Love Your God

** A quick update: There seemed to have been a bit of confusion about our sweet Lily. I apologize if I didn’t make the end of the story clear! Gratefully, this time we were granted miracle. Lily is just fine and wondering what all the fuss was about! **
Love.
Love your neighbor.
Bearing One Another
Love your God.
Be With God
Jesus said that this is most important.
Loving your neighbor is hard, yet we have seen our neighbor.  Mostly we do not really see our neighbor, yet every now and then we catch a glimpse in their eyes, in the tilt of their head, in the stance of their bodies of something beautiful, something glorious, some divine spark within.  And loving our neighbor as ourself at least gives us a familiar sort of standard to work toward.  Yet loving our neighbor is still hard.
Where Your Neighbor Lives
Loving God?  This falls into a whole new category of difficulty.  Loving God with all that we are and all that we are meant to become?  We don’t even understand what that really means.  Love God, Whom we have not seen.  Love God Who wouldn’t show His face to Moses, but hid him in the cleft of a rock while He passed by and then allowed Moses to catch a glimpse of His back.  How can we begin to fathom what this command means, much less become capable of obeying?
Supernova
To love God not for what He can do for you, but for Himself alone.  To want to be with Him, to want to do things for Him.  In the midst of plenty, it is difficult to even catch a glimpse of God, much less love Him for Himself.  And in the midst of the wilderness of pain or grief, it seems like this command is a command to sprint out of the wilderness while our legs are broken.
I watched my niece die this past Sunday, our beautiful one-year-old Lily, or so I thought.  This time we were granted a miracle of life, but as I listened to Lily’s mommy sob in a way that I haven’t heard since I sat with my middle brother on the eve of his wife’s death, I knew that this story could have so easily had a different ending.  And how do you love God when the worst has happened, when it feels as though your very life has been wrenched away from you?  It could lead us to despair, this greatest command that we are not capable of obeying.
Wilting
Yet at its heart the gospel is about God moving toward us, doing for us what we are incapable of doing on our own.  We find hope in Jesus Who, in His abandonment by God still cries out “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”  When life in all of its cruelty and beauty, when our daily cross, when even death itself cannot destroy our love for God because our love comes from God Himself, then we are empowered to move across our wilderness on our broken legs and we find that God has not only moved toward us but has swept us along toward Himself even in the middle of our fear that He has forsaken us, if He even does indeed exist.
Dying
Perhaps we find the most pure love in the middle of the wilderness because that is where we are left with nothing else but God.  When the worst happens or almost happens, when we love Him in spite of all that is around us, when we love Him for His own sake because He is all that we have left, it is there that we are able to catch a glimpse of what it is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength because He has been in the wilderness with us.
God's Power
The final secret, I think, is this: that the words “You shall love the Lord your God” become in the end less a command than a promise.  And the promise is that, yes, on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope, we will come to love him at last as from the first he has loved us – loved us even in the wilderness, especially in the wilderness, because he has been in the wilderness with us.  He has been in the wilderness for us. ~ Frederick Buechner

