Timeless Words About Love for Your Valentine’s Day

The snow is flying sideways like rice at a wedding, and I’m reading Lore Wilbert’s blog post about marriage. She writes:

“‘We don’t treat our home like it’s the place where we can ‘be real,’ as though every other relationship in our lives deserves the fruit of the Spirit, but at home we can drop the facade and level all the pent up frustration of the day at one another.’ I said, ‘[My husband] should get my best self, the best of the Spirit’s fruit in my life and heart, not the worst self.'”

Having said that, Lore acknowledged that that this kind of marriage talk usually elicits a few eye rolls from the jaded cynics among her readers.  “Just wait,” they say.

My patient husband and I experienced some of that in our early married life as well. “This won’t last,” jeered the nay-sayers.

Even so, thirty years later, we still refuse to submit to the “Just wait” narrative about our marriage, and are persevering in our commitment to live as “heirs together of the grace of life”–which includes loving each other by being grace-givers–“our best selves”–here on this country hill

After all, as believers, we want the people who know us best to love us most. That’s counter-cultural, I know, in this world of picture-perfect posts and curated images offered up for virtual strangers to “like.”

If our everyday lives  are where the fruit of the Spirit is most visible, Truth becomes more important than sentiment. We need a durable love that will sustain us through home improvement projects, sick kids, and tired middle-aged bodies and souls.

Since it seems that all the important words about love have already been written, and written well, I have been paying attention to them. This curated collection from some of my favorite writers and thinkers is offered to anchor our thoughts in a biblical understanding of love–with one cautionary message to parents from a source that might surprise you.

As we plow our way into February and join the world in celebrating the holiday of hearts (in which love is most discussed but perhaps least understood) let’s bring with us the understanding that love, romantic or otherwise, is a 365-day-per-year laying down of our lives for the beloved.

 

John, the Beloved Disciple

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3:18)

C.S. Lewis

“Is it easy to love God?” asks an old author.
“It is easy,” he replies, “to those who do it.”  (From The Four Loves, 288)

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”  (From Joyful Christian, 140)

Elisabeth Elliot

“Love is willing to be inconvenienced.”  (From Mark of a Man, 118)

Thomas Merton

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” (From No Man is an Island)

Karen Swallow Prior

“Charity–godly love–cannot be separated from truth. Not just lofty transcendent truths, but the truth about the here and now and all the reality it entails–including our mortality. Truth is true and love is loving only in its application.” (From On Reading Well, 151)

Wendell Berry

“Love in this world doesn’t come out of thin air. It is not something thought up. Like ourselves, it grows out of the ground. It has a body and a place.” (Hannah Coulter, 88)

“You can’t give yourself over to love for somebody without giving yourself over to suffering.” (Hannah Coulter, 171)

Luci Shaw

“The risk of love
is that of being unreturned.

For if I love too deep,
too hard, too long
and you love little
or you love
me not at all
then is my treasure given,
gone,
flown away lonely.

But if you give me back
passion for passion,
return my burning,
add your own
dark fire to flame my heart
then is love perfect
hot, round, augmented,
whole, endless, infinite,
and it is fear
that flies.”   (Polishing the Petosky Stone, 75)

Eugene Peterson

Love is one of the slipperiest words in the language. There is no other word in our society more messed up, misunderstood, perverted, and misused as the word love. Complicating things even further, it is a word terribly vulnerable to cliché, more often than not flattened into nonmeaning by chatter and gossip. The most relational word in our vocabulary ends up being all me directed, all self.”  (As Kingfishers Catch Fire, 37)

Bruce Springsteen

“Those whose love we wanted but didn’t get, we emulate them and that’s the only way we have, in our power, to get the closeness and love that we needed and desired.” (Comment about his parents from On Broadway)

Madeleine L’Engle

“Love isn’t how you feel; it’s what you do.” (The Wind in the Door)

Jesus

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:37-40)


As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, let’s abide in love, but let’s not lose sight of it’s true meaning amidst all the red tissue paper and glitter.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (Jesus from John 15:9)

With love,

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

Heart Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers. You can look for me this week at Purposeful Faith#TellHisStoryLet’s Have CoffeeFaith on FireFaith ‘n Friends and Grace & Truth.

