesterday and ever since I’ve been flooded with memories of growing up with Courtlandt. She’s always been my very best friend and my partner in crime. I brought the crime, the mischief, and the ideas, and she was always my partner, regardless of our mission. She always believed in me and trusted me, even if I was leading an escapade out through our two story window. There is no more faithful friend or follower.

My very first memory of her, I think, is not of meeting her at the hospital, or of bringing her home, though I do remember being thrilled to have been given a sister. My first clear memory is of Court when she was about six or seven months old. She fit perfectly in my hot pink retro flower baby carriage. I remember pushing her around our living room and I remember being so proud that she was my sister. She wore a jumper and a big floppy straw hat and I thought she was the cutest thing ever.

And there are thousands of memories, thousands of moments just like that. I remember talking her into so much. And I remember taking her punishment as well as my own on so many occasions because I “was the one who talked her into” whatever mischief she had been part of. She was always content to be with me and to do whatever I was doing. There are memories of countless tea parties; dance parties with our Minnie Mouse dolls; dressing up in pearls, heels, and veils; rollerblading on the front porch; blackberry picking; learning to ride our bikes without training wheels on that horrid gravel driveway; horseback riding; long days at our desks in the school room; escaping through our bedroom window when Mom thought we were napping; picnics in the woods; and of lots of time in trees in the back yard. We cut holes in our frilly socks to make dresses for our barbies, dreamed up a million scenarios to pretend we were part of, made a home of the little house in the backyard, stood on stools to learn to cook, and we wore matching clothes for so long that I think it amounts to almost half of our lives thus far.

There were times that we argued, I’m sure, but I don’t remember them. And I think we both remember the two single times that she got into trouble that didn’t involve me. I hate to out her publicly, but I think she lied only twice as a child and was caught both times. Once she thought it would be really fun to pull all of the cotton swabs off of the Q-tips but wouldn’t admit to Dad that she had done it (I think she blamed Taylor), and the other time she ate peppermints without permission. I know… truly evil, right? I used to think she was perfect in every way, and then she confirmed it when she surpassed my graduating GPA with her perfect score of 4.0. She’s literally a genius.

I could never capture completely all that Courtney has meant to me. She’s loved me through life’s rough times, rejoiced with me in my successes, and prayed like crazy every time I’ve ever needed prayer. We attended Lee College together and studied abroad in England together in 2005. We followed that trip to England with another trip to England, France, and Italy following my college graduation and I know we’ll never forget our three weeks alone together in Europe. These are the memories that make a lifetime. Sisterhood is definitely one of the most precious things we’ve ever been given. All of these memories make up a woven existence, a shared life, that can’t be broken even by distance and infrequent phone calls.

Now I get to serve as her maid of honor and I’m thrilled to watch her enter this new stage of her life and experience the incredible gift of marriage. I have to admit that it’s strange to think that she’ll enter a stage of life ahead of me but I’m so excited to have the opportunity to watch her grow and learn from her experiences. One day we’ll switch places and I’ll have her standing with me as I become one with someone as well and I can’t even begin to express the joy that knowledge brings to my heart.

My mom was always right. My sister is the best friend I’ll ever have.

The Church and culture

I pray that this isn’t true of any ministry I ever serve. I pray that we love because Christ first loved.

“I think when Christians talk about reaching the culture, we sometimes don’t want to reach it for the sake of God as much as for ourselves. We want to win for winning’s sake. We want acceptance because we’re tired of looking foolish. We want success as the world defines it. We want a loser-free church that is hip and sophisticated.

But none of this squares with what Jesus told us about his kingdom. He didn’t tell us to aim for numbers or adoring crowds or cultural acceptance. He told us just to love him, love each other, and love the world by telling them about him.”

Josh Harris, Dug Down Deep pg. 214

Playlists and heart conditions

Jason Upton is quickly making his way back up to the top of my iTunes “most played” list.

If your playlist says anything at all about your heart, then I think something very good has been going on in mine. You know how some artists somehow manage to capture all of the thoughts, dreams, and ponderings of your heart? He’s definitely been the one I most identify with lately. And he’s also pretty much all I’ve listened to for the last week or so.

The Holy Spirit has used his songs to strengthen my heart – reminding me that even when everything in my life is unknown and nothing is certain, that God Himself is my sure, steady Rock and Redeemer. Furthermore, his music reminds me that life isn’t about me. Life is about being pursued by God and in turn, a pursuit of God Himself. Apart from God and a relationship with Him, we have no life.

