FIERCE LOVE

fierce love

FIERCE LOVE
“I will cease to live if I cannot be with you.”

Sounds Shakespearian, or maybe a line from “50 Shades of Grey,” or a RiHanna song?

It’s all about context.

Now-a-days this could be a codependent red-flag if spoken by a boyfriend, lover, stalker, etc.
Change the context; it changes everything.

–Scene change–
Picture these words being spoken by a parent or grandparent who, through no fault of their own, is faced with the thought of being denied access, sight and time with their beloved young child or children.
Though I am not a parent, I have been witness to this type of love; a fierce, almost angry, wild love.

Altruism: the sacrificial love of one for another.

It is a willingness to set aside your very life for the life of someone you love so intensely that life wouldn’t be worth living if they aren’t a part of it.

Soldiers do it for the love of their country.

A parent will step in and sacrifice for their innocent children.

This love is found between siblings, partners, families and spouses who willingly lay down their life to save their beloved.

But what if you were asked to sacrifice your life for something you didn’t care that much about?

Envision being asked to die for your abuser.

Or, for a follower of a different faith that harmed your country;

Or, the ex-boyfriend who dumped you for the larger breasted, more popular girl in school.

What about for the friend who betrayed your trust?

Or, being willing to give your full life for the child who turned away from all your teachings, stole from you and chose a drug ridden path on the streets…

**gulp**

This type of love happened.
This love happens.
This love is available to us because of Jesus.
It is the love He demonstrated on the Cross.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-7)

God, our father in heaven, loves us with such intensity that he sent us the ultimate sacrifice so that we would not cease to live. What He accomplished on the cross makes a tough life worth living, makes death not final and turned everything on its head. It’s the upside down that made things right; the death of an innocent for the lives of the unworthy.
It is the most quoted and therefore the most recognizable verse: John (3:16) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

He seeks us out when we are lost. He calms the storms of the seas of our life. He provides daily for our strength and gives us a hope worth clinging to when all else seems void.

Just know that no matter how unworthy this life can make you feel; that no matter what shames haunt your heart and, despite the burdens that weigh down your willingness to carry them one second longer, you have One that knows you, One that empowers you, One that believes in you, One that died for you because of His fierce, fierce love for you.

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PEAKS and VALLEYS

from GEONiius.com

from GEONiius.com

PEAKS AND VALLEYS
Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler all sang, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.”
You take one step forward and end up ten steps back…
Have you ever faced something seemingly insurmountable?
Divorce, Depression, a Diagnosis, Death of a loved one…
Have you made it through or conquered that “thing” and stood back a moment to breathe and bask in that moment?
I think this is what they were singing about…life.

As a kid, it always cracked me up to hear parents and teachers telling how they “had to travel to school by foot in the snow and it was uphill both ways!”
I totally get this now. Life is tough.
I’ve had those moments and am witness to this in several friends who are right there, right now. As if those insurmountable things are everywhere; surrounding, taunting, jabbing. Like you’re standing at the bottom of the lowest point of the vast depths of the Grand Canyon, entombed by its red cliffs, and on your last drop of water and final morsel of nourishment…