 

Advertisements

Driven by Fear to the God Who Casts Out Fear

The road out of Jericho was always well-traveled, but Bartimaeus could sense something different in the air. Just as the angle of the hot sun on the back of his neck told him the time of day, the buzz of the crowd, the whispered excitement, and the press of bodies told him the truth that his ruined eyes could not — something was stirring.

Slowly, he pieced together the scene: a Healer, a Miracle Worker named Jesus was heading his way, and the word on the street . . .? This Teacher just might be the promised Messiah.

A seasoned beggar, Bartimaeus waited until just the right moment and then poured every possible ounce of drama into his anguished plea:

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” he howled.

“Pipe down, Bartimaeus,” hissed the embarrassed townspeople, but the blind beggar called out all the louder.

In this encounter of a life time, Bartimaeus put all that he knew about Jesus into his heart’s cry, for he had a huge and impossible dream. Bartimaeus wanted to see, and he boldly broadcast his deep and urgent need to the only One in the universe who could help him.

Saying our dreams out loud can be intimidating — even frightening.

It feels vulnerable.

Exposed.

Whether it’s a career goal, a longing for intimacy, a desire for a child, or an avenue of service to God that won’t stop calling our name, it’s easy to allow the sheer size of the dream to muzzle our cry for help and to overwhelm us with fear.

Courage and Strength from an Upholding God

As a young woman, I believed that God was calling me to teach the Bible, and so I volunteered for a summer ministry that landed me in front of a crowd of rowdy kids with nothing in my trembling hands but my Bible and a few flash cards. Thinking that preparation — knowing my material inside out – would chase away the terror, I studied hard with a pounding heart.

One evening, my team leader flipped the pages of my Bible away from the story of blind Bartimaeus and into the book of Isaiah, handing me a torch of Truth that re-ignites even today whenever I sit around a circle of women with open Bibles:

Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)

That young woman who hid behind her long hair and struggled to make eye contact with the world still finds her way back into my head sometimes. When I’m standing at a microphone, or preparing to click on “publish,” or leading a stressful meeting, I’m tempted to be still, to shut down, and to believe the lie that my words don’t matter — that I am, somehow, unqualified.

When fear threatens to extract all the air from my dreams, I’m thankful for the courage and strength that come from an upholding God. Mustering every fragment of truth that I can remember about Him, I release my dream to His care, and I hear the Spirit gently whispering:

Would you rather give in to the fear and miss this opportunity?

Have you forgotten that I am the God who says, “What do you want me to do for you?”

In the light of this blazing truth, may we answer God’s omnipotence with a trust that cries out, fearless.

By grace, may we let our fear drive us to the One who casts out all fear.


May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you,

michele signature[1]

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Photo by Leonardo Baldissara on Unsplash

 

This post first appeared at God-Sized Dreams

 

The Glory of Being Loved and Known by God

My finger hovered over the screen as I read and scrolled, the words landing like lead in my stomach. A friend had simply reported the facts:  “Try this!” she chirped, her heart pure, meaning only to encourage. “It worked for me! I’ve had 300 responses in just a few hours!”

I darkened the screen with a sniff and a tiny eye roll (just for good measure), because three-digit responses just don’t happen in my world. In fact, the math of social media leaves me with more questions than solutions, and the presiding symbol in the equation always feels like “less than.” When I fall into the trap of comparing myself to the gifted, the scintillating, and the accomplished, I can be sure that the spirit of scarcity won’t be far behind, sucking dry my confidence and leaving my faith parched and brittle.

“Less than” – the phrase clamors for my attention even through the darkened screen, but I will not give it entry to my soul. I will fight the lie with reassurance tucked into Paul’s letter to believers in Corinth. Whom we know, how much we know, or how well we are known by the-names-that-matter is all secondary to this one truth:

“But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”  (I Corinthians 8:3 ESV)

Hear the Word of the Lord, O my soul!

