Month: March 2015

I Would Have Loved a Green, One-eyed Alien Child

Mother Child Shadow from Bing ImagesPeople say the most interesting things when it comes to the topic of adoption. Often humorous, sometimes rude, occasionally ignorant, but always interesting. Among the most interesting comments we’ve received is, “Of course you picked them. They’re so cute.” (Implying we chose our kids according to their most obviously endearing quality.)

Often, my response is a simple, polite smile. I usually don’t think of a good response until after the fact. As for the comment in question, I didn’t have an immediate reply except to say, “They ARE cute.”

And they ARE. Irresistably, impossibly, just-look-at-me-with-those-big-brown-eyes-and-I’ll-give-you-the-world…CUTE. But truth is, we had no idea what our kids would look like when we started the adoption process. They could have been green, one-eyed alien children for all we knew. We were ready, and willing, to love them—before we ever knew them. The fact that they happened to be so incredibly cute was an unexpected blessing.

Contrary to popular though immensely misguided belief, adoption is not about finally getting that much-desired bundle of joy. It’s not about filling empty, longing arms with a sweet, cuddly baby. And it’s not about picking a cute, lovable kid to add ascetic value to the next family photo.

Adoption is a permanent choice to invest our lives in a PERSON who will be part of our family…for life. That adorably innocent baby will one day grow to become a child, a teen, and, eventually, an adult. That’s why adoption is a long-haul commitment. It’s a binding decision to love at all costs, no matter what and for as long as we have breath. As with a biological child, relationship with an adopted child is a lifelong investment. They are loved, and they are family, no matter what they look like, who they are, what they do, or who they become. And their value is worth more than the greatest treasure we can imagine.

The Bible says God loved us before we were even born. His commitment to love runs so deep he sent his only son to die that we could be reconciled in relationship with him. And he willingly adopts us into his own family, should we chose to accept his invitation. This love is a binding love that doesn’t give up and doesn’t let go. No matter what.

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:5)

True Love…is BINDING (Day 40, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Not Quite Generous

Giving Love from Bing ImagesI was wondering why my baby boy was going through food so quickly while the puppy was getting so chubby. So when they thought I wasn’t watching, I spied on them and discovered the baby was feeding the puppy his extra food. It seems they had an unspoken food-sharing agreement going on behind my back. Whenever the baby had an abundance of food, he was more than happy to share with the puppy. But when I gave him only a couple bites at a time, he was a little more stingy with his offerings—much to the puppy’s dismay.

It’s easy to give when we have abundance. Our local newspaper runs an annual tally of the nation’s most generous people. Usually those featured are the wealthiest among us. It’s a noble thing, to give. But is giving truly generous when it comes only from abundance? If there’s no sacrifice, is it generosity at all?

I’ve heard it said that generosity is not measured by how much a person gives, but by what percentage, and what’s left over after the giving. It’s admirable that a millionaire gives a big chunk of their income to charity, but it’s not so hard to do when there’s mansions, vacation homes, luxury cars, and an infinite supply of gourmet food waiting when the giving’s done.

The more interesting newspaper article would be…who lives on the least so they could give the most? Of course, this article wouldn’t exist, because sacrificial giving is most often matched with genuine humility. When giving is self-serving—to draw attention to self and to inflate an image of nobility, it is not generosity but selfishness in disguise.

Lord, I pray you’d give me a truly generous heart—that I would give even when it’s hard and when it hurts. Let me give abundantly and sacrificially, with humility. I don’t want my giving to be self-serving, but to come from a heart of genuine love for others.

True Love…is GENEROUS (Day 39, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Freedom’s Cost

blog_rockingchairShe was finally free, but she refused to forget those still in chains. While she could have lived in relative safety, she chose to risk her life to rescue those bound as she once was. Harriet Tubman knew the danger she would face in returning to the place of her own bondage for the sake of those enslaved. Yet she considered their lives and valued their freedom more highly than her own.

Had I lived the nightmare she lived, I wonder if I’d so willingly return. It would be so easy to slip into obscurity, to hide in the shelter of freedom—forgetting those who suffered I once had. The prospect of losing my newfound freedom might overshadow the potential freedom of others.

