Posts Tagged ‘love’

I read an article today in which a person said that we needed the death of Bin Laden to come together as a nation. Now despite my chuckle at this man’s optimism that our nation has “come together”, I was a little bothered that we would “need” the death of anyone to come together.  What does this say about our needs as a human race that we need something violent to bring us together? My concern is that if it is death that brings us together, then how do we cope with life?

The words that have been circulating around the death of Osama Bin Laden vary: relief, pride, closure, joyful, glee, rejoice, revenge, retribution, etc.  There has been a need for closure for the tragedy of 9/11.  Bin Laden needed to be brought in for justice.  With the death of Bin Laden there has been a welling up of emotions in many people.  I have witnessed the struggle between vengeance, retaliation, forgiveness, celebration, and peace. I have seen my Christian brothers and sisters respond well and some not so well. I have questioned my own reactions.  I have concluded that I see no conflict with loving one’s enemy and forgiveness juxtaposed with the outcome of Bin Laden’s life.  Relief in someone’s death is different than celebration. In short, forgiveness and love does not equal blind tolerance to allow someone to continue to harm others and themselves.

Before I write anymore I would also like to add that after reading how the SEALS accomplished this mission I am amazed at their skill and humbled by the burden they carry in all they do and the burden they must carry now.  I am thankful for men and women like them and at the same time wish they weren’t needed.  I think it is good that Osama was found and though I do not mourn his death, I do not rejoice in his dying.

My concern goes deeper than the internal spiritual struggle. My concern is with the emotional response we expose in times like this.  I remember watching the news in 1993 after the disaster that took place in the Battle of Mogadishu, the one depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down, and the bodies of our soldiers being dragged through the streets. I had to wonder this week how close emotionally we are to that kind of scene.  What would have happened if Osama had been dropped alive in the middle of NYC? Our emotions are responding to rage, fear, assumed patriotism, mourning, frustration, etc.  The one thing we are not responding to is the divinity in our humanity.

The question I am faced with is do we really need the death of Osama Bin Laden to have closure, satisfaction, or security. The sad news is that this event really does not change anything permanently.  The end of the crusades did not stop men from misinterpreting scripture for evil purposes. The death of Hitler didn’t stop mad men from desiring the destruction of others not like themselves.  The death of Bin Laden will not stop hatred from infecting the minds of millions. Just like the silence after a murderer was hanged in the public square, we will simply read the news and go home to await another tragedy and hope for a good vengeance story.

Bleek? A little bit much for even my taste.  Reality? I know that a lot of camping and survivalist gear sold quite well in all the camping sections after the news of Osama’s death broke.  Is there good news? You better believe it.  There is a wonderful hymn that has been pulsing through my ears for about two months now, “my hope is built on nothing less that Jesus blood and righteousness”.  I thank God that I am in relationship with Him, especially in times like these.  The reason is that my hope does not rest in the news of this world nor the government, but that it rest completely in Jesus Christ.

We talk about Jesus’ blood and generally we see that blood as his blood that was spilt for our forgiveness and freedom.  But I see it also in his resurrection, bodily and whole, blood and bones.  He is a God who forgives in his death and invites me to participate in his resurrection.  His resurrection means that I have no fear of death for death is not final for me.  If I have no fear in death and my hope is in Christ, then what do I have to fear in life? Why do I have to wait on the demise of another to find satisfaction in me? I don’t.  My identity if found in him and therefore my security is not found in the tragedies of this world.  I do not have to wait for someone to apologize to me, or be brought to justice for something they have done to me in order for me to find peace. In Christ, I have a peace that passes all understanding and therefore can live out a life of peace and hope. This does not mean I live in denial or that I do this easily, but it does mean that I know where the source of true peace comes from and I have never been let down by Him before.

I am troubled by the man’s statement in that article about a nation needing the death of someone to bring us together because it means we are a nation with much to fear, much to loose, and much burden.  When people live out of that kind of burden it becomes difficult to truly live, to truly trust, to be honest with ones self and one another.  I think there is more to this world and this life and that is the reason I am an evangelist.  I do want people to know Christ.  But my agenda is not in moral superiority.  My agenda is not about propagating law.  My evangelism, which means good news, is about just that; good news.  Hope. Identity. Freedom.  Jesus Christ reminds us of our true humanity which is rooted in his divinity.  God is calling us all to be reconciled to him that we may discover who we really are.  He calls out to us and beckons us not to come together in death, but be unified in life, a life he offers freely. The peace and hope I had before and after the death of Bin Laden is the same, for it is not dependent on the ways of men but an everlasting source from the God of love.


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Who Loves Ya Baby?