I had several conversations yesterday that were very instrumental in continuing to shape my understanding of this season of my life and what God’s doing in me. The first was great because my friend drew my attention to the fact that all that is going on in my life simultaneously is happening with purpose. God is allowing there to be a great amount of uncertainty in pretty much all the major areas of my life because He’s definitely, without a doubt, asking me to increase the level of trust I place in Him. Think of any major area of life – yeah, I probably have no idea what God’s doing in me there, other than that I know that there’s nothing that’s sure except for God Himself.

The other conversation was also beneficial, but in a different way. It was another reminder that even the things in life that should be the most certain, just aren’t. And maybe they’re not meant to be in the sense that I want them to be.

There’s a line in Jason Upton’s song “Just Like You” that says “I’ll risk it all if You’ll make me just like You.” It’s an amazing line and is one that definitely I can relate to, but it struck me that we really risk very little. And what we risk is of no real eternal consequence. We risk our finances, our career path, our security, our rights, and many times our dreams. But when you really consider the value of those things to eternity, we find that they pale in comparison and we’re faced with all of our childishness, our grasping, our selfishness, and our inherent lack of trust.

My favorite song of Jason Upton’s is called “No Sacrifice.” I highly recommend it. It’s been a song I’ve clung to for years.

“To you I give my life, not just the parts I want to
To you I sacrifice these dreams that I hold on to

Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is stronger than mine
This is no sacrifice
Here’s my life

To you I give the gifts
Your love has given me
How can I hoard the treasures that you’ve designed for free?

Because
Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is stronger than mine
This is no sacrifice
Here’s my life

To you I give my future
As long as it may last
To you I give my present
To you I give my past

Because
Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is stronger than mine
Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is stronger than mine
This is no sacrifice
Here’s my life”

Guidance Needed?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where everyone in your life (including those you trust absolutely, those with whom you have very little true relationship, and all the people who fall in the middle) thinks they alone have the answer and that they know, without a doubt, the path you should take? What serves to make life even MORE complicated (as if it needed any help at all) is that each of these dear advice-givers, who usually do have your best interests in mind, tends to offer a wide variety of different advice and admonitions. Such guidance many times falls to extremes, or you get a few suggestions for all the different options involved, which leaves you once again, where you began.

Not all of this is unsolicited advice, either. I generally seek it out and ask for it… I tend to desperately need to bounce ideas and thoughts off of people and process circumstances out loud.  The results though, of such a practice, can be one of the most frustrating things ever, especially if you’re honestly seeking guidance and wisdom. I’m definitely pretty hard-headed and stubborn… but I like to think that I at least try to be teachable and try to seek out opportunities to be taught. I’m constantly praying that if I’m moving in a direction that isn’t God’s will that He’ll stop me, and that if I’m seeking anything that isn’t in His plan, that He’ll change my heart. In fact, I don’t ask, I beg.

The problem comes when  no one seems to quite understand… I guess I’m learning that each person brings their own biases into a conversation and such lenses provide the filter through which each individual sees the world. No one can truly understand my heart or my life or my situation in the same way I can, which thankfully forces me to turn to the only One who really can. I’m finding more and more that the best perspective is the heavenly one, one that focuses on others, the kingdom, and eternity… and not on me or what’s best for me.

I’m learning that even though I truly crave to communicate and to be known and to be taught, the best teacher is the Holy Spirit Himself. Now, please don’t misunderstand – I am not at all negating the value of the wisdom of those around us… I feel that mentorship by godly men and women is definitely one of the most amazing experiences ever and is so vital to our maturity in the faith. I’m merely saying that at some points in life it is necessary to trust your heart and the promises of God and move and live in faith, according to Scripture, rather than in what people tell you based on the way they perceive a situation. The advice that the world has to offer is false, has no merit, and exists in a sphere that has no idea of the true meanings of faith, hope, and love.

So, when seeking wisdom and guidance, I’m learning I have to be selective with where I turn. And I’ve found the best place to run is to God. Scripture is so full of promises regarding wisdom and understanding… and of God’s promise to let us hear from Him. Here are a few I’m holding on to:

1 Kings 4:29-31: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations.”

Job 12:13: “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding.”

and Job 28:12-28:

But where shall wisdom be found?

And where is the place of understanding?

13 Man does not know its worth,

and it is not found in the land of the living.

14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’

and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’

15 It cannot be bought for gold,

and silver cannot be weighed as its price.

16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,

in precious onyx or sapphire.

17 Gold and glass cannot equal it,

nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.

18 No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal;

the price of wisdom is above, pearls.

19 The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,

nor can it be valued in pure gold.

20 “From where, then, does wisdom come?

And where is the place of understanding?

21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living

and concealed from the birds of the air.