Art credit: Photograph of supernova by NASA

Inexpressible

This week’s guest essay is written by another college friend, Tiffany Yecke (now Tiffany Brooks). Tiffany and I spent a semester together in Greece, where I learned how very smart and fun she is, and how beautiful her heart is. Tiffany is incredibly talented and works full-time as a writer, so I was very grateful that she agreed to write a little something for my blog space! If you want to read more of her musings, you can find her at Preach Write Act (www.preachwriteact.blogspot.com)
The Inexpressible
By Tiffany Yecke Brooks
Imagine and describe an animal you’ve never seen. Easy enough, right? We’ve all done that at one point or another in our childhoods. Now imagine and describe a food or dish you’ve never had. This one may be a little harder, since it involves having the figure out what the taste or texture or aroma might be in terms of mixing ingredients and mode of cooking—but it’s still doable with a little effort. Now, imagine and describe a color you’ve never seen. Whoa—what?
Go on, just give it a try.
It kind of boggles the mind once you start really thinking about it, doesn’t it? I mean, we’ve all seen the color wheel, which encompasses every hue of visible light. We have seen every color that exists, and we know from basic color theory what combining different colors will produce (blue and yellow make green; green and blue make turquoise or teal depending on how much white or black is also involved; blue and red make purple; purple and green make a gross, muddy brown, etc.). But the fact is, there really isn’t any way for the human mind of conceive of a brand-new-never-before-made color or color mix or shade or tint or anything else because we have already exhausted our ability to see color in all of its various hues. Such a thing as a “new color” simply does not exist given our finite spectrum of visible light.
Without going into a complex explanation of the anatomy of the human eye (mainly because, for some unknown reason, they don’t cover that in English major courses in college so I don’t really know that much about it myself), sight is possible through a complex series of rods and cones that absorb and reflect light onto receptors, which our mind then registers as colors. Human eyes have cones that register red, blue, and green as our primary colors, and then mix the intervening hues accordingly and automatically—almost like autocorrect on your phone or auto-formatting in text documents. If colors are opposite one another on the color wheel or visible light spectrum, like red and green, they render one another nil and instead of mixing, just descend into the dull, muddy family of browns.
[Side note: You probably learned that yellow is one of the three primary colors, not green. And this is true when speaking of a color as a fixed hue. But light exists as both a particle AND a wave, so yellow is the third primary as a particle but green is the third primary when it is a wave. Yeah, I know. I don’t really understand it either. We’re getting into some fairly complex physics here, but you can look it up on Wikipedia if you’re interested in learning more; just trust me that this is a very basic explanation of light theory.]
God invented the whole system of the inner-workings of the eye, and it’s pretty impressive. But here’s the thing: There are colors that exist that we can’t see.
I’m not talking about infra-red camera images or ultra violet lights in those fascinating-but-horrifying exposes about the hidden germs in hotel rooms or on shopping carts or whatever. I mean that there are colors that exist that the rods and cones of the human eye are not capable of mixing, such as red and green, but that are visible to other creatures with different ocular anatomy, such as birds. But that doesn’t make those colors any less real—it simply means that they do not exist on our spectrum of visible light.
There is a fascinating article, which you can read here, that explains this all much better than I can; but, essentially, in 1983, researchers Hewitt Crane and Thomas Piantanida conducted a study published in the journal Science wherein they were able to hold the human eye so precisely steady that the waves of both red and green light were able to hit the subjects’ eyes’ microscopic light receptors individually so that only red and only green as individual colors were registered, without any of the mixing and subsequent cancelling out that would normally occur and result in brown. As the above article states:
The color they saw was “simultaneously red and green” Crane and Piantanida wrote in their paper. Furthermore, “some observers indicated that although they were aware that what they were viewing was a color (that is, the field was not achromatic), they were unable to name or describe the color. One of these observers was an artist with a large color vocabulary.” . . . It seemed that forbidden colors were realizable—and glorious to behold.
Just stop and let that sink in for a minute. Can you imagine what that must have been like to witness a whole new realm of color for which your mind does not even have a category to express, let along to fully fathom?
I wonder if this was part of Paul’s experience, when he writes in II Corinthians, 12:2-4, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.”
Maybe this is part of what John attempts to capture in his description of his vision of the heavenly city in Revelation:
He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal . . . The foundations of the city wall were decorated with every precious stone; the first course of stones was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl; and the street of the city was of pure gold, transparent as glass . . . The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.
There is no way to know for sure, of course—not in this life, anyway—just what it was those men witnessed that transcended description in human words. But it is incredibly humbling, is it not, to think of the realm of the unseen, the magnificent and inexpressible splendor of the fullness of creation and God’s majesty? To behold the awesome, dazzling, indescribably glorious presence of God, unencumbered by the limitations of our earthly bodies and minds? To see with the fullness of the universe? And not just with the fullness of colors, but with the fullness of time, of possibility, of reason, of understanding? The completeness of God’s works, His plan, His love?
Let us cling to this knowledge—that there is a realm outside of our ability to glimpse or comprehend, but no less real—when all the possibilities of our visible lives seem exhausted. That is our hope and our salvation. That is our ultimate goal. As Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

Eating

Eating.

My girls are both mildly obsessed with eating. We often have to make them stop eating rather than having to persuade them to eat.

I don’t know what I’ll do if this third child is a picky eater. 

Eating.

Some think about it more than others. Some enjoy the act more than others. Some participate in it more than others.

We all consider it to some degree and we all (at least, those of us living in these First World sorts of places) do it fairly regularly.

We all do a lot more of it during this time of year than in any other season.

If all that we are, all that we do, is to be made sacred, then how does eating fit in? How can eating be a deliberately sacred event rather than being a piece of my day that has nothing to do with God?
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. ~ I Corinthians 10.31

Is eating simply how we sustain our bodily functions…or is there more to it than that?

I have noticed in the Bible lately that eating was meant to be much more. It is linked over and over again to fellowship with and enjoyment of God.
In the story of the Prodigal Son, the Father celebrates the son’s return with a feast.

Jesus shares His last supper with his closest friends and then tells them that He will not drink again until He does it with us in heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is compared to a king giving a wedding banquet to his son. 

The image of a banquet, especially a wedding feast, is used several times to illustrate our enjoyment of God when we are finally with Him in body. 

When we eat, we often are doing more than simply nourishing our bodies. We are sharing of ourselves with our family and our friends. This is sacred.

Perhaps eating is one of the last things that our culture hasn’t been able to take the sacred out of. 

Our world tries hard to take God out of all that we do, to make everything a matter of utility. Yet when we share a meal with our family or with our friends, there is a sacredness there that is felt even by those who do not claim to follow God.

Even the act of growing our food is sacred. I have learned this in the past couple of years as I began our little garden.

God is a gardener. 

In the second chapter of Genesis, He kneels down and breathes life into the soil. He then sustains Adam by the soil and invites him to join in His work of gardening.

We are invited to join in God’s work when we grow our food.

We are invited to join in the act of enjoyment of and fellowship with God when we eat food together.

As you eat with those you love, be deliberate. Be aware of the sacredness of what you share as you are eating. Be aware of the sacred work of those who grew your food. 

Be aware of God filling you up with His own sacredness. 

And enjoy.