Thursday, February 28, 2013

Words of Life

A few weeks ago, I saw a photo on Instagram with the caption,

"Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates.
Ask yourself:  is it true?
Then ask:  is it necessary?
And then:  is it kind?"

Just a few days later, I again saw another IG photo that said,

"Before you speak, 'THINK'...
T--is it True?
H--is it Helpful?
I--is it Inspiring?
N--is it Necessary?
K--is it Kind?"

Both of these were wonderful reminders of how careful we need to be with our words and how important they are to the receivers.  Words are pretty huge in all our lives.  Everyone at one time or another can recall a harsh or even cruel comment made by someone that still permeates your being.  Funny how those things never go away and seem to play over in our minds more than the good things people have told us.  It almost feels as if we need 10 good remarks for every bad one.  Words can be opinionated, sarcastic, and jaded, or they can be thoughtful, considerate, and hopeful.  We can literally waste our own time and that of our listeners by uttering things that aren't truly valuable or needed, let alone speaking things that hurt or bruise.  Words essentially build-up or tear-down--they are a blessing or a curse.  They can feed another person's very soul forever or maim their identity and countenance eternally.

A few months ago, I wrote another blog entitled, "What Not to Say."  In it I discuss similar ideas regarding words and how important it is that we speak lovingly, thoughtfully, and truthfully with one another.  Therefore, I don't need to go into another lengthy diatribe on this topic here.  But after seeing these two quotes so recently, I wanted to reiterate the idea that words bring either life or death for those to whom we speak.  No one needs to hear this more than myself.  Though I try very hard as a, "recovering people-pleaser," to be careful, considerate, and encouraging in my speech to others, I am, at times, too forthright and can also be way too wordy (I know, I know...tell you something you don't know)!  A friend of mine always self-deprecatingly apologizes for her prolific speech by saying, "I'm sorry, I have diarrhea of the mouth!"  It is a funny phrase, and I can so relate.  Since diarrhea is nothing anyone wants, it's a good metaphor and reminder for me also to be wary of my over-talkative tendencies.  Peace and quiet are good things, and sometimes they feed the souls of those around us more than anything we could ever say to them.  We all need people with whom we can just be still...with whom we can just, be.

On that happy note, I conclude this short [for me] blog-post with some of my favorite Scriptures on, "words" (I'm going to let the Lord do the lengthy talking today).  There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of verses about our speech and the power of our tongues in God's Word.  He must have known we'd need lots of reminders.  I would ask as you read (or skim) over these passages, that you'd first pray for God's guidance and conviction in your own heart and life on this topic of, "speech."  He certainly has been convicting me.  May God bless you all today, and praise be to Him Who in His mercy and love for us, forgives us of our shortcomings in this area and every other.  He only desires to bring us all into closer fellowship with Him, with each other, and into better living for His glory, His purposes, and for His name. 

Scriptures on "Words:"

Proverbs 18:20-21, "From the fruit of his mouth a man's stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."

Psalm 34:12-13, "Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies."

Proverbs 12:25, "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up."

Psalm 119:172, "May my tongue sing of Your Word, for all Your commands are righteous."

Proverbs 8:13, "To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech."

Psalm 139:4,"Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O LORD."

Proverbs 10:18-21, "He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment."

Proverbs 10:31-32, "The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be cut out. The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse."

Proverbs 11:12-13, "A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret."

Proverbs 12:22, "The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful."

Proverbs 15:1-2, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly."

Proverbs 12:17-19, "A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies. Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment."

Proverbs 15:4, "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit."

Proverbs 15:28, "The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil."

Proverbs 16:24, "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

Proverbs 16:21, "The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction."

Proverbs 18:13, "He who answers before listening--that is his folly and his shame."

Proverbs 21:23, "He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity."

Proverbs 22:11, "He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend."

Proverbs 25:11-12, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear."

Proverbs 26:24-25, "A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart."

Proverbs 28:23, "He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue."

Ecclesiastes 5:2-4, "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow."

Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Colossians 4:6,"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

Colossians 3:8, "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."

Ephesians 5:19, "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord."

1 Thessalonians 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

James 1:19-20, "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."

James 1:26, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."

James 3:5-6, "Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell."

James 3:9-12, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water."

1 Peter 3:9-11, "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For, 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.'"

