Category Archives: Love

Jesus, Help Me! (6 of 6)

A series on accepting God’s love for us and portraying that love to others

Getting hurt, or hurting others, can happen so easily. It might occur by accident, through neglect, or, sometimes, even on purpose. None of us is immune from being hurt by others, nor are we capable of never hurting someone else.

However, we can learn how to minimize the damage we do to one another. We can learn strategies and spiritual practices to bring healing sooner rather than later.

Simple, heartfelt apologies often go a long way to heal the pain and alienation arising from our hurting one another. However, when we don’t acknowledge and deal adequately with what’s happened, the wounds can fester. We judge, accuse, blame, and can get stuck in our alienation and rage—and the problem gets worse.

Wars, suicide bombings, character assassinations, vindictive acts of revenge, and all sorts of other hateful, seriously damaging behavior often stem from not knowing how (or choosing not) to resolve conflicts peacefully and constructively.

In this week’s article, I offer some simple guidelines and suggestions for how you can deal more effectively with the hurts and broken relationships in your life (regardless of who’s at fault), from a spiritual and practical point of view. (Of course, if you want to best equip yourself, I also strongly recommend that you attend a full day conflict resolution workshop, seek help other professionals, and consult the growing amount of literature on inner healing and nonviolent, conflict resolution.)

Above all, you must take responsibility to do all you can to address the relational breakdown, while recognizing that you cannot control what the other person chooses to do or not to do. At the same time, without abdicating your responsibility, seek all the help you can get from God by asking the Spirit of Jesus to reveal his presence in your heart and mind as follows.

Situation 1. You are at fault, or you have wronged someone else.

• Imagine that you are looking directly into Jesus’ eyes as you explain what happened.

• Prayer: “Jesus, please listen to how I think and feel about this situation. Please show me where I have been wrong, and how I have hurt [this person]. How can I keep from making the situation worse? What can  I do to make it better?”

• Constructive response to the one who has been hurt : “I am sorry that I have hurt you. Can we talk? How can I make this situation right?”

Situation 2. You have been wronged by someone else.

• Imagine Jesus holding your hands or with his arm around you, compassionate, caring, and helpful.

• Prayer: “Jesus, please give me courage and strength to acknowledge how I have been wronged. How may I respond to this situation in ways that best serves your purposes and honors God? Please give me an ability to forgive and even to love [this person] regardless of their response to me.”

• Constructive response to the one who has hurt you: “I have been deeply hurt. I need to talk about what has happened for my sake and the sake of our relationship. I want to seek healing and reconciliation where possible. Can we talk?”

Situation 3. Both you and the other person are clearly at fault.

• Imagine you are standing with Jesus, and the look on his face is one of compassion, integrity, and willingness to help.

• Prayer: “Jesus, please help me to find a balanced perspective, fairly assessing both the part I have played and the part [the other person] has played in the relational breakdown. Please give me courage and strength to face my own failings, to stand by my own perspective of how I have been wronged, and to know how to go forward from here. ”

• Constructive response to other person: “Please tell me how you have been hurt by me. Please listen to my feelings and experience, too. Let’s be honest with one another, forgive one another, and find a way to rebuild our relationship.”

Situation 4. No one seems to have sinned or deliberately done wrong, but there is great regret, hurt, and/or grief.

• Sit with the wise rabbi, who clearly has the ability to give needed guidance under painful and difficult circumstances.

• Prayer: “Jesus, please help me to sense your strong, gracious, loving presence. Please help me to forgive myself for what went wrong. Please show me the way forward and walk with me.”

• Constructive response: “I’m sorry for whatever ways I hurt you. I did not mean to cause you suffering. What can we do to make this situation right, or at least go forward from here?”

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NIV)

The Point: Asking Jesus to make his presence better known to you in the midst of the unresolved relational pain or conflict is different from asking God to fix the problem. By all means ask for relational miracles and for God to change the heart and mind of everyone involved. However, don’t abdicate your own responsibility. Ask Jesus for wisdom, grace, strength, courage, and opportunity that will enable you to do everything within your power to make things better or right…with God’s help.

Prayer: “Loving Lord Jesus, you are the Prince of Peace. Please give me the grace to face my pain and the pain I have caused others, and show me the way forward from here.”

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One Way Love (5 of 6)

A series on accepting God’s love for us and portraying that love to others

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about the power and importance of love when loving doesn’t come easily or we’re not sure what to do—“Simply Love Them” (Dec. 21), “When Loving Gets Tough” (Jan. 4), and “A Harder Kind of Love: Forgiveness” (Jan. 11). Perhaps the most difficult kind of love to offer, though, is what we do for others with no expectation of return.