I may not be “known” by thousands, but I am known by God, and this is the most compelling feature on my resume. God’s face is turned toward me with joy and welcome– with a love that is present and powerful. While I’m all the time imagining a closed door and cramped quarters, God has envisioned and provided for wide open access, and my feet are standing on the place of grace.

In his classic essay “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis describes this “good report with God” using one word:  “Glory!”  The promise of acceptance into the heart of God comes with His approval, and Lewis concludes:  “How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. (38) To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”  (39)

So it is. God’s ponderous glory is a weighty counterbalance to past lies or present disappointments. And when I try to do life according to any other equation, I’m making deposits to an account that is continually overdrawn.

Responding to the Weight of Glory

Because of weighty truth, I am no longer the girl who feared scarcity, inspired by a worried President Ford wearing his sweater on T.V. and telling us to turn down our thermostats because there most certainly was not enough oil to fuel our future.
God’s delight in me has filled up the empty spaces in my heart that corresponded to the empty spaces in my growing-up refrigerator—the ones that stood in stark contrast with the steady supply of vodka bottles hidden in the trunk of the ’72 Plymouth.

It’s likely your own road map shows a few desolate places in the itinerary up to this point, a record of the journey through days when security and abundance seemed to be a thousand miles away as you slogged through debt or disappointment or confusion. Whatever its origin, the only lasting corrective to a less-than mentality is an abundant approval that will endure. The only potent antidote to its poison is the weighty security of a welcome from the One with whom your heart is absolutely safe.

Therefore, with my longing to be acknowledged lavishly met, I receive (with gratitude!) the gift of self-forgetfulness. The script of my life can switch from, “Here I am!” to “There YOU are!” as I celebrate the accomplishments of my sisters in Christ and come alongside them to help them lean into their unique callings. Best of all, liberated from the need to be center stage, I can lift my eyes and be astounded by the glory of God where everything begins and ends.


Beholding His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,

Michele Morin

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Invited into the Deep Welcome of Friendship

Across the miles they drove, journeying four hours north on washboard roads until they reached this country hill.

“We want to talk about the conference,” they had said on the phone.  “We can fill you in on the details in person.  The more you know about us, the easier it will be for you to prepare.”

I heard their words, but I was deaf to their hearts, because as the date of their visit approached, the puddle of panic around me grew deeper and murkier.  The faithless ponderings multiplied:

They’ll be sorry they traveled all this way to meet someone so ordinary.
Will they want to quiz me on my theology?
I’m sure they’ll take one look at my tiny kitchen and my beat up wooden floors and decide that I’m a mess, too.

This, for me, has been the challenge of the Christian life:  to boldly welcome others into the mess that is me, and then to trust – to trust that God will build a bridge between our hearts, and to trust that others will respond with acceptance and love.

As it happens, my new friends arrived a few minutes late – G.P.S.’s aren’t much help out here!  More important, though, when they showed up in my driveway, they did not arrive bearing an impossible yardstick or hearts of judgment.  They were not expecting me to look or to sound like a conference speaker or to live in a museum of Pinterest perfection.

We exchanged warm hugs and settled down to business.

 

Capture

And may I invite you to join us?
{I would love for you to continue reading with me over at The Perennial Gen . . .}

And while you’re there be sure to brighten up your inbox by subscribing to their regular updates!

Michele Morin

//

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

To finish reading this post, click here and join me today at The Perennial Gen, a space for Christian women and men in the second half of life.

//

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get inspiring content delivered twice a week to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Gratitude Is a Gift for All Seasons

The distance around my elliptical driveway is one tenth of a mile. I know this because I drove around it, watching the odometer—and then did it again just to be sure. This fall I’ve been doing a careful jog-trot around its leaf-strewn gravel, a compromise intended to jump start a flagging metabolism without putting undue wear and tear on aging joints and narrowing spinal interstices. Five times around with the dog makes for a half mile of elevated heart rate, deep breathing, and an uncluttered brain. Of course, the gift of those empty mental parentheses is that I get to decide what I’m thinking about while I’m avoiding loose stones in the path and thanking God for the fiery red Virginia creeper and the rusty orange of fading marigolds. Lately, I’ve been following the example of Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet who watched the nation of Israel disintegrate before his very eyes.   In Lamentations, he records the morbid details around the sacking of Jerusalem and the devastation of siege warfare:
  • Chapter 1 — The Lord is punishing Jerusalem for her serial idolatry.
  • Chapter 2 — Yes, it is time to lament the sin, the death, and the loss.