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:  a time to be silent and a time to speak"...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Juggling Act

Today I am compelled to write about priorities after recently visiting with a friend who is struggling to realign hers.  She shared with me how she feels she is meeting herself coming and going, and how the stress and demands of life are piling up to the point that life is becoming overwhelming and joyless.  I shared with her that I've been there many times (more than I'd care to admit), and that another friend shared a secret or trick with me that has made an enormous difference in my life. It has given me freedom and space to actually LIVE my life and stop placing ridiculous demands and expectations on myself (or allowing others to do that for me, which they will gladly do if you let them).

We as women can easily find ourselves with too many irons in the fire.  Many of us feel not only the demands and pressure to be working outside the home, but also the expectation to maintain our home and personal life to an unrealistic level of perfection.  But the reality is we all have 24 hours each day, and we need to be resting peacefully for seven to eight of those.  That doesn't leave a great deal of time to manage work, home, kids, friends, extended family, and personal upkeep (which when you hit 40 can easily become a part-time job itself)!  Though I am richly blessed to not have to work outside my home any longer, I did so for 16 years while raising our only child, so I can relate to the pressures and juggling act required by women today.  I also put myself through college with an infant, so I'm not foreign to the burdens on working moms.

I've somewhat jokingly said many times to close friends that I was born in the wrong decade.  I believe wholeheartedly that my true self would have thrived in the fifties when most women stayed home and took care of their men and children. I loved nothing more than tending to our home and making sure Matt and Allie had every need met with flare.  Living at a time when that was really the only thing that would have been expected or required of me would have been truly delightful on many levels for me. Of course, it's always easy to say those kinds of things when you don't really know what life was like at that time.  I'm distinctly aware that I've probably got "grass is greener" syndrome on that front.  But I do think the whole, "women's lib" movement destroyed us as women.  We now feel obligated to take on the roles of both men AND women.  It isn't like we traded in our duties--we just added more of them and shot ourselves in the foot in so doing.  I still have friends today who work 50-hour a week jobs and guilt themselves for hiring a house cleaner.  Why do we do this to ourselves?

All the stress we place upon ourselves to be, "the best at everything," ends up manifesting itself in all kinds of negative ways in our lives, if we let it.  We end up having restless nights instead of peaceful, deep sleeping, which increases our moodiness and lowers our metabolic function (and these are two of the last things middle-aged women need).  Our sex lives plummet because our daily do-list is so lengthy that we fail to take care of this very important aspect of life, health, and marriage.   We begin to gain, "stress" weight, due to that nasty little stress hormone called, "cortisol."  Our faces show all the daily wear-and-tear with dark circles, wrinkles, bags, and frown lines.  We feel unhappy and tired because we don't have the proper time to exercise, which is the best and cheapest remedy for depression, anxiety, emotion, libido, and energy maintenance that anyone can ever find.  Our do-list is so time-consuming that we feel we don't have time for God, so we fail to a personal quiet time alone with Him in prayer and Bible study.  Without that most important "do-list" item of the day, our entire lives become out of focus and begin to feel meaningless and chaotic.  We also don't have the equipping we need in order to be able to encourage and fill others as we are commanded to do in God's Word.  We are empty, so we instead drain other people versus filling them.  I can speak to every item I've mentioned here because at times in my life, I've lived it.  We all have if we're honest.  We aren't perfect; therefore, we all have times and tendencies toward imbalance.  It just requires constant readjustments.

The "little secret" that another friend shared with me years ago that has been a fabulous benchmark for me with regard to alignment (& re-adjustments) of personal priorities is something she called, "The Rule of Seven."  She heard about this in a Bible study she took years ago.  Another Christian female shared with her class about this great "rule" and she has never forgotten.  "The Rule of Seven," is basically the idea that any person (man or woman) can only effectively and efficiently juggle seven items in their life at any given time.  Each task or person in your life represents one item.  So essentially, every position, job, child, person, relationship, volunteer task, etc.--anything that requires daily or even varied chunks of time, equals a separate item in your life.  She suggests only grouping or lumping items together into one item if they truly only require small, random spurts of your time.  For example, if a woman has five children, then the care she provides for each child and her spouse (both of which are daily and unlimited), and taking care of herself is all she truly has time to do.  We haven't even added in any church work, friendships, or the maintenance of the upkeep of her home.  So this woman would probably need to keep outside "stuff" to an absolute minimum in order to be an effective wife, mother, and a happy, well-maintained person.