What would motivate a former slave to risk life and freedom for the sake of others? This woman who endured such unthinkable hardships came through the furnace of affliction with great faith. She once said, “Twant me, ’twas the Lord. I always told him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect you to lead me,’ and He always did.

The same God who led her is the God who had heard the cry of the slaves in the days of the Exodus, who upon seeing the oppression of a people in chains spoke these words: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them…” (Exodus 3:7-8)

True love sees the needs of those in chains. And true love hears their cries. But it doesn’t stop there. True love is compassionate. And true love rescues.

Slavery is said to have been abolished years ago, but it continues today. Thousands are trafficked and sold across our own borders. We have a choice. Will we close our eyes to the need? Will we ignore the cry? Or will we see, hear, and act in compassion? Because only true love can set a captive free.

True Love…FREES (Day 38, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Photo Credit: Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway | Bucktown Village… | Flickr

Sports, Love, and a Little Thing Called Jealousy

Sports Fan from Bing Images I have to admit I sometimes get jealous of sports. It starts somewhere around the first pre-season kick-off—that tinge of dread in knowing it will be awhile before I have my husband’s full attention again. Our drive-time dialogue will be punctuated with emotion, yes. But shouts of “touchdown!” and laments of “interception” don’t always make for the conversation I crave. And just when I think it’s over come that Super Bowl holiday, I realize. It’s still a good few months until the NBA playoffs. And by then, baseball season is well underway.

Yes, my jealousy of sports may be ill founded. After all, my husband married me, not a football. Though each sport lasts but a season, I’ll be there for every season. And while there are times we go out for that much-anticipated romantic date and he’s staring at the sports screen behind me instead of looking into my eyes, I’ll be the one he goes home with at night. But the whole thing got me thinking—is there ever a time when it’s okay to be jealous?

The Bible speaks of an unhealthy jealousy—a kind that’s covetous, controlling, or possessive. Covetousness springs from discontent and ingratitude—wanting what others have for our own. Control stems from insecurity or egotism—wanting full reign over another’s life. Possessiveness derives from greed—wanting to own what was not ours to begin with. All three characteristics are rooted in selfishness. And love will never thrive in a selfish environment.

Love is not selfish, and therefore love is not ruled by unhealthy jealousy. That’s why the Bible says love is not jealous. It also says that God is love. Yet there are a few verses that mention he’s a jealous God. How can this be possible without being contradictory? When I read about God’s love for his people, it’s clear he’s not covetous, controlling, or possessive. But maybe there’s a different kind of jealousy—a kind that’s unselfish. A kind that’s protective.

In relationships, unhealthy, selfish jealousy can destroy. But healthy, selfless jealousy can serve to protect. My jealousy of sports is mostly quirky, though partly selfish in wanting my husband’s undivided attention. Yet it would be strange if I weren’t protective of our relationship when it came to something that could actually hurt or come between us.

It’s the same with God’s love. I believe it’s described as a jealous love because he wants to protect us from anything that can hurt us or thwart our greater purpose in life. Our loving creator desires our attention and affections, because in him we find that purpose. He’s protectively jealous when it comes to those habits and addictions in our lives that have the potential to destroy us, our calling, and our relationships.

Love is selfless. And love always protects. That’s why, sometimes, love is jealous—not in the unhealthy sense of the word, but in a life-giving, sheltering way that serves to reconcile and restore.
 
True Love…PROTECTS (Day 37, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

A War Hero’s Greatest Triumph

Forgiveness Symbols from Bing ImagesAn eighth-place finish at the Olympics is a dream few attain. And it’s no small exploit to survive 47 days stranded at sea. To endure two years of cruel treatment at a Japanese prison camp is unimaginable. Yet there’s something more remarkable about Louis Zamperini’s story than any of these feats combined.

The life of an Olympian-turned-war hero is a treasure for the history books, but Louis Zamperini accomplished something greater than these other impossibilities. It’s found in the words of a letter penned by his own hand, written to the man who’d tortured him during those years at prison camp…

“Under your discipline, my rights, not only as a prisoner of war but also as a human being, were stripped from me. It was a struggle to maintain enough dignity and hope to live until the war’s end…The post-war nightmares caused my life to crumble, but thanks to a confrontation with God through the evangelist Billy Graham, I committed my life to Christ. Love has replaced the hate I had for you. Christ said, ‘Forgive your enemies and pray for them’I also forgave you and now would hope that you would also become a Christian.” –Louis Zamperini (Unbroken)

Reading these words, I’m humbled to consider the depth of suffering and staggered to contemplate the degree of forgiveness on the part of a man who suffered so greatly. This overcoming of unthinkable trials, this forgiving of unimaginable torture is the war hero’s greatest triumph.

