“Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ‘The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.“
Could it really be that simple? That to love God and love people is the greatest and most important of anything we can do? That if we focus on love, everything else will fall into place?
To truly love everyone around you: To think of others more highly than yourself. To put the needs of others ahead of your own. To always act in the best interest of those around you. To neglect nothing that would care for the needs of others.
To love hoping for nothing in return. To love even those who do not deserve it and never will do anything to deserve it.
Love waits patiently while the person ahead of us in the checkout line drops all of the coupons on the floor and is kind to bend down and help pick them up. It does not envy the possessions or well-behaved children of its neighbors or brag about the vacation it is about to take with its perfect family; it does not view itself as better than the church member without a college degree or speak rudely to the clerk or waiter trying to serve. Love does not insist on going to its favorite restaurant; it does not snap at its spouse when something doesn’t get done quite right or harbor resentment when the neighbor’s cat digs up the roses and poops in the broccoli; it does not rejoice in the immorality on Downton Abbey, but rejoices in the C.S. Lewis book that speaks truth. Love bears the inattention of a husband or friend, believes that a church member truly had the best intentions even though his actions spoke otherwise, hopes that God will bring a family member back to His way, endures all kinds of rudeness and selfishness. Love never ends.
Simple, yet so very difficult.
How, then? How to love?
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world…We love because he first loved us.
Ah. To be able to love like God we must abide in God. Abide in God, allow Christ’s words to abide in us, as branches abide in the vine.
As He has done for us so we are to do for this world.
A heavy burden? Not if we are abiding. Not if we are surrounding ourselves with Him so that He can fill us up beyond measure with His love.
We love because He first loved us.
Abba, give me the desire for nothing more than to abide in You. Help me to burden myself with nothing else but to love You and to love those You place in my path.
If you sometimes feel that to deny yourself and pick up your cross Every Single Day seems a bit daunting and lonely, then join me over at Embracing Grace today. Maybe we can help each other to not feel quite so alone as we carry our cross along with Christ.
At first, the Story existed only in the form of an Idea. Then the Author began to tell the Story little by little, within the confines of time.
As the Story unfolded, there emerged within smaller shadow-Stories, told over shorter spans of time.
These smaller shadow-Stories reflected the same greater Story, yet were given the gift of being allowed to help their Author to write their Story. The shadow-Stories were allowed to choose their own responses to whatever occurred to them while they existed within the greater Story.
Some of the shadow-Stories chose to reflect the greater Story more perfectly than others, to become a more complete shadow, yet all contained the great Story within themselves to some degree.
Many of the smaller shadow-Stories authored even smaller echoes of the greater Story. These echo-Stories were smaller in size, and not all of their authors were aware of their own Author, yet many of the echo-Stories became even more filled with power than were their authors.
The echo-Stories were told to many of the shadow-Stories and, because they were filled with power, were able to stir within the shadow-Stories the Idea that had existed in the beginning.
In the middle of the greater Story, the Author placed Himself.
He authored Himself to be one of the shadow-Stories, yet He was the most perfect reflection of the great Story. Within this smaller Author-Story was the complete Idea, perfectly written out for all to read.
The smaller Author-Story was the Idea in Word, the most perfect of all the Stories. The other shadow-Stories could look to Him and discover the sort of Story they were written to be.
Within the smaller Author-Story, the other shadow-Stories are able to catch a glimpse of the end of the greater Story. In catching a glimpse of the end, the shadow-Stories are enabled to help write their own Story more perfectly.
For while they do not yet know what each piece of the great Story will bring, the shadow-Stories can know what the end of the Story will bring.
And the wisest of the shadow-Stories will help to write their own Story with the end of the greater Story in mind.
“I see,” she said. “This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door! I see…world within world, Narnia within Narnia…” “Yes,” said Mr. Tumnus, “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.” ~ The Last Battle
More often than not, God chooses not to save His people, chooses not to spare them sorrow and hardship. Hebrews 11 gives a long list of those who were killed or lost ones they loved, Jesus’ closest friends died martyr’s deaths, even His earthly father died without His intervention.
I have pondered long and hard this question of what I believe about God in the midst of “it wasn’t supposed to be like this”. Here is my conclusion.
