We All Need More Love

Photo Credit: Photosavvy

Photo Credit: Photosavvy

I was talking with a friend the other day who said, “what do you think that guy’s problem is?”

Now, I have a job where people often tell me what their problem is, so the question isn’t as harsh as it sounds, but before I could sort my response, the following answer slipped from my mouth:

“He doesn’t have enough love, I think. Like most of us. He just needs more love.”

I’m always encouraged when I get the right answer in spite of myself. When it happens I’m reassured that my choice to believe the Holy Spirit dwells in me just like the scriptures say, is correct. Also, it allows me to give credit where credit is due. Thanks for that one Lord!

When people act out, when they are dismissive or arrogant or just plain crazy and rude, we can talk all day about the behavior, but that’s all smoke. The fuel to those flames, I think, is nearly always a ferocious longing for love.

Most of my elaborately weird behavior can be traced to this source. So if you’re around me much, make a note. However, I’m pretty sure no matter how much or well you love me, the only love that steadies my heart and makes me feel rich and complete, comes from Jesus. Believe me. I’ve tried it lots of ways.

Jesus says this about that:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

So, two things:

1. I can’t get it without Him and if I don’t have it, I sure can’t give it to you.

2. As much as I want to love you well, I can’t be your source. He has to be.

Oh and that word abide…it’s tricky for me. Put another way: Be present with intention and practice, but my gosh that feels like work and I don’t need another thing to improve. Do you feel like you’re failing because you don’t abide enough?

Well friends, what if abiding looked like this…

You know how your child, maybe age three or four, smells when he is fresh from the tub? He’s all zipped up in his jammies and ready for bed, when he spies you reading the paper. So he walks in and climbs into your lap. You mute the tv, and wrap your arms around his warm, little body, holding him close against your chest. Just then you catch that scent, the one that belongs only to him, the one you’d know anywhere. He doesn’t want anything from you. He doesn’t need anything. He’s just choosing the warmest, best place to end his day. And the two of you sit together a while and talk about birds.

What if we abide like that? Is that easier?

Tonight, this is how I choose to abide, believing with full confidence that as I climb into his lap, my God is utterly wrecked by me and my choice to end my day resting in his arms; letting him love me until his heart nearly breaks and his cup runs over into mine.

Have a Real New Year

Anybody looking forward to throwing out the candy canes, eating spinach and going back to work? Me too, and at the risk of sounding like Scrooge again, here’s the last thing I’m going to say about getting real at the holidays.

If I find myself depressed at the New Year it’s usually for the following reasons:

1. I’m overfed.
2. I’m bored.
3. I’m self-absorbed.

Photo Credit: skeeze

Photo Credit: skeeze

On Overfeeding: The impulse to share and bless is a holy one for sure, and science has proven giving feels good. But sometimes our networks are small and the people within them are already obese with blessing. So our lovingly crafted pies are buried under a feast large enough for three times the crowd. It’s so lavish, it’s convicting. Plus, we don’t have the Tupperware, everybody’s pants are tight and we’re all overwrought, but New Years is the finish line, so we choke down pie we don’t want, because it’s unthinkable to trash a homemade pie. I wonder, is the solution less pie or larger network?

On Boredom: God help you if you’re around me when I’m bored. According to the Myers Briggs personality test, I’m an ENFJ. What are you? That means I’m a big extravert who likes to take care of people and boss them around. When I’m not doing that I am easily convinced my life is a waste of time. That thought occurs to me nearly every morning and when my hands are idle. It used to bother me, but then I read the Bible and found a good explanation for it:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

I know I’m up against things I can’t see and when I’m moping around, navel gazing, they gain ground in my head. Friends, the answer is not to be busier, but to choose which thoughts can stay and which ones must report immediately to Jesus. That way if I’m sitting in my bathrobe at noon, like right now, I can rest and not feel like a loser. It does take a little practice though.

Photo Credit: Mark Weaver

Photo Credit: Mark Weaver

On Self-Absorption. Is there a holiday that encourages self-absorption more than New Years Eve? Certainly, self awareness and reflection are good things but there is no joy in selfishness. I know. I’m an expert. So if joy is what we want, we have to aim higher than just losing 10lbs, because, besides ourselves, who does that help? And where in the scriptures does Jesus advocate self-improvement? He doesn’t. He advocates dying to ourselves. The good news is, he said what you give will be given back in big, amazing measure, but you go first. Just like he did.

And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph 5:2

So here’s an idea:

What if over the next 11 months, we set out to make some new friends – needy ones – whatever that means, money, time, mentoring, food. That way next Christmas we can not be bored, and satisfy our impulse to give money, candles, infinity scarves and pie to people who actually need it. Who knows, maybe those friendships will morph into other opportunities at Memorial Day, Easter and Halloween too.

Not sure how to do that? Here’s my prayer, feel free to borrow it.

Lord, because I love you, I want to give. What does that look like, today, in my exact context? Please make it obvious, so even I can’t miss it. Inconvenience me. Show me who needs to see you today. Thank you. Amen.

Real New Year everybody!

Have a Real Christmas

Photo Credit: Bert Kaufmann

Photo Credit: Bert Kaufmann

In the last five days, I’ve had a dozen or so conversations with people who are trudging though the season: People who feel like failures in gift giving, phonies at parties and the only person on earth who doesn’t adore the holidays. If you know me very well, you know I am one of them.

But I’m no longer afraid to tell you that because:

1. I know I’m not alone.

2. I have a warm, well-lighted fortress I run to every time I get discouraged. It arrives in a manger tomorrow.

The bottom line is I’m ok with all this and I want you to be too.

What’s interesting about these conversations is, almost universally, nobody feels safe to admit they are lonely or grieving or disappointed or sad. It’s like we know the Hallmark version of Christmas is actually quite fragile, but we want it to exist and nobody wants to be the one to shatter it. So we smile and play along, then berate ourselves for not having a better time.

Beloved. Stop that. He knows. He sees you.

Photo Credit: SnarkyM

Photo Credit: SnarkyM

We know, in the midst of the sparkle, people are lonely and broken and the holidays amplify that. So what I want to say is, it’s ok to be lonely because you’re not married and you’d like to be. It’s ok to miss someone who died and to feel their absence like an ache. It’s ok to be sick about someone who is languishing in jail, or to cry for your family and your dog as you do something hard on the other side of the world.

Jesus sees you and I wonder if it would please him more to see us abandon some, not all, of the pageantry in favor of authentic emotion. Maybe we don’t want to do that because we don’t want to ruin it for the kids, but what better gift can you give your kids than to demonstrate how to manage joy and sorrow at once? That is a courageous gift.

So if Merry Christmas feels like a tall order, maybe have a Real Christmas instead.

Here are three strategies:

1. Don’t wipe the mascara streaks off your face before you walk in a room. When someone asks what the tears mean, tell them. What if they take a deep breath and cry too? What new thing will come into being between you?

2. Chose, right now, as a practice, to notice what is, rather than what is not. In my case: Legs that work. Eyes that see. Music playing. Dogs sleeping. Fire burning. Fuzzy socks. Poinsettias. This is more than just counting your blessings. It is a deliberate practice, one where we choose the object of our focus. As the Apostle Paul says:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Phil 4:8

Photo Credit: Darian Wong

Photo Credit: Darian Wong

3. Stop and breathe. Really deep. Low and slow. Match the duration of your inhale to your exhale. Maybe do this in child’s pose, which some people think looks a lot like surrender.

If it helps, imagine a manger in front of you.

Real Christmas everyone.