I’m not talking about anonymous giving or unrequited romantic love, but the arduous, self-sacrificial love shown to those who cannot, for whatever reason, return our love or show appreciation. They may have dementia, be mentally disturbed, or even be our enemies. In such cases, our loving is entirely one way, and we may easily feel overwhelmed or utterly inadequate to rise to the occasion.

In 1988, I first knew something was seriously wrong with my mother. It took three years for us to have a firm diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and nearly fifteen years before her breathing finally stopped. In between, each day on the long journey felt like a little death, as everything I knew and loved about her kept slipping away from me bit by bit.

Watching her slowly degenerate, lose her dignity, cease functioning, and become completely incapable of communicating with us was horrifying. The sense of loss cut like stab wounds, inflicted over and over again.

Alzheimer’s is a wearisome, disturbing, and heart-wrenching disease. Usually, long, long before the victim succumbs to death, loved ones have the responsibility of caring for someone who no longer knows them, let alone is able to offer them the same kind of love and relationship they have known.

So, what does it mean to love under such circumstances?  Warm feelings are often replaced with shock, anger, revulsion, depression, or all of the above. Natural motivation to reach out can wane over time as weariness sets in, especially when nothing comes back. I’ve seen heroic spouses, children, or siblings carry on year after year, but so many others cannot seem to handle the horror of the disease or the pain of the gradual loss, and they disappear.

My nearly fifteen-year journey with my dying mother taught me many things about such one way love that may help you, too:

• It’s OK to be angry and upset. Don’t minimize your distress or rush to look for silver linings. If you really loved the person from your heart, seeing their demise or struggle will be extremely painful. To feel and express your emotions is human, and may provide the energy you need to find ways to cope with the tragedy.

• Don’t try to be a hero. Get support, get a break when needed, and get help. My father probably shortened his life trying to care for my mother too long in his own home. For most of us, providing love for sick or troubled people can be the most taxing and troublesome ordeal of our lifetime. Don’t try to do it alone.

• At the same time, don’t run away. Resist the temptation to cope by neglecting the aging person. You will be sorry later on if, when the loved one is gone, you didn’t do what you could have done to be there for them.

• Separate your own anguish from that of the one who is sick or dying. They have their own psychological, emotional, and spiritual grappling to do, you have yours. Let the pain and cognitive dissonance you are experiencing be a catalyst for your own growth.

• Choose to love them in action, even when you don’t feel love. Insist on their proper care, whether you are one of the actual caregivers or not. Advocate for them continually. Check on them frequently. Look after them as you would a newborn baby who poops and cries a lot, yet is too young to even smile in return.

• When the one you are committed to rebuffs you, hates you, acts violently toward you—as can easily happen in cases of dementia or other mental illness—the example of Jesus may help. When he was rejected and literally crucified by those he sought to love, his attitude was gracious and kind. His prayer was, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

• It’s OK to ask your questions of God. My mother’s illness made no sense to me, because I was living under the false assumption that faithful Christians serving Christ’s purposes would somehow be spared from such tragedies. Being honest with my questions and seeking better answers was extremely helpful to me. Re-thinking my assumptions about God and about the meaning of life and human suffering have helped me to mature and to draw closer to God than ever.

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV)

The Point: Hanging in there with those who are no longer able or willing to love you in return can be one of the hardest tests of your commitment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Yet choosing to do so can make all the difference in the world to the kind of person you become, and to the beneficiary of your love as well.

Prayer: “Loving Lord, thank you for the depth of your love for me. Please teach me how to draw more fully from your love, so that I can persevere better in loving others. Help me to release my own expectation and desire for reciprocity or reward from caring for hard-to-love people, and to look to you instead for the comfort, peace, hope, and love that I need and crave.”

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A Harder Kind of Love: Forgiveness (4 of 6)

A series on accepting God’s love for us and portraying that love to others

If loving others can be really hard sometimes, forgiving those who hurt us deeply can seem almost impossible at times.  Yet, forgiving others is not optional for Christians, and is perhaps the greatest expression of agape love we can show.

If you are struggling with your feelings toward a hard-to-forgive person, here are 10 points to consider that may help.

1. Forgiving others doesn’t mean that you are saying that what happened to you wasn’t terrible or wrong, or that you will enable their abusive behavior by not calling them to account. Rather, forgiveness means that you no longer want to stay stuck in your anger. You want to stop being fueled by harsh, resentful, or vengeful feelings. Holding on to your anger isn’t going to make things right; it’s only going to make you sick.

