What Love is: A Litmus Test

It seems that the world is upside down right now, that everything is wrong side out and backwards. We want the madness to stop, but we’re at a loss as to how. We say we want to get along, that we want peace and love, but from the virulence and frequency of the bombastic and self-righteous screeds that are posted every day to facebook, twitter and any number of “social” forums, it is clear that most of us have no idea of what we’re doing or why. We want desperately for things to go differently, to head in a new direction, the direction of unity, but it seems we’ve lost our way. We don’t know anything about kindness, tolerance and love, or if we had ever learned, we’ve forgotten, developed a collective case of CRS (can’t remember shit), as if modern life has divorced us from knowing, understanding exactly what it means to love.

So how do we know what love is? It sounds like a simplistic question, but is it really? We think we know what it is; we think love is about the sentiments reflected in a popular song, quotes by the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa, a warm and fuzzy feeling about our friends and family, or a heart shaped emoji we use to react to our friend’s posts. But, love is so much more than these, greater than our trivialities. It is the one thing that never fails, and is perhaps the most challenging feet we could attempt in our lives. And, we do know what it looks like, because we’ve been given a litmus test for love, a laundry list by which to check our actions. The test goes like this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

We must test everything against this standard, continually asking ourselves; is it patience or is it pride, is it kindness or cattiness, is it truth or rumor parading as truth, does it persistently hope for the best or is it flip and conceited, is if faith-filled or self-filled? If the words we speak (or type) cannot pass this test, if they are unkind, conceited, ill-mannered, selfish, proud, a diatribe of what’s wrong, we are not speaking from a place of love.

Here’s what else we’ve been told about love:

Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Leviticus 19:18

But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45

If we are jealous, act impatiently, are brutish, or delight in situations that prompt us to say “ain’t karma a bitch,” we do not know love. If we take it upon ourselves to “get even” with those who would do us harm, we are not coming from a place of love, but of darkness and hate. What then, do we do with hate? There is no reasoning with it, any brute force or mighty action that can stop it, because hate is not the cure for itself. There is only one antidote to hate, only one power mighty enough to stop it in its tracks: Love.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

If we love one another, we don’t give up on each other. We aren’t gleeful or smug when evil things happen to others, even when they are our enemies. We continue to hope for the very best with all the patience in the universe, because that is what we have been called to do, what we’ve been commanded to do,  and the example we are expected to set as a follower of Christ.

~SLM

I heard this on the radio this morning and thought it appropriate for this post – thank you Danny Gokey for this beautiful song!

Do as I Say…

Funny how this seeking for a higher meaning works, just when you think you’ve got something figured out, your turn your perspective a fraction of a degree, and suddenly it’s a whole new landscape.  There are certain verses that seem to return again and again, to show you that what you thought you knew was, in reality, only a small sampling of a greater truth, a greater equation, and that’s why I’ve landed back on Isaiah 29:13, which states, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,”  It’s not just about being estranged from God, but also about duplicity; about our persistent habit of commingling words and actions, our false logic of substitution in which we assume our words and actions are interchangeable, and our expectation that others do what we cannot ourselves do.

We can say all the right things in flowery prose and elegant verse. We can talk our fool heads off about what is right, what is fair, what we think others should do, or be willing to do. We can be as socially acceptable and politically correct as the best little soldier out there, but the true test of where we live is in the heart, and while we can say anything, and oft times we actually do, our actions are the reflection of our thoughts and beliefs. The heart is where action resides. If we say we are against bullying, but bully others in order to prove they are bullies, then we become what we call, we use our lips to prove our “rightness” while showing what lives in our hearts: a bully. We can talk of peace and cooperation, we can take others to task for what they say or don’t say, but if our actions don’t back up our lips, we are nothing but liars, hypocrites.  We can talk a big game, but when it comes right down to it, our hearts reveal our true intent, our true thoughts and feelings, our true core beliefs, and how we act speaks to what is in our hearts.

Words and actions are not the same; they do not bear the same weight. While words can be illuminating, clarifying, and insightful, they can also be deceiving, misguided and false. Actions on the other hand, are like a mirror; they merely reveal and reflect who we are in our heart of hearts.