Turning a Corner into Gratitude

Then, twenty verses into Chapter 3, Jeremiah turns a corner and makes a choice. He leaves his mental parentheses open just long enough for an act of the will, and, shutting out the evidence for despair that lies all around him, he “calls to mind” a new thought that gives him hope:
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”  (Lamentations 3:21-26)
You’re invited to join me today at the writing home of my friend Jeanne Takenaka to ponder along with me the nature of a sinewy faith that summons gratitude when chaos reigns. Every blessing, Michele Morin
If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page. I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers. Photos by Vanessa von Wieding and Rich Wooten on Unsplash

Following the Instructions for a Grateful Heart

One morning, deep into the throes of our kitchen renovation, it dawned on me that I had no idea where our toaster was. Having reduced breakfast to the lowest common denominator of toasted bagels with cream cheese, my quest for the toaster was more than idle curiosity, and when it showed up in the furnace room, I was too relieved to bother with self-recrimination or even the why behind its whereabouts.

I’m no Martha Stewart even under the best of circumstances, but renovating our kitchen has stripped away any semblance of gracious living. For now, with the dining room piled from floor to ceiling with boxes of kitchen cabinets waiting to be installed and with electrical wires hanging like spit curls out of every wall, I’m just thankful to put any kind of meal on the dining room table—which, last time I checked, was in the living room.

At this point, I should apologize for making much of what is clearly a first-world problem. My access to reliable electricity and clean, safe running water puts me in company with the privileged 40% of the world who can join me in turning on a faucet to wash a plate or fill a glass. This, along with the fact that I’ve functioned just fine at this address for twenty-five years with our old, unsightly, and insufficient kitchen set-up makes me wonder why we are putting ourselves through this painful process. The word on the street (which, of course, comes to me through Facebook) is that, while the process is wretched, I will be very thankful with the end result when it is done.

The question that nags and will not be ignored is this:

Can I be thankful NOW?

Knowing what I know about the sovereignty of God and the blessing that comes after the patient submission to process, can I practice gratitude in the midst of the mess?

I’m not interested in a bait and switch in which I light a candle, practice a brand of skillful denial of the obvious circumstances, and then declare myself patient or grateful–at least for the moment. According to the Apostle Paul, gratitude is more than a spontaneous response or a pumpkin-spice-feeling. It is a matter of obedience to the will of God.

Author and poet Wendell Berry put words into the mouth of a fictional, elderly widow named Hannah Coulter who, in addition to being a crackerjack farmhand when needed and probably making a great pie crust, also had a clear handle on her biblical theology:

“You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this:
‘Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks.’
I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.” (Hannah Coulter, page 113)

Following the Instructions

In this season of gratitude and pumpkin lattes, I will be focusing on those “right instructions,” knowing full well that I, too, am “not all the way capable of so much.” And yet this business of obedience to the Spirit of God is not to be confused with Operation Bootstrap. It is, rather, an operation by which, “the very God of peace will sanctify me wholly” through purposeful rejoicing in what is given and a prayer life that images the inhale and exhale of breathing.

Rolling into the month of November, whether your greatest challenge is deciding between pumpkin and apple pie** on the day of the feast–or whether God is choosing this season to grow you through adversity that makes my kitchen renovation look like a walk in the park–let’s return to the words of Paul in the way we turn to our recipe for fool-proof gravy, knowing that even though we are not “all the way capable,” the instructions are good, for they are absolutely true, and they are given to us with love:

 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Giving thanks,

Michele Morin

**P.S.  My advice:  Go for a small slice of each.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Big Pizza Love and the Recipe that Makes it Happen

“It’s pizza night!”

Any Friday.