It reminds me of Corrie ten Boom, who after saving the many lives during World War II was sent to prison camp—there tortured and starved, there losing her family. Years later, upon encountering one of the guards who’d dealt the blows of suffering—she forgave. Or of Elisabeth Elliot, who after her husband was speared to death, returned to the tribe responsible, living among them and teaching them the way of love.

Ultimately, it reminds me of Jesus who, beaten, tortured, suffering, and dying on the cross spoke words of forgiveness to his tormentors. If I am ever to forgive the unforgivable, love the unlovable, and overcome the impossible, I look to my Savior, who went before me in the way of suffering and forgiveness. And who enables me to do the same.
 
“But I say to you, love your enemies and bless the one who curses you, and do what is beautiful to the one who hates you, and pray over those who take you by force and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
 
True Love…FORGIVES (Day 36,#50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, 2010, pp. 396-97.

When No Means Yes

Multiple Choice from Bing ImagesThere was a time when I said yes to everything. If something good came along, I was in. Looking back on how busy I was, I wonder how I even had time to breathe.

It came to the point that all the “good” I was doing crowded out the “best” I could have been doing. I was doing whatever was asked of me, yet there were desires in my heart I kept pushing to the side because I deemed them lesser things. I’d succumbed to the mistaken notion that only the weak say no.

My wake up call came when I was too physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted to say yes to anything at all. I’m grateful that season was a short one, but through it I learned some valuable lessons.

We’re each created for a unique purpose—a special, God-given task only we can fulfill. When we don’t, something inside us dies. We can do a million “good” things, but if we’re not doing the very thing we were created for, we’ll get restless and our generation will miss out on what we had to offer, whether it be our gifts, our talents, our time, or the other lives we were called to invest in.

Wisdom is learning that saying no might actually be the most loving thing we can do. It’s understanding that our no means yes to something greater, and realizing if we’re too busy to stop and love people, we’re too busy. The world will keep spinning if we say no to the lesser things. But it will miss out if we don’t say yes to the best God has for us.

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” (Psalm 57:2)

True Love…is WISE (Day 35, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Pure Love

Ice Cream Hearts from Bing Images It started out as an endearing moment. After gifting me with an impromptu hug, my daughter lingered by my side, snuggling against my arm. I felt so loved.

“Awww, you must’ve really missed me this afternoon.” I stretched out my arms and returned the hug, reveling in her childlike affection. That’s when I noticed her glance shifting from my face to the fridge and back.

“Wellllllll, Mommy…” She looked at me with pity and expectation. “I’d really like something cold. You know, with chocolate on both sides and ice cream in the middle.”

“Oh, I get it.” I smiled wryly. “You don’t want me, you want an ice cream sandwich.”

She shrugged, face brightening with her shy, sweet smile. “Ummmm, yeeeahhh…”

I had to laugh. While my daughter has times when ulterior motives overtake her little shows of affection, I have no doubt that she truly loves me. Moments like these are humorous in light of her precious innocence.

But there are those in this world who don’t have such childlike innocence. Ulterior motives undergird their actions and poison their words. It’s not cute or funny when an adult uses love as a guise for selfish ambition. The smallest amount of poison can kill the most tender of hearts.

Have you heard of the woman from Samaria? She’d become so used to men approaching her with ulterior motives, it was expected as commonplace. And she was known for succumbing to their greedy desires. Until one day she met a man who asked nothing of her but water from the well. In return, he offered her water that would never leave her thirsty again—a water of true love from pure motives.

This woman, who’d spent years living to fulfill the insatiable appetites of others, was now filled with an understanding of what love was meant to be. This understanding transformed her life, healed her heart, and gave her renewed purpose. Because we were created to be filled with life transforming love—a love that is pure, and a love that purifies.

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:13-14)

True Love…is PURE (Day 34, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)