2. Forgiveness means that you stop hoping something bad will happen to “pay them back” or “to make them suffer” for what they did. Instead, you begin praying that God will work in their hearts and minds for good, remembering that “God’s kindness leads to repentance” (Romans 2:4) and that Jesus said, “love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

3. When you forgive others, you stop holding the offense against them. You decide that you are not going to demand that they “give” you something (an apology, repayment, suffering, or some other kind of “payment”) before you will treat them with agape love, as described in 1 Corinthians 13. Instead, you choose to be patient, kind, and unselfish; and you refuse to punish them by treating them rudely or vindictively, because you want to be a person of love, regardless of what they have done or have not done.

4. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that you will put yourself in a position to be hurt by them again. You need to know whom you are dealing with and what to expect from this person, so that you can set boundaries for your own well-being and that of others who may depend on you for safety. Limit their power to hurt you by not expecting kindness, goodness, or fair treatment from those who cannot or don’t want to love you in return.

5. Forgiving others will set you free from being a prisoner to the past, if you begin to discipline your thinking:

• Stop ruminating over what has happened. It’s not helping you.

• Stop trying to make sense of senseless behavior. It’s not possible.

• Learn whatever you can from what happened, and then stop going over and over the failed or dysfunctional relational dynamic. Such internal churning will wear you down, and give you nothing in return.

• Maintain at least a neutral attitude toward the person who refuses to apologize, or is unwilling to seek healing in your relationship.

6. Remember, the future lies before you. Grieve what was lost or taken from you and accept that you do not have the power to change what has happened in the past. Then start looking forward.

7. Forgiveness, then, means moving on:

• Use your energy to focus on what brings you life and joy.

• Cultivate and enjoy your relationships with those who truly love you, enjoy your company, appreciate you, nourish and sustain you, and treat you well.

• Focus your attention on your calling and purpose in life to serve Christ with your unique set of gifts, abilities, resources, and opportunities.

8. Ask the Holy Spirit to release you from your attachment to your hurts and disappointments. Ask God to release the poison from your heart and mind. Seek freedom and healing so that you will not be so controlled by the actions of others, and so that you can focus your energy on developing truly loving relationships.

9. Pray for the ability to be compassionate and gracious toward them; and to genuinely desire good for their life. For those who offer a heartfelt apology, set them free by accepting their gesture.

10. Accept that no matter how hard or impossible it may be to “feel” forgiving toward someone, forgiveness is ultimately a matter of obedience to the Holy Spirit, who tells us to forgive others as we have been forgiven.

After the genocide, “Nehemiah” wanted to kill as many people as possible. After his parents were killed by workers on their farm, he sought to slake his thirst for revenge by joining the army.

One day the man who killed his father came to him asking for forgiveness.  A revolver was holstered at his waist. This was his opportunity.

But he couldn’t do it. By this time, Nehemiah had become a Christian and left the army. He was teaching children and working as an evangelist.

When his elder brother heard that he passed up the chance to get revenge, he was livid. “Why didn’t you kill him?” he screamed. Jill and I asked him the same question.

His answer was simple, but sincere: “God has forgiven me for so much, how could I not forgive him?”

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2, NIV)

The Point: Forgive those who have wronged you, rejected you, or let you down, for your sake as well as theirs. Imitate God’s love by forgiving others as you have been forgiven. Choose to act toward them in ways that fit with your faith and values, in obedience to the Spirit, regardless of how they may act toward you.

Prayer: “Loving God, thank you for the immensity of your patience, kindness, and generosity to me, in spite of my reluctance to repent at times and resistance to your call to love others as myself. Please set free from my anger, hurt, and desires for revenge. May your will truly be done in me and through me that I may rise above my own limitations to increasingly become a person of love, without exceptions.”

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When Loving Gets Tough (3 of 6)

A series on accepting God’s love for us and portraying that love to others

Tim Geoffrion

Loving people can be really hard sometimes.

When conflicts arise or we have been hurt, or when others really irritate or offend us, it can be really tough to love them. Even when we are committed to being people of love, we can be tripped up by our own weaknesses, fatigue, or selfish instincts. For any number of reasons, our intention or attempts to love others can fall short.

There’s simply no formula that “works” in every situation. In spite of our best intentions, sometimes, we don’t know what to do differently. Or, if we do know, we may feel that it’s just too hard or exhausting to keep trying.