22 Abaddon and Death say,

‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’

23 “God understands the way to it,

and he knows its place.

24 For he looks to the ends of the earth

and sees everything under the heavens.

25 When he gave to the wind its weight

and apportioned the waters by measure,

26 when he made a decree for the rain

and a way for the lightning of the thunder,

27 then he saw it and declared it;

he established it, and searched it out.

28 And he said to man,

‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,

and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ”

Wisdom is so important that Proverbs tells us many times to seek it above all other things. I find myself praying Colossians 1:9-11 over myself daily (and changing it up a bit to make it personal):

“Lord, I ask that you will fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that I can walk in a manner worthy of You, fully pleasing to You, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in my knowledge of You. Strengthen me with all power, according to Your glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.”

These verses all point in the right direction – to the true source of all wisdom and seem to encapsulate all that I need – knowledge of His will, wisdom and understanding, fruit, strength, endurance, and patience.

growth

I love having the opportunity to watch my siblings grow up – even from afar. It’s incredible to get to experience this growth with them and to watch them come to maturity in Christ.

an excerpt from my brother’s recent blog post:

“I learned little things of love through the movies that have now accumulated and impacted the ways I view love and intimacy. However, the movies are probably not the most ideal source for information regarding life and love. But there is also a strong influence from the Bible (however I think it made less of an impact on me while I was really little and is making more of an impact upon me now that I’m older). Through it I have learned that love will never be just a happily ever after ending but it is a lifestyle that’s focus surrounds another rather than me. Furthermore, God must be included in this, else I fail.”

This same little brother once said, many years ago, that love was about “kissing,” and “that was all.” He had asked me to explain love and relationships in just one word. My response was “sacrifice.” He didn’t like that answer much. Granted, he was about 12 years old, and like many little boys, had a slightly inaccurate picture of what life really is about.

Even more encouraging than the change in how he sees love now (truly as “sacrifice” based on his words above), is the way he sees God… He’s not the foreword, an afterthought, or merely punctation in his life. He’s essential, life giving, the only hope of success and fulfillment.

I’m not a parent (though sometimes I feel like one since I have five younger siblings), but I have to say that I’m incredibly proud of Taylor – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for him. I’m absolutely thrilled beyond words that he understands, better than ever before in his life, not only the Truth of Scripture, but also its absolute necessity as a lens and a frame of reference in our lives as followers of Christ.

We’re all in a constant state of understanding this in our own lives. Life itself is a sort of a coming-of-age process for each of us. We’re always changing and growing in Christ. Just when we begin to realize that we’ve learned one lesson, conquered one area of sin (an area where we have refused to trust God), we’re asked to go further and learn more. We’re never ever going to “come of age” as it were, until we’re with Christ. But the more we allow Him to increase in us, the more we will decrease… and the more we’ll understand that we have to be IN Him to live, to grow, and to love.

I love you Taylor.

The Greatest of These is LOVE

I use the word “love” a lot – too much, in fact. I think I tend to embrace life with such positivity and enthusiasm that things that I greatly enjoy, or really admire, appreciate, and like, become things that I describe as things that I “love.” Maybe I do love them, in a way. But not love in the truest sense of the word. I’ve become more and more convicted about my word choices recently and catch myself using the word too often. I frequently use the word in relation to Jesus, the people that I hold closest to my heart and truly love so much, and ministry, but I use it as well to speak of my feelings regarding pieces of clothing, types of food, and other inanimate things. I guess I’m realizing that I don’t want to compare the things that give me life/make life worth living with things I merely possess.

1 Corinthians 13 provides a glimpse of perfect love –

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Faith, without love, is nothing? Wow. Martyrdom without love is worthless? Wow.

That last line grips my heart – I’m sure I’ll be pondering it for days (and always) – “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

All things? ALL? Even when we’re not loved in return or the love we receive doesn’t look like the love we desire? What about when we’re walking through a tough season or a close friend lets us down?

LOVE is sacrifice. Always. I don’t think there’s a better word to encompass the love of Christ or the love that we’re to have toward one another. And using that definition, I’d say I love a lot less than I think I do, and definitely far less than I say I do. Someone recently told me that they don’t believe it’s possible to love unconditionally… and after thinking about it for awhile, I think I have to agree – only Christ loves without conditions. I do believe, however, that we can choose to love, always and in all things, because love is ultimately the choice to sacrifice our wants, needs, feelings, rights, and conditions for the sake of another. Love isn’t really a feeling… it takes a lot of effort, resolve, and patience. When we love like that, we’re more like Christ.

1 John 4:7-10 is one we should keep constantly in mind: “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

As much as it’s humanly possible I want to love like that.