Your kids are great and all, but my kid is awesome… and for no better reason than she is my kid.  I love my kid and nothing can change or take this love away. Every now and then I will ask her if she knows that I love her while I am tickling her.  The other day I decided to ask her if she knew “how” I loved her. She answered, “you love Mommy!”  I said, “yes I do and that is one way that I love you, but there are other ways too.”

I went on to tell her that I love her by playing with her, and taking care of her, and buying her toys.  She perked up at that one.  I told her that I loved her by feeding her, putting her to bed, changing her diaper, and reading her stories.  I explained that there are many ways that I love her. I then asked her if she knew how she loved me.

What does a child of this age do to show a parent they love them?  She can’t take care of me. She can’t protect me. She can’t buy me toys or feed me. I sat there for a second after asking the question and then told her how she loves me.  I told her that she loves me by trusting me to take care of her and provide for her. She loves me by the excitement she shows when I come home, by inviting me to play with her and her toys. She loves me by depending upon me and desiring my attention.  She loves me by responding to my love.

There is nothing we can give God to earn his freely given love.  There is nothing we can give him that he needs.  But he delights in the fellowship of our play, our laughter.  He delights in the invitation to our mundane and sacred living. He delights in our trust and reception of his guidance and love. In this kind of love there is nothing on our part to “prove”.  It is an action that requires no scheming.  It is a love that requires us to be still and know that he is God.

With no anxiety to prove that God loves me and that I love him, it certainly opens up room for me to love others. Sydney was right; I do love her by loving her mommy.  That’s also how I love God.

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Tat Too?

It is true.  I have entered into the ranks of those who have been inked.  This past weekend I took the plunge and subjected my forearm to the ancient practice of tattooing.  A practice where people go to express their individuality by doing something that millions of others have done.  Tattooing, an act in which you pay someone money to take a needle covered in ink and stab it into your arm over and over and over again.

As we walked into the parlor, (really, it’s called a parlor,  I doubt that when little old ladies create their little parlors with doilies and ribbon candy they had in mind Lidia the tattooed lady serving tea, but here we are.), the walls are framed and decorated with tattoos from bodies past and present.  Each person’s choice etched out from stories of great personal  meaning to a night of drunken dares.  There are dragons and fish, eagles and tigers.  There was even a collage with guns and a cross.

The language was as colorful as the arms, necks, and faces doing the work.  Tattoos, often a sign of toughness, rites of passage, initiations… and in I walk to order my ink of choice.  I slapped my picture down on the counter like a man ordering apple juice at a biker bar.  “Good sir” I say, “I’d like to tattoo my daughters hand print on my arm”.  Yes, I am that burly.

Did it hurt?  Well, if you have read my other blogs, you will know that I have subjected myself to more painful and stupid things, so pain is relative.  Much less painful than the Hot Wing challenge or the last 6 miles of the 1/2 IronMan. It’s like a thousand ant bites without the poison.

Once strapped to the chair, and internally laughing at the site of severally tattooed people sterilizing everything, the artist placed the stencil of Sydney’s hand on my forearm, made sure that was where I wanted it placed and put his needles to work.  As I sat there exchanging small talk I began to think of the significance of the experience.  I have thought for a long time about what kind of tatoo I wanted and when we had Sydney I knew I wanted something to do with her.  It took three years, but I finally figured it out.

One night as I was watching TV, I didn’t realize that Sydney had gotten into her paints.  She is usually pretty good at keeping the paint on paper, but this night… not so much.  She came around the corner and yelled “surprise!” I looked over and thought I saw Mel Gibson in Braveheart, but it was just Sydney covered in green paint.  As I picked her up to wash her off, I soon discovered that the paint was not just on her.  There were little green foot prints on the, thankfully, wooden floor.  That was when I saw her hand print on the floor as well.  I knew then that I wanted Sydney’s print forever etched on me.

Her high energy, strong will, permanent joy, as well as the reminder that she is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh all play a part in it’s meaning.  Plus, I think it looks pretty dang awesome.  It is no secret that I am devoted to my daughter, for I know how fierce and protective I am and how much I love talking about her.  As I sat participating as a piece of canvass, enduring minor pain, I couldn’t help but hear God tell me, “If you think you know fierce love, how much more do you think I love you”.

As much as I have etched a print of Sydney’s hand on my arm, God desires me to be imprinted in Him.  Not just a sketch, by my life.  I don’t see this as selfish on his part, but an act of undying devotion to see me live.  The vibrancy I desire to see in the life of Sydney He wants even more so for me.  The question I ask myself is if I am willing to stop being the canvass and become the ink in which God creates.

As I sit on my back porch I see Sydney play with bugs and the dogs.  I see and hear birds and turtles.  My orange tree is finally ripe.  The works of his creation abound.  Why would I not subject myself to the work of the Divine artist, the true creator, the author of life.  May I be marked proudly on the arms of my God.