So what are my "seven" items?  Maybe you don't care, but I'm going to share it because examples are helpful as we attempt to keep our lives in check and in balance.  Here's my list:

1.  My relationship with God.  I strive to pray and read my Bible daily.  I blog about Christian topics in order to attempt to witness for Christ and because writing feeds my soul.  I am better able to process things I learn and read in my walk with God when I write about them.  I also want to leave this journal of sorts for my grandchildren to read and in order to hopefully influence them in their lives long after I am gone.  I also volunteer for random things at my church, so I lump all these God and ministry-related things into this item.
2.  My relationship and the care I provide to my husband, Matt. Matt is number two in my life, second only to God.  This has never been a tough one for me.  Since, "quality time," is one of my top love languages, I naturally enjoy being with Matt and caring for him.  The problem for me is that many times Matt trumps God.  This is where I get little reminders for readjustment from God--it is never the other way around!  I travel with Matt now that I no longer work outside of our home (other than the work I do part-time with my music commitments).  Matt has upwards of 6 business/job-related trips per year--sometimes more.   They are an average of 4-7 days in length, so they aren't, "out and back," trips.  He loves and enjoys having me go with him.  We neither one do well apart, and Matt says he does better when I am there with him for a variety of reasons. He sleeps better, he feels better, and he appreciates that I just take care of him and his external needs on the trip.  Many times, he has a great deal of stress on him on these trips--he gives presentations, leads meetings, gives group talks, deals with all kinds of policy issues, and on top of all that, he is required to "wine and dine" all the executive board members of his association and their wives nearly every night.  So he is, "on," so to speak, from 6AM until midnight nearly every day of each trip.  I enjoy going along to alleviate stress and just help with all the "PR'ing" he does each evening.  As Matt says, I've been blessed with the, "gift of gab," so it takes a lot of pressure off him when I'm there at his side to help carry the 3-hour dinner conversations.  I also have become the designated tour guide for his members' wives during the day.  This is a blessing to Matt and he appreciates having me there (or at least, he tells me this in gratitude repeatedly, and when I hint that I don't really feel like going along on a trip, he is not pleased)!  The way I see it, God gave me my husband and He calls me to provide for his needs.  This is a need to Matt and I am happy to provide.  Some might say we are spoiled to get to travel like we do.  Yes, it is definitely a job "perk" or blessing.  But Matt works extremely hard on these trips, and I don't sit around picking my nose much.  Some have hinted that all this traveling and helping Matt is a waste of my time and energy when I'm not getting paid to do it.  But the way I see it, anything I do to help my husband or please him is putting many credits in my heavenly bank account.
3.  My relationship with my daughter and my new son-in-law (who I prefer to call, "son").  I spend a good amount of time on the phone with my daughter, Allie.  I invest in her life and make effort to spend time doing fun things and making memories with her and her hubby, Kale.  Matt and I keep well-informed of what their needs are and we pray with them on the phone when things arise.  We are just there for them on every level that we can be.
4.  The upkeep and care I provide to myself.  I am a runner and I believe wholeheartedly that personal fitness and well-being are crucial and essential to living a good life.  You cannot be productive, effective, or equipped to help others or do the ministries that God has called you to do if you aren't taking care of yourself, too.
5.  My relationship with my parents.  Similar to #3, I spend quality time on the phone with all 3 of my parents (I recently found my biological father, and we are working on building a new relationship together. This will be a later blog topic, but it has been a great blessing in my life and now happily requires a fair amount of time each week).  I enjoy spending time with all my parents and making fun memories together.  They are of divine importance to me and to my life, and it is commanded of us to honor and love our parents (Exodus 20:12).  I also spend time with my in-laws and enjoy also seeing them from time-to-time at family events and such.  So this "parental" item is pretty full and fairly time-consuming.  At times, lumping all five parents into one item is probably pushing it.
6.  My music.  I now lead worship at my church around 2-3 Sundays a month.  This requires upwards of 10-15 hours a week during the weeks I lead.  I also sing in two bands outside of church.  One band rarely gigs, but we practice nearly weekly.  The other band rehearses weekly, and gigs quite regularly (2-4 times a month).  So I group all my music stuff into one item.  It is basically a part-time job for me.  Some weeks, it is a full-time job.  These new duties and time-fillers are of great benefit to my life and are God's callings on my life.  They are passions and visions that I know are God-induced.  They are a large part of the time I spend in ministry for Christ.  It is also a blessing to my husband that I am working and contributing, even if only on a small scale, to our finances, our life, and to our life's purposes.  There is nothing more attractive to a man than a woman who keeps herself busy toward purposes that are viable and important.  My husband has outwardly said this to me.  He is proud that I am working toward something.  
 7.  My extended family and friends.  This is the area where I struggle the most in juggling because it is, for obvious and necessary reasons, at the bottom of the totem pole in my life and I have to lump an awful lot of people into one item here.  Both Matt and I have pretty large families and we are close with several of those family members. They are exceptionally important to us and if we had more than 24 hours in a given day, we'd be spending much more time with them!  Due to the fact that this item has numerous people in it, I have struggled the most in this area with juggling.  It has created tension for me in trying to prioritize people and at times, God has had to remove or alleviate the tension for me.  When relationships become too "heavy" or the neediness of outside people becomes too demanding, this is the area I believe God always immediately will clear your plate.  If you ask Him for wisdom in what things need to be readjusted, I can almost guarantee you it will come from this, "extended family and friends," area.  We ARE called to be an encouragement to our family and friends, as well as, to keep fellowship with those in the body of Christ (our church mates) as Hebrews 10:25 states.  But there are FAR MORE Scriptures that tell us as women to take care of the top six items first and foremost.  This area should be minimal and rarely be a conflict with your other top items.  If it becomes one, my advice is to axe it.  If you're married with children and you have a job of any kind at all (full or part-time), your plate is nearly full.  Give yourself a break and let go of relationships and people (especially non-family) who are expecting too much of you.  They need to go get more real items on their own plate.  Anyone in this, "external group," as I call it, who truly loves you and is truly committed to their walk with Christ will never place demands on you that you can't fulfill.  Their voids are being properly filled in their walk with God, and they desire for your life to match-up to God's Word and the requirements that are given to you as a woman of God (which are to care for our spouses, our children, work in our churches, and take care of our homes & ourselves). 