I know my God, His character, well enough to trust Him when I don’t understand, when I cannot see in the darkness. I know, from what He has said about Himself and from what I have seen, that He is always good and always love. I know that, if we only knew the reasons, we would adore Him for what He does.
God promises that we will have trouble in this world. He also promises that if we are grateful to Him He will give us peace. He doesn’t promise that He will take the pain away but that we will be at peace, that we will have joy.
Isn’t that a much bigger promise?
No matter what, God is still God.
Will I only praise and thank Him when He does what I like? Will I only accept from Him what I deem to be good?
When I deeply think through the idea of declaring my circumstance to be bad, it seems incredibly arrogant.
How can I think that I know better than God what is good? How am I more capable of naming something to be good than the One who is good?
Will I trust that God has a beautiful, amazing plan only when I can see the beauty of it? Either God is God, and capable of having plans and reasons that I cannot comprehend, or He isn’t God, and I am silly for blaming a myth. There is not really any in-between place for the things with which I do not agree.
…if I go to Jesus, he’s not under my control either. He lets things happen that I don’t understand. He doesn’t do things according to my plan, or in a way that makes sense to me. But if Jesus is God, then he’s got to be great enough to have some reasons to let you go through things you can’t understand. His power is unbounded, but so are his wisdom and love…He can love somebody and still let bad things happen to them, because he is God–because he knows better than they do. If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn’t stop your suffering, you also have a God who’s great enough and powerful enough to have reasons that you can’t understand.
~ King’s Cross by Timothy Keller
God is God, and since he is God, he is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere else but in his will, and that will is necessarily infinitely, immeasurable, unspeakable beyond my largest notions of what he is up to. ~ Elisabeth Elliot
When faced with the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told King Nebuchadnezzar that
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. ~ Daniel 3
When Job lost all of his children and all that he owned and was himself in great physical pain, he declared
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him. ~ Job 13.15
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
If God ever had to prove Himself, prove His love for us, prove that He is taking care of us, He has more than proved it all through the cross.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about Hezekiah. In II Kings 20, he pleaded with God to “change his story”, to give him more life when God had told him (through Isaiah) that he was going to die. God did change His mind that time, gave him fifteen more years of life. And in that fifteen extra years, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh was born. This son that wouldn’t have been born if Hezekiah hadn’t asked God to change the ending of his story ended up as king and “lead (Israel) astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites”. ~ II Kings 21.9
Our desired story ending versus God’s desired story ending.
Perhaps, just perhaps, God really does know best. Perhaps He does know which story will bring about a beautiful, redeemed, transfigured people.
When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of woe shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
~ How Firm a Foundation, att. John Keith, 1787 (modernized)
This is an essay that was featured on (in)courage’s Bloom Book Club Facebook page a few weeks ago. Those who were featured were asked to also post these essays on our blogs this week and link up with everyone else on the Bloom website. For those who have already read this essay once, I’ve added some pictures and a few links if you would like to read again. For those who have not read this essay yet, welcome!
My girls love to eat.
By “love to eat”, I mean that they are mildly obsessed with eating. It is, in fact, difficult to get them to stop at times.
When I was in the hospital, having just given birth to my second girl, my dad called me around lunchtime. “Analise has had two sandwiches, some yogurt, a bunch of grapes, a banana, and some applesauce and she says she’s still hungry.” “Cut her off! Cut. Her. Off.” was my gracious response.
I am grateful that I do not have to deal with picky eaters, and at the same time I wonder how to get my girls to slow down, to enjoy the act of eating more rather than simply inhaling as much food as possible.
It is so easy to fragment my life between sacred and secular, and eating would seem to fall into the latter category. Eating is, after all, a physical necessity, a way to sustain our bodily functions.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.
So how do I make eating into a deliberately sacred event rather than a piece of my day that has no connection with God?
I am learning that eating is linked over and over again to fellowship with and enjoyment of God.
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 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.
God created food. He created eating. When all is created, when all is love, then nothing is ordinary. Everything is sacred.
I cannot separate my life into ordinary parts and miraculous parts, into secular parts and sacred parts, into praising God parts and eating parts.