If this is how you’re feeling, it may be time to step back and take a fresh look at what’s going on. In my experience, greater self-reflection, changing my attitude or approach, and tapping more fully into the source of love have all helped me to become a more loving person.

Specifically, here are several things you can do that might make a real difference:

1. Don’t undo your efforts to love someone by letting yourself explode or say something nasty in a moment of weakness. Force yourself to take at least five deep breaths when you feel agitated or angry in order to calm down before saying or doing anything.

2. Ask yourself when you are trying to show love to others, “Whose agenda am I serving?” When others sense that your “love” is mostly about serving you or making yourself feel good, and not about them, don’t expect them to cooperate. You may get hurt or upset with them for ignoring or rejecting your overtures, but the problem in the relationship could very well be in you, not them.

3. Recognize and accept your powerlessness to change people. Even if you could change a loved one, it’s not your job. Your role is to love them, to encourage them, and to offer input when appropriate. Ask God for the courage and strength to speak the truth in the midst of conflict, and for compassion to do so in love. (Ephesians 4:15)

4. Remember that you always have power to choose how you are going to act toward others, regardless of their actions toward you. You may not have power to feel love or even to control your reactions as well as you would like. But you can keep returning to a place of resolve to show agape love in your actions—by being patient, kind, courteous, humble, selfless, forgiving, and encouraging (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

5. Accept their limited ability to love you in return, or discuss with them how to make the relationship more reciprocal. If your love is contingent upon their loving you in return, or you would simply like more from the relationship, talk with them about your needs and desires. If you would like to be able to love them unconditionally with God’s agape love, then let go of your expectations of any particular kind of response from them.

6. Attend adequately to your own needs in healthy ways. Instead of just trying to change your behavior, seek wisdom into what is going on inside of you that keeps prompting you to act in unloving ways. What needs do you have that are going unmet? How could you get your needs for love, for affection, for friendship met in healthy ways?

7. Tap more fully into the source of love. We simply cannot love unconditionally on our own, and we cannot give what we have not received. What could you do to connect better with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis so that you may experience the love and grace of God in deeper and deeper ways? How could you cultivate your relationship with God so that you will have more fresh, living water in your inner “well” to draw from?

Loving others can be really hard or tricky sometimes, but it is your calling, regardless of the response of others. By letting God’s love meet your deepest needs, and by following the Holy Spirit’s leading in the ways of love, you will increasingly become part of the solution to a world riddled with unresolved conflict, alienation, and pain. It’s also the only way to truly experience the full life that Christ intends for you.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)

Point: Don’t expect loving others to be easy, and don’t reserve your love for those who love you back. We are called to get past our own self-centeredness and selfish instincts in order to love others as God loves us. Jesus showed us the way, and we have the Holy Spirit to help us to do what we cannot do on our own.

Prayer: “Loving and gracious God, thank you for your unconditional love and mercy. Please help me to fully trust in your love for me, to accept your forgiveness, and to be renewed in the deepest part of my being. And lead me in the way of love, especially when it is really hard for me, so that all those around me may sense your love flowing through me.”

This article is part of the “What Will Make a Difference?” series for your spiritual nurture and growth.

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Simply, Love Them (2 of 6)

A series on accepting God’s love for us and portraying that love to others

Bald Eagle Lake Mtka

Are you getting all twisted into knots about something coming up or about seeing someone? Maybe you’re worrying about how things are going to go with the family over the holidays. Perhaps you’re in a leadership or ministry role, and you’re uptight about how your program is going to come off.

Over the past couple of months, I keep finding myself in the same sort of anxious place. On one hand, I’m excited about whatever is coming up. On the other, some worry or frustration starts to choke off my joy. I start gasping for emotional air.

Do you know the feeling?

Well, there’s hope. Apart from all the things you already know to do, let me suggest one very different approach in such situations. When you’re feeling uptight about working or being with others, try this: simply love them.

Here are two examples from my own experience.

Loving Those You Serve

It was Wednesday morning, in the middle of the Pastors Leadership Training Conference in Rwanda, a few weeks ago. When I asked God for a word for the day, I was surprised and pleased to hear, “Love the pastors.”

Rwandan Pastors at Leadership Conference

How refreshing. How freeing, I thought. I had already done all my preparation work. This was the missing piece!

However, I soon realized that my preoccupation with what I wanted from the week was turning the event into something for me—and my ability to love was vanishing.

When we were walking the labyrinth as part of the day’s activities, I began to pray for God to put love in my heart once again. I realized that asking for help was the only hope I had.

