Posted in Different Scriptures, Different Thoughts

A Word of Love

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us…” (John 1:14a)

      During this season of Advent, we purposefully pay attention to the way God reveals His Love for us by sending His Son, which John refers to as the “Word” of God. Literally the “theo-logos”, the theology of God, which is Love. There are so many things we can say about this – and so many things have actually been said, written, and sung. Many of the words have been beautiful. Some of the words are more reflective of the commercialization of the holiday season overall. Yet still – so very much has been put into words. (This is often why I write poetry.)
I remember when our kids were infants (or still learning English). They would quietly mumble, make all kinds of noises, or even wail to vocalize the thoughts and emotions churning within.  Often as I held them, or sang near them as they slept I would sing the words of Irving Berlin’s “Just One Way to Say I Love You” which ends with the lines:

“I love you, and yearn for the day –
the day when you’ll say ‘I love you’.”

      Sure enough, when they became old enough to speak (and ask a million questions), there would be those melt-worthy moments when they would choose, unprompted, to say “I love you.”  It meant so much, and even as they’re teenagers now – still does.

I also remember some of the final conversations we had with my dad.  I remember how thankful I was, while living and serving in Hungary, to be able to fly to Michigan during his final moments.  Even in the midst of chaotic lock-downs and makeshift hospital procedures, I was allowed to sit with him.  I told him I loved him, and felt the squeeze of his hand letting me know he could hear me.  It meant so much to be able to put my words out there, and for them to be received in love.

Wanting to share a specific word, and to have it received by others is a human experience that reflects the heart of God who shares His Word. We see this heart and desire reflected, for better or worse, in the millions of social media accounts & blogs (this one included).  In the past, I’ve often written off the desire to “go viral” or build up large amounts of followers as one that could never have redemptive roots or ends in mind.  But as we focus on how “The Word became flesh…”, we can begin to see how all of these words flowing from so many minds and hearts are a global testimony that by its’ very existence, proclaims the God whose heart we have been created to reflect.

Before this is used as a theological defense for pursuing a career as an “Influencer” however, I would suggest that every good thing can be twisted and dis-ordered.  Every word that we share finds itself ordered rightly only when/as it is offered in submission to the ways and Kingdom of “The Word” which is Love.  This will not always (or usually) result in applause or an increase of followers.  In fact, scripture warns that we may often expect the opposite (Luke 6:26).

Still, in the gracious heart of a Father God who listens to our collective voices, we can imagine something similar to a Father who holds His infant.  He is so very patient and kind, as our words are not always reflecting of His nature or His invitation.  The baby cries, often unintelligibly, for that which she knows not.  She simply wants to know her needs are met, and that she has a source of comfort available.  He patiently sings to her in response, “I have Loved you, and yearn for the day – the day when you’ll say ‘I Love you’.”

I pray God grants me even a portion of such a heart, as I long to Love those He loves, as He Loves…

(Happy Christmas & Christmas-tide to you and yours. May we receive & join the Living Word.)

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confession: I want to prove God.

For as much as I wasn’t a giant fan of “God’s Not Dead” for reasons we can talk about in person…I will confess I have something in common with the young college student.  I have a desire to prove God.   It’s not that I want to prove His existence, or even prove to someone that Jesus was divine.  It’s not an intellectual debate I want to win.  I want to prove to my children, the goodness and faithfulness of God, in the midst of a world where such testimony may be hard to hear behind other noises.

It struck me in a particular way recently, as I was praying for our adoption.  You may have something else weighing on your heart.  Something your family is praying fervently for.  Something you and your children name regularly every night in family prayer time, and the main thing your kids might mention if they’re praying before bed at a friends house.  Whatever that thing is, beyond praying for that “thing” itself….as a parent we also find ourselves praying it for the sake of our children.   That they will experience God’s hearing of the prayer, and be able to celebrate together as a family when He responds.