Recently, the Good Lord has been clearing my plate and I haven't even had to do much!  He has just been changing and reshaping my life in new and interesting ways by bringing amazing things into my life and removing other things that were unnecessary, non-fulfilling, and non-purposeful--essentially, they were draining my time and energy, and He had been hinting to me of this for quite a while.  Change requires adjustment, and if God has laid a vision on your heart for your life, be prepared.  If He brings it to fruition, you will be guaranteed realignment along with those changes and new visions.  God is so faithful it amazes me.  My advice is this:  if your life is not looking like you want it to look and your life's demands are wearing and tearing you down, pray for an adjustment.  Ask God to show you where you need to make cuts and where your plate needs cleaned.  He will be trustworthy and faithful to show you, but you have to be willing and trusting of His will.  There's really no better feeling than when God moves in your life with answered prayer and realignment.  It is so freeing, and it gives you the space to grow and change into the person He envisions for you to be (and that will never be every one's stepping stone and doormat).  Sometimes the best way to show love and mercy to someone is to let them go.  If the sun in their world rises and sets with you (and it shouldn't), they need to learn that God needs to be their all in all.

God does not want our lives to be over-taxed and exhausting.  He didn't design us in this way.  My sweet friend also reminded me that Jesus was the greatest example of this.  Even Christ (and He was perfect), didn't do all for all people.  He had twelve disciples.  Inside that twelve, Jesus only had 3-4 to whom He was very close.  Inside that 3-4, He only had one to whom He shared nearly everything.  Jesus wasn't even married with children, and He did not do all for all people.  His ministry and tasks were most important because that is what God, His Father, had told Him to do with His life.  He is our best example for everything in this life, and even in how He lived amongst others proves to me that we simply cannot be all things to all people.  God has placed certain people in your life--in your circle.  That is a limited number.  It doesn't include every person in your neighborhood or every friend of your past.  It sure doesn't include anyone who is making such demands that by meeting those demands, other people or items above them on your priority list will be harmed.   If God has given you a mission or purpose in life, stick to it.  Do not waiver for anyone or anything.  Those who make goals and arrive at dreams and visions are not people who waiver at the whim of others.  They stick to what God is telling them to do.  There are seasonal relationships and friendships, and sometimes God tells us clearly to, "Let go and move on."  Those whom He has placed distinctly and purposefully in your life should never be shirked or changed (your spouse, your kids, your parents, your family).  But we, as women, must let go of the notion that we are to be friends with everyone and do everything we can for everyone.  Too many times this robs us of the freedom and peace we need to have in our daily life in caring for our spouse and our children, as well as, those people and things that God has truly placed in our lives and upon which He is asking us to expend time and energy.   God will guide you if you truly want His help with your own personal juggling act. Ask Him today.  He cares so deeply for you and about every detail of your life.  He wants joy and peace to overflow in and through all that He has entrusted to you.  He has made you steward and manager of many people and things.  Order them with caution and know that He is there when realignment is needed.  Praise be to God.