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In any romantic you will find an obsessive fool one poem away from a restraining order.  The odd thing of the romantic is that the advances are only considered romantic if the object of desire reciprocates in kind.  If the heart felt flood gate of emotion is not desired then the word Romance suddenly turns into the word “Creepy”.

Pre-ritlin/pre-divorce I was an eternal romantic. I once wrote a poem to a girl for the promise of a kiss! She didn’t think I’d write it.  She was wrong.  I was kissed.  Love is temporary insanity. Think about Shakespeare for a moment; if there was romance in his plays it was either a tragedy or a comedy.  We think people do wild stuff for a klondike, but if you throw love into the equation, look out!

But there is that word “love”.  Is the romantic poet really in love with the person or the idea of love.  I determined later in life after several foolish relationship choices that I was in love with romance, and like missing the forrest for the trees I missed the person for all the wooing.  Was the depth of love involved at all?  Maybe.  At least shadows of love.

There is a place for romance but it ceases to be love when it distorts the true image of the other person.

I have read Keats, Shelly, Wordworth, and Byron.  Their poetry is fun to read and moving.  They were my “go to” poets when I wanted to impress or be inspired.  Never on my list was Ralph Waldo Emerson.  He was too practical.  Wise? Yes.  Deep? Yes. Romantic?  His three major essays are entitled; Compensation, Self Reliance, and Manners.

The other day I was going through a big box of books that someone in our church had dropped off.  Inside was a little brownish navy blue book filled with Emerson’s poems.  I love books. (have ever since I discovered in college that chicks dig dudes who read or were very manly.  I had long hair and pierced ears and I knew I wasn’t pulling one of those images off.) This book was published in the 1920’s and that fascinated me too.  I opened it up to the middle and saw a poem entitled, “Forbearance”.  Emerson really knew how to make the ladies swoon.

Naturally, I read it. Here it is.

Forbearance. by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hast thou named all the birds without a gun?

Loved the wood-rose, and let it on its stock?

At rich men’s tables eaten bread and pulse?

Unarmed, faced danger with a heart of trust?

And loved so well a high behavior,

In man or maid, that thou from speech refrained,

Nobility more nobly to repay?

O, be my friend, and teach me to be thine!


Mr. Practical.  Mr. Prudent.  Mr. Self Reliance, Compensation, and Manners. Mr., you sir give light to love.

What is Forbearance?  It simply means self control, patience, and tolerance.  Most romantics who desire with intensity to know love, spout words of lost control, impatience with waiting, and intolerance of the misunderstood.  This kind of romantic is no romantic at all.  This kind of romantic is a consumer of love, but not a connoisseur of love. Not one who will ever know love. Emerson, here in a few short stanzas, describes a love that Paul described in his letter to the Corinthians.  Love is patient and self control and understanding.

Emerson questions the one who says they love the beauty of birds and always shoots it down.  He questions the one who delights in flora and fauna only to snip off the head of a rose to place on ones shirt.  He questions the one who devours the object of their desire and the one who only sees the object of beauty for what it does for them and not the beauty of its self.  Emerson seeks the friend who seeks to partner with the life of the other in a spirit of learning and discovery not in a spirit of objectification and consumption.

When reading this poem, I immediately thought of the opposite kind of love.  I thought of Lenny in “Of Mice and Men”.  Lenny was mentally disabled, very large and unaware of his strength and the impact his attention had on others.  Lenny loved rabbits, but in his affection would accidentally kill them.  The same thing happened with his love of a woman.

True love does not stifle and destroy the other person.  True love uplifts and encourages.  Love truly does show patience and self-control.  It is wonderful to compare her to a summers day, just make sure you “see” her and not just the highlights in her hair.  In love, the truth is opposite the rules of the sun.  In order to truly embrace the reality of affections and love, a person must be looked at directly and not distracted by the things we use to protect ourselves from true romance.  To experience the greatness of another person truly does take forbearance.  Forbearance, quite possibly may be the most romantic way to the soul of another.  Imagine the consuming fire of love built upon the embrace and respect of another person.

It doesn’t stop with lovers either.  In other forms it is the true way of friendship, and christian respect for others.  Jesus said to love one another as he has loved us.  We often leap here, once again, to the extreme of romantic acts of sacrifice, but what of the other ways that Jesus loves us.  He never disrespected the “person” of another.  Even in confrontation an act of love, an act of forbearance was used.  He saw a person of value, not an object.  What do you see when you see another?

Is this all to say that acts of emotion and expression are bad?  Far from it! Romanticism is wonderful.  A heart beats truly when expressed dramatically. Acts of poetry, music, and art are blessed ways to express oneself. Is a poem for a kiss a bad thing? No.  Just make sure you both really want a kiss and not a cheap limerick.

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