So what happens, when that “main family prayer”, becomes the one unanswered?  The one a family is left to struggle with.  What if our children grow up praying about it, almost as a reflex, but slowly and accidentally learn never to actually receive a response from God on the issue?http___makeagif.com__media_5-05-2014_dpmt43

In my anxiety and frustration, God calms me down.  Hand on my shoulder, tears welling up in his own eyes, He speaks with love.  “You and your family are not the beginning, or the center of what I’m up to, Chadwick.”  In a moment of humility, He reminds me of where I sat just a few weeks ago, at a Seder dinner with my children. From my own lips, my children heard God’s story as one we are now the continuation of.  That His people lived for hundreds of years in slavery, and have faced suffering and death for millenia.  That the story of God’s people is one of embracing what it means to suffer in a world that is not yet made right.  What it means to not pretend everything is easy or can make sense.  Imagine what it would’ve been like for an Israelite parent to teach their children the goodness of God, in the midst of generations of slavery.  God calls us to live uncomfortably in a world that idolizes comfort and ease.  We are a people who have been crying out to God for thousands of years, and God has been/continues to respond to that cry.  He invites us to actively participate in that response as well.  Not by denying or avoiding the brokenness of the world – but by how we suffer as those who know God is with us.

His was a reminder – one of the greatest things we do as a parent is to give our children, and younger generations a context for their struggles/doubts.  A safe place to express suffering…(any youth pastor who’s heard a teenager lament at a broken relationship can understand this)…and a larger view/context that helps to bring genuine perspective and comfort knowing God is with us even in these moments.  Not promising to make everything better for every individual who comes to Him like a genie inside a magic lamp.  Yet….not like a removed deity who has nothing to do with the world He set in motion, either.

God is at work.  In faithful and world-changing-ly large ways.  But also in small, thankful whispers of reminder.  We know that His heart is seen being revealed in “Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.'”

All of that to say, be encouraged.  Even when it seems our prayers aren’t being responded to.  Not because “God’s working it all out to be even better than you would’ve prayed.”  But because, God is with us.  Always.  Has been, and will be.  That’s the story we invite our children to live within.   That’s the story that invites them to prove God…

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daddy worries.

It was earlier this week, as we sat around the breakfast table, gathered around “Fruit Spins”, milk, and the advent wreath.  Last week we’d talked about “Hope”, and it was easy to talk to the girls about what we each were hoping for.  The poignant moment coming when it came to our 4 year old daughter, and she was hoping for “God”.  I asked her to clarify….”What do you hope God will do?”

She smiled and said proudly, “Whatever God wants to do!”  Here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the faith of a child. 🙂

So I was waiting this week, for what new nugget of wisdom my own kids were going to throw back at me as we moved into a week focusing on “Peace”.  But “peace” is a bit more complicated than “hope”.  So daddy decided to talk a little about why we need peace.  I asked the girls what they’re afraid of, and what makes them worry.  I received many of the expected responses:     monsters (no, not really, daddy), being sick, scary dreams, and “sometimes when I walk down the stairs and it’s dark in the middle of the night, I think maybe there are some animals coming down behind me who want to eat me.”

sophieDefinitely scary, and worth worrying about.  So we talked about peace, and then daddy decided to get down on their level, and talk about what makes daddy anxious/worried.  That’s when it hit me like a sack of bricks.  I covered it well, but I felt emotion in those moments that I don’t usually give word/time for.  The honest truth is this:

I worry about my family.  My wife.  My kids.  Every time I’m away from them, there’s that back of the mind “thing”.  I can’t wait to hold them again.  To be near them.  To know that they’re alright.  But even in the most peace-filled moments, I’m reminded by the world I’ve lived in so far – there’s no guarantee.  Even when Super-Dad is with them, my children, my wife, and my home are never 100% protected to the point where I have no reason to worry.  There’s always the chance of something unexpected happening.

I remember hearing the phrase growing up, “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7).  I would smile the silly smile of a young teen who’s confident this verse means no matter what happens in life we’re supposed to smile…to prove we’ve got some sort of “inner peace” that doesn’t make sense to the world.  But twice that age now, and having experienced quite a few situations where a smile is not the appropriate response – I’m thankful for the context to verse 7.

“Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people.  The Lord is near.  Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.  Then the peace OF GOD that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe IN CHRIST JESUS.” Philippians 4:5-7 (emphasis added)

It’s not about me coming up with the ability to have peace in the midst of life circumstances.  It’s not about me never having a concern.  It’s centered on approaching every concern I have in the context of God, who can handle the big picture.  In the context of Christ being more than capable of keeping our hearts and minds safe.  I’m not to have peace because I have peace.  I’m to have peace because God has peace.

Not in a way that denies horrible things happen.  Because they certainly have, and do, and will.  Nor do we deny these horrible things will shake us to our core sometimes.  We will experience pain, and offense, and brokenness.  But the promise of peace still comes to us, in the presence of Jesus Christ.  The child born in a manger, in whom God proclaims to all of creation, us included, “I am with you.”

And in that….we receive God’s peace which transcends our understanding/abilities.