“Do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.” (Matthew 6:5)

~SLM

Whatever Happens, Be Thankful

It’s so easy for us to be thankful when Life goes the way we think it should, we say “Praise God,” or “God is good.” And it’s also easy to forget. When life smiles on us, the stars align, and we seem to dance into our future without a care, we get all full of ourselves, feel entitled, forget to be grateful, and when life throws us a curve ball, we can’t bring ourselves to it. But gratefulness is important, whatever happens.

In 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul tells us to be thankful in every circumstance. No matter what the situation we find ourselves in, whether joyous and care-free or stress-filled and disastrous, we can be certain that we are exactly where we have been called to be. God has put us there. Paul tells us in Romans that all things work together for God’s good purposes. At any given time, we are where we are most needed to do honor and glory to God, even when we can’t see it. We must press on, remembering that where we find ourselves is merely a weigh station along the road, a pause, a side trip, not the final destination.

Here is the constant: God is good, and no matter how bad I’ve been, or how I perceive the circumstances that I may find myself in, He still is. So, thanking him every day for whatever life throws my way is the best way I know to be faithful to Him, to honor Him, because He has put me here, this is where he needs me most at this moment in my life.

~SLM

 

Transitions

Letting go and letting God is much easier said than done. When our lives are unsettled, then transitions occur, our troubled minds find no rest. This is when we must resolve to trust the most, but is usually when we are the least willing to follow. We stand frozen, like Lot’s wife, mournful for what we are leaving behind, unwilling to fathom that what lies ahead could well be what we’ve always dreamed of. Instead, we allow ourselves to be convinced that the difficulties and strife we’ve just come through is far better than what may come into. We make many small transitions every day, a new boss, a road closure, an unexpected delay, without letting them stop us in our tracks, yet the larger ones paralyze us. How are they different? We have no trust that what we are being delivered into will be better than what we are delivered from. God’s timing is hardly ever our timing, and if it were, we’d probably never follow His plan. Matthew 6:34 tells us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I guess it’s human nature that we are more willing to “stay with the devil we know” rather than take the leap toward something more. It’s sure, it’s safe and trusting means we admit we are not in control, we admit we haven’t made very good choices.

But what about the God we know? Have we no trust in his ability to keep us? Why is it so difficult to cling to His promises? Psalm 23 begins with this line: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing – NOTHING! Even when it looks like there is no road, we must trust that God will provide. We see only a small portion of the puzzle, and when we reflect upon our journey, don’t we always see just how lovingly we’ve been cared for?  

It occurs to me that it’s our attitude toward our life’s events that needs adjusting. How different, more calm and blissful would our lives be if we stopped lamenting what we perceive as misfortunes and embraced God’s plan? What if we were to relish the twists and turns of this roller-coaster ride we call life, and face each day with this thought: These are exciting times that God has provided for me, I can’t wait to go down this road, to see how this will all shake-out, and to see who I will become as a result of it all!

~SLM

Proverbs 9 Prayer

Heavenly Father, blessed possessor of eternal wisdom, show me how to be wise to truth. Set my feet on the path that You have chosen, and fortify me with Your discipline that I may recognize foolishness in all its guises. Fill my heart with Your love and graciousness that I may eat from your banquet table, growing more like You with each day, and dwelling in the fullness of Your rich presence. Amen.

 

~SLM

Proverbs 8: A Prayer for Guidance

Heavenly father, your love and guidance amaze me. Thank you for the wonders of your Wisdom which is ever present, ever patient, waiting in plain sight for us to simply take note. Bless my eyes, dear God that I may see; see your hand in everything, no matter how great or small, and no matter how joyous or painful. Bless my ears, oh Lord that I may hear; hear your loving voice in every situation, no matter how difficult or harmonious, and when I have lost my way, fill my heart with your gracious Wisdom that through Wisdom’s presence, I may truly live.

Amen.

~SLM

Proverbs 3 – A Prayer for Guidance

Heavenly Father, gracious and loving source of wisdom, thank you for your guidance and correction.  Fill my heart with the power of your insight and open my ears that I may hear your voice and act upon your instruction. Encourage me to deal fairly and honestly with all whom I meet, and share freely and lovingly the gifts you have given. Help me to hold the difficulties of this life in their proper perspective, to not be envious of those who would hurt others, and to follow only your ways, so that I may stand on the hills of life and shine your light to the world. Amen.
~SLM