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”

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.

The Value of Friendship

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” C.S. Lewis

I don’t often disagee with C.S. Lewis. I have loved his works since I was really young – beginning with The Chronicles of Narnia at a very young age and slowly absorbing and reabsorbing other works of his like The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, etc. His ideas, illustrations, and imagination have definitely affected the way I view God, Christianity, and love.

However, today I definitely take issue with the quote above. Technically, he is correct. But realistically, not so much. Never do I feel more loved than when a friend, knowing so much about me, my life, and needs, steps in to offer to sacrifice on my behalf. Today I was reminded of the absolutely priceless value of a friend who loves you and of the real need of human beings to have such relationships. There’s really nothing else quite like it in life. The love of family, while also priceless and completely irreplaceable, is quite distinct from the love of a friend. There is no blood tie there, no obligation, no pressure… just love.

I totally agree with Lewis on this point: “Love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”

Today’s been a really incredible day. I’m learning to rest and I’m also being reminded of all of the incredible people that God has placed in my life to love me, support me, and teach me. I am more than blessed.