Musanze

Nothing happened at first, but as the day went on, I began to notice that I was thinking and acting differently toward the pastors. At one point, in the middle of a question and answer session, I suddenly realized that I was being more patient, kind, and understanding. I heard a voice in my head say, “Hey, you’re loving them!”

I almost laughed aloud. I couldn’t believe it happened again. I was chuckling with delight, because God had created in me what I could not do for myself. The Holy Spirit had delivered me from myself and answered my prayer.

Loving Your Family

A month later I got a similar message from God. This time, I was heading out to visit some family members for the weekend. Now, I love my family very much, and enjoy being with them. Yet, there are many pitfalls and ways I can go wrong in my attempts to relate well to them.

In the morning, before I caught my flight, I prayed my normal daily prayer, “Lord, please help me to live fully, to love deeply, and to give freely so that others may know and experience you through me.” As soon as the words left my lips, I sensed that God was telling me to relax and stop worrying. The most important thing for me to remember as I went into this family time was to “simply love them.”

I didn’t love them perfectly over the course of the weekend, yet the more I remembered to love them from my heart and in my actions, the smoother everything went. I wasn’t afraid to disagree or offer alternative points of view, but I reined in my reactions and kept trying to choose what I thought was good for everyone, not just me. The voice in my head kept reminding me: “love them.”

Tim and nephews

Surprising Results

I never make a point of telling others that I am trying to “simply love them”. I don’t think that would go over very well. I expect that my efforts are going to be my little secret with God, and I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will bring something good out of whatever love I am able to offer.

So, I was quite surprised at the end of the Rwandan conference, when the pastors’ spokesperson stood up to offer the customary words of appreciation. Instead of just commenting on the course material, he turned to look directly at me and said, “Because you have loved us, we have come to love you.”

And when I was about to board the plane to return home from visiting my family, I was surprised when my brother called and asked me if I would be willing to talk on the phone to my ten year old nephew. They had just dropped me off, but apparently he wanted to say goodbye again. Between words, I heard him sobbing. He didn’t want me to leave.

Funny, in both cases, I don’t remember doing much of anything to bring about these kinds of reactions. All I did was try to love them.

When you think about the people in your life and ministry this Christmas, what would happen if you simply loved them?

Above all, love each other deeply…. (1 Peter 4:8, NIV)

The Point: Relax. Stop worrying so much about what’s in it for you or how others are going to respond to you. Instead, think about them first, and pray for the grace to simply love them. No matter what your hopes and fears may be, the Holy Spirit wants to lead you deeper and deeper into experiences of God’s love—both God’s love for you, and God’s love working through you.

Prayer:  “Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me long before I ever thought of loving you. Please help me to experience more of your love, and to be more and more free to see others as you see them, and to simply love them as they are.”

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Crowning Christ, Loving the Least (1 of 6)

A series on accepting God’s love for us and portraying that love to others

This posting was inspired by a discussion during lectio divina this past week ahead of The Reign of Christ (traditionally, Christ the King) Sunday.

A Burmese boy orphaned after the murder of his parents.

After an hour of reading, re-reading and meditating on this week’s Gospel text in our lectio divina group, we were getting ready to go. We had been focusing on Jesus’ well-known parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. There the Son of Man sits on the heavenly throne, reigning as the King of the universe, judging humanity based on their response to the needy. He uses the same criterion for both those who are welcomed into eternal life and those who are sent to eternal punishment: “Whatever you have done (or not done) to one of the least of these, you have done (or not done) to me.”

Each of us was squirming a bit in our seats at times, and a tad troubled with the strong language of judgment. As we shared our thoughts and questions with one another, one woman wondered aloud why this text was chosen for Christ the King Sunday. Apparently, the choir was planning to sing about crowning Jesus with many crowns as part of the congregation’s worship. Yet, she questioned, what does crowning Christ as king have to do with ministering to widows, orphans, and other suffering people throughout the world? In one case, we rejoice in the risen, exalted Savior and Lord who reigns in triumph in heaven. In the other, we grapple with the grief of those ruled by poverty, oppressive regimes, and cruel exploitation in the here and now.

That’s when it hit me.

Jesus told stories to make a point and often to evoke an emotional reaction. (So far, this one was working.) He did not speak as a systematic theologian, and he never wrote down a single word of theology—or anything else as far as we know. Rather, he was a preacher and teacher, who used parables to powerfully touch the hearts and minds of whoever had “ears to hear”.