Even every Friday.

My boys never tire of those words.

A bowl of popcorn, a favorite movie, and a few square feet of mozzarella magic, and it’s going to be a great evening.

No question about it.

In a family of four boys, food is currency, and pizza is the gold standard. As the long bones lengthen and the voices grow deeper, the double batch makes way for the quadruple batch, and leftovers in the fridge are like money in the bank.

Of course, eventually, someone gets his license, or a girlfriend (or both), and suddenly an evening at home no longer registers on the social Dow Jones. But pizza night goes on for whoever happens to be home or whoever is visiting, and the leftovers pay dividends forward — with cold pizza after a basketball practice and a heart-to-heart talk about unfair coaches; cold pizza after a shift at McDonalds and a late-night discussion about where to buy the diamond; re-heated pizza for a carload of friends who “aren’t hungry” until they realize how very welcome they are.

Inexhaustible Love

Food can become a metaphor for abundance. Yes, your friend can stay for dinner, because we have enough — enough food, enough space in our lives, enough love to go around.

God is also in the business of letting His children know that He is enough, and His love is inexhaustible.

That’s why the apostle Paul strains His heavenly thesaurus in Ephesians 3:18,19 (NKJV) to communicate the expanse of Christ’s love for us:

How wide!
How long!
How deep!
How high!

God’s love for us passes knowledge; it is vast and complete, and yet He urges us to lean into its impossible dimensions and to rest there.

When I wonder if I can absorb another change or welcome another whirling planet into the solar system of my life, these words remind me that my ability to keep on stretching the circumference of my heart depends on my continual acceptance of the love of Christ for me. If I set my boundaries small and safe, I’m leaving room only for my own love — narrow and choosy, shallow and tentative.

Slowly, slowly I am learning that the only way to really “know the love of Christ” is to leave my heart ajar to the expanse of a bigger love.

It was standing room only the last time we all got together for a pizza night — daughter-in-love, grandboy, girlfriend, and all, but somehow in the midst of all the laughter and chaos, the pizza disappeared as usual. Slicing through the last pepperoni-and-black-olive, I smiled, because pizza night is teaching me that love comes — and it fills all the space we make for it.


The Recipe for Big Pizza Love

As regular readers know, most of my pizza-eaters have flown the nest, but I’m still making pizza, and I continue to receive requests for my pizza recipe, so I’m sharing it here. Giving credit where credit is due, if you happen to own a Moosewood Cookbook (mine is the 1992 edition), you’ll find that I’ve borrowed the recipe for calzone crust (160-161) and adapted it for pizza.

Enjoy!

The Crust:

1 cup wrist-temperature water
1½ tsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbs. honey or sugar
1½ tsp. salt
2½ to 3 cups flour
oil for bowl and pans

  1. Place the water in a bowl. Sprinkle yeast, and stir in honey/sugar and salt until everything dissolves.
  2. Stir in flour, kneading when it gets too thick for a spoon.
  3. Oil the bowl and cover dough with a cloth. Let rise until doubled in bulk. This is a good time to begin making the sauce and preparing toppings.

Sauce:

1 quart of canned tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
Garlic and basil to taste (sorry, I’ve never measured it!)

Toppings:

You don’t really need my help here, but I will share that pepperoni and black olives top the list of favorites here. The patient husband and I like to put leftover ratatouille on pizza. When we have a crowd in, I usually make at least one with just veggies, and I always make one with just cheese.

Baking:

Punch down the risen dough and spread with greased fingers in a well-oiled pan. Be sure to go all the way to the edges and then create a tiny edge around the circumference. Top with sauce, toppings, and an abundance of mozzarella. Bake at 450° until crust is browned and cheese is bubbly–about 15-20 minutes.

Depending on the size of your pans, this recipe will accommodate one large, deep dish pizza or two smaller pizzas of the thin crust persuasion. Experiment and let me know how it goes!


May you know and share the width and length and depth and height of God’s great love,

michele signature rose[1]

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

This post appeared first at (in)courage, the blogging ministry of Dayspring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

Photo by Carissa Gan on Unsplash