Life can be really simple, my fellow sisters in Christ.  Below are verses to prove it.  We are called first and foremost to love God and care for our families.  I say this with utmost love to all the well-meaning-ed, stay-at-home Christian women out there who think working outside the home is sinful:  Read Prov. 31:16--the "wife of noble character" worked, earned money, and bought land with her own money.  She wasn't doing this at home, and even if she was, most women today cannot do that.  So please, keep your legalism to yourself.  It is stifling, self-righteous, and it is only bringing harm to the, "already overwhelmed" female population who may or may not have the blessing or financial means to stay at home.  Likewise, those who work outside the home need to not defame their fellow sisters whom God has called and equipped to stay at home.  They are doing it differently than you, and you need to get over it. (And to encourage all the fine ladies who work outside the home AND at home:  Read Prov. 31-15--this wife of noble character had servants!  So stop guilting yourselves for not cleaning your own house)!  We are not all the same person with the same gifts, abilities, and blessings.  We need to all live our own lives, and if we don't like our life, it is our responsibility to change it and/or make choices that enable us to do so.  God blessings and peace to all of you. 

Verses for Simple Living:

Micah 6:8, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

1 Timothy 5:8, "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

Titus 2:3-5, "Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled."

Proverbs 31:10-31
Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character
10 "A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

True Love

Happy Valentine's Day! On this day when the word,  "love," is tossed around and revered more than any other day of the year, it has never before become so clear to me that we as a society have totally lost the real meaning of love.  Just turning on the T.V. for even fifteen minutes will prove that to you.  You can quickly hear people ranting about "their rights," see people misconstruing sex for love, and repeatedly witness people exhibiting a total disregard for the feelings of others.  That said, I thought it might be nice to write a short blog about what God's Word says that true "love" is. 

Valentine's Day is a brutal day for those who are lonely or have suffered betrayals and lost loves.  Many are grieving permanent losses of loved ones who have departed this earth before them. On this day of "hearts," mine goes out to anyone out there who has recently endured such a loss or betrayal.  I have personally gone through jealous betrayals by "friends" and permanent losses of true friends who have gone on to be with the Lord ahead of me.  But the "Good News" is (double meaning intended), Jesus Christ is the best example of true love and friendship that we will ever have--and He is accessible to you right now and every moment of the day.   In fact, He longs to be your Valentine and true love.  His entire life's purpose and mission was to come to earth to prove His love and devotion for you.  He died on a cross in your place to give you a chance to recognize what real love is, and to be saved from your own sins.  That is true love.  That is the "Good News."  In John 3:16, which is probably the most famous and frequently quoted passage in all of Scripture, it is stated, "For God SO LOVED the WORLD, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  What an amazing Valentine's Day love letter to receive!  So if you're out there and someone has lashed out at you, betrayed you for selfish motives, or you have suffered an even greater loss than that in the permanent loss of an irreplaceable loved one, take heart!  Jesus is a steadfast friend--and He knows the real meaning of love and sticks to it.

So what does God's Word say that, "love," really is?  Following this blog are my favorite passages on love.  In summation, love is a choice--not a feeling.  Love is about showing mercy and compassion to others, not expecting your every need and whim to be met in return with harsh demands attached.  Love is about endurance, commitment, and faithfulness.  It is about truly caring more for others than you do yourself.  It is about honestly supporting others above your own desires, and sharing in their joys AND sorrows.  It is about giving others space to live, change, and grow.  It is about giving and taking--not always taking.  It is about being thankful when God blesses others, instead of jealous that He didn't give you the same blessings. It is about affirming and encouraging others, not competing and tearing down them down.  It is about covering over the sins of others, instead of highlighting them and conveniently ignoring your own.  Real love stands the test of time.  It doesn't change like shifting sand and it isn't altered by geographical distance or personal hardship.  Today more than ever, I count my blessings and realize with crystal clarity those whom God has placed in my life as true loves and true friends.  Those who have been there through thick and thin.  Those who have never wavered in honestly supporting and loving me with no ulterior motives or changing attitudes. Those who are genuinely sad when I'm sad, and truly happy when I'm happy.  Those who don't purposefully push my buttons in passive-aggressive spite and selfish gain, but instead lift me up just by their presence.  Those who sincerely praise God and celebrate with me when I succeed, but still encourage and believe in me when I fail.  You know who you are, and today I lift up a sincere word of praise for all the true Valentines in my life.  I am richly blessed. 

True "love" is...

1 Corinthians 13, "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."

Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."

Proverbs 10:12, "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses." 

Ephesians 4:2-3, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."

1 Peter 1:22, "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart."

1 John 4:7, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God."