So, what are we supposed to hear, see, and feel from this parable? That living compassionately is a way of life for true followers of Christ—caring for those in need is not an option, but an expectation of all disciples. “Righteousness” is not simply about believing the right things about God, completing prescribed rituals, or following rules. Righteousness is a condition of our hearts that shows itself in concrete action toward those who most need our support, help, or encouragement.

Acknowledging Christ as King, then, is not just done by bending our knees and swearing allegiance to Jesus, or by lifting our hands and singing songs of praise in a worship service. Yes, discipleship involves a submission of our wills and trust in Christ for salvation. Yes, following Jesus calls for confession of faith and worship. Yet, what the parable of the sheep and goats shouts loudly is that those who truly crown Christ from their hearts also do so by how they treat their fellow human beings.

This parable is not teaching works-righteousness, it’s insisting that the righteous will do good works.   

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ … ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-36, 40, NRSV)

We crown Christ king every time we respect and care for others as we would him. We crown Christ king every time we let his love flow through us to others as if we were loving him. We crown Christ king every time we see someone in distress, and instead of judging them, dismissing their pleas, or ignoring their needs, we say, “There’s Jesus! How can I best show my love to him now?”

Now that I’m thinking this way, I suspect I have a lot of coronations coming up.

I’m actually excited about the prospects.

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The Sacred Love Flow

One day this winter, I had a waking dream of the sacred love flow. My experience has led me to a powerful vision of living life completely immersed in the love of God.

I was standing on two rocks, straddling a flowing stream of water. I sensed God’s love flowing under me and around me. I could feel the energy. I started to shake. The power was immense.

As I contemplated the prospect of God’s love expanding, I was suddenly catapulted into the air by the surging fountain. I almost fell over, the sensation was so powerful.

Then, I laughed. I pictured myself as a little comical figure on my back being held up in the air, helpless to do anything but flail my arms and legs. All I could see was water stretching out in every direction beneath me, and a pale blue sky. I knew God was all around me, but I felt alone and empty. I realized that there was only option for me to escape my present state. I had to dive beneath the surface.

I was afraid I would drown, but I intuitively grasped that my only hope was going forward. It was dive, and take my chances, or remain on the surface, surrounded by God, but completely unsatisfied.

I chose to trust. Instantly, I found myself underwater, swimming freely and looking at the beautiful fish and coral, lit up somehow by God’s light. I could breathe by some miraculous oxygen source. I am completely at peace, and full of joy.

I want to live in the ocean of God’s love, and be filled and overflowing with it. I want to others to experience this sacred love in their encounters with me. I want every thing I do to be an expression of this love.

The sacred love flow is a vision. It’s a calling. It’s a way of being in the world. It’s far from a reality in so many ways, but it has become my guiding light. It is Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

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A Relationship with God

A radio caller asked me last week what I meant by a relationship with God. On one hand, the answer seems so self-evident. On the other, I realized that each of us has so many different kinds of relationships in our lives–some joyful, some blasé, some dangerous, some fulfilling, some disheartening, some painful.

I have gone through many dark days in my life time in my relationship with God–times when I felt that God abandoned me or was unfair to me, or simply didn’t care. At other times, I’ve feared that God was angry at me for my sins or meting out just punishment. Sometimes, I feel so empty and despair that life seems meaningless and unbearable. Nearly everyone I know can talk about times when they could not say they had a good, personal relationship with God.

But in my relationship with God, I have also known a tremendous sense of love, of comfort, of peace, of joy, of strength, and power. So, today, when I talk about relationship with God, I think of the good experiences, without forgetting the depth of the pain and “lostness” I have felt at times–and still feel on occasion.

So, what is a relationship with God–that’s worth talking about and promoting?

For the radio caller, I simply said, it is our sense of connection to God. A “personal” relationship goes further. Personally relating to God goes beyond believing that God exists or being vaguely aware of God’s presence. It is connecting in a way that seems personal to us–we can talk to God, we believe God hears us, we sense God is responding to us in one way or another.

A “good,” personal relationship with God involves even more. Not only do I feel connected and believe God is involved in my life, but I also cherish the relationship. I believe God loves me…personally. God knows my name, and cherishes me, too.

In spite of all the dark moments in my life, I’ve discovered a connection to God that has given me so much life, love and hope–all the while knowing that I have only had a small taste of all the God has in mind for those who seek a personal relationship with their God.

A few months ago, a friend asked me “who are you?” What a question! Then, from somewhere deep within me a simple answer suddenly emerged. “I am loved,” I told him. Somehow, that says it all for me.

Who are you?

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