Approaching the hill at mile 23 of my second marathon, I heard the “POP” and felt something inhuman happen in my knee. It was sharp-shooting pain like I have never felt before, EVER.
Several doctor visits, MRI’s and consults later, I learned all about bulging discs and the nerve pain I was experiencing. I was told to quit running, to take up swimming and prescribed physical therapy (and injections, but no way am I having needles inserted in my spine!). The doctor told me, if I absolutely had to run, to quit for a year and if I continued to run, I better do it on soft surfaces and only uphill; downhill would aggravate the condition.
If you are a marathon runner, you know this news is like hearing your best friend just shot your dog and ran away with your life savings and your spouse (and insulted your mom on the way out!) Plus, if you are a runner (or athlete of any kind), you can relate to not wanting to give-up.
“…The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
I kinda half listened to the doctor’s advice; and half marathons are only one-half of a full marathon…
The Whiskey Row half marathon:
“Starting and finishing in historic downtown Prescott, home of the famous Whiskey Row, this out and back course is considered one of the most difficult in the United States, offering panoramic views of Northern Arizona. Starting at 5,280 feet, the elevation increases at 7,000 feet at the 13 mile turn around. The course is paved road for the first and last 3.5 miles, the rest is on Forest Service dirt road in the pines.” (From Active.com)
I registered, booked the hotel and was not going to let a little nerve pain get in the way. Well, if you know anything about back pain– it can take you to your knees in about .00015 seconds! I pushed through the pain. I stretched, attended physical therapy, did all those exercises at home, learned to swim and got addicted to ibuprofen (if that’s possible!)
I showed up at the starting line and prayed that I wouldn’t end up on my knees (no pun intended!) I lightly jogged until we hit the first uphill; I gritted it out and passed people! Funny thing though, it is followed by a downhill (those parents and teachers were full of sh*#!! 😉
A pack of three women, each with matching motivational t-shirts kept blowing by me on the downhill. I walked and prayed all the way down; hoping the ibuprofen would keep those bulging discs in check for a little while longer. Yet, on the next uphill, I was able to pick it up again and I caught back up to those three women! As I passed them I wanted to stop, but they cheered me on! Then, when they passed me on the next downhill, I whooped and hollered for them. For 13.1 miles of peaks and valleys this continued.
“Cause He who is in me, is greater than I will ever be and I will rise”-lyrics from “Rise” by Shawn McDonald.
And guess who crossed the finish line at the same time?
Me and the three.
Regardless of pace or terrain, we end up at the same place if we press on.
“How were you able to run all those up-hills?” One of the three approached me after the race and asked me, “Was this your strategy?”
As we chatted, I explained my run was not a strategy but was my survival.
We do the best we can with what we’ve been given.
The pain I am feeling from last weekend’s FBFW half marathon run as I write this reminds me that I tempt fate. I also realize that at any point, this could be taken from me. Will I be okay with that fate? –The prognosis of not running to me is worse. So I trudge on.
There are no guarantees in this life. Or are there?
Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians 6:16:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
This life is hard. It throws things at us that we never saw coming.
BUT, there are moments when you will be renewed; you will be the shiny, new, crystal “windshield.” Relish those moments—regain strength, breath in all that is good and pure and praiseworthy. Because, guess what?
Bugs happen.
Whether you are just trying to breathe, just needed a moment of rest and gritting out the uphill climb of that heart pumping, legs aching, body deteriorating and spirit dousing ascent and cannot even see the summit , OR
If you have ascended from that valley, are breathing in the majesty of God’s peaks, mountaintops and towers of glory, OR
Maybe you are gliding the downhill slope and breathing in with ease as if the wind itself is propelling you effortlessly through the moments of this life and you can enjoy some peace and rest;
My hope is that; wherever you find yourself, the valley, the peak or the slope of life, you take in a deep breath and PRESS ON!
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
-Hebrews 12:1-3

ANOINTING

spreadthewordnotgossip.comThe scorched expanse of our life-weary existence is in need of something. Whether it be depression, discouragement, selfishness, gossip, envy or pride; what do you let in?
Something seemingly small can be deadly.

He was a young child, barely six when the family decided to gather and reunite with long lost cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. The farm house in Nebraska could handle all of them. The children were shepherded to the basement to their sleeping bags for the evening. After all the giggles and jokes subsided, the children fell deep into sleep. A tiny beetle made its way into the one child’s unsuspecting ear canal and immediately jolted him out of sleep. His screams awakened all the other children as he ran up the stairs to find his mother. Confusion, pain, the scampering and clawing of those tiny beetle feet in a place they should never be.
When he calmed down enough, through sobs he explained there had to be a bug in his ear. No one believed him, yet he knew it. It was driving him mad. The torture, the unbelief, the exasperation, exhaustion; he was banging his head as though it was just water in his ear from a long day of swimming, but it was much, much worse. Like claws across a blackboard, the beetle was scampering the soft tissue; frightened and near insanity, he gave in.–After the adults found a children’s cold medicine to soothe him and his mother lay by his side, wiping his forehead with a cool cloth, she whispered prayers to his tormented heart.
It was just minutes after the child lay down, temporarily calmed by the medicine and the willing of his mother that she became the sole witness to the departure of the tiny beetle; which she instantly killed.

“You prepare a table in front of me, in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5)
To anoint usually means to set apart as special—like a gift to God. It also is a term often used in healing.

Back in the day, a shepherd was one of the lowliest of professions (not that it has gained much since!), but it was a dirty job. Working the night shift, tending those stupid animals, defending those silly sheep against thieves, robbers, predators; trying to herd them, protect them, and keep them safe. The tiniest of threats could actually kill a sheep. The nasal fly. That tiny pest could get inside the nostrils of the sheep, lay its eggs which developed into worms and eventually would drive the sheep to the point of banging its head against something to “get it out!” which most commonly lead to its (insanity!) and death.
I can’t even stand one bug buzzing about my ear, let alone it taking up camp in my nostrils and enlarging its family. Ugh.
A good shepherd would anoint the sheep’s head with oil (laced with some other healing ointments). These oils kept the flies from entering into the nostrils and ultimately protected the sheep from the tormentor that would make them “off” themselves.
The song “Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns states it so eloquently—“people never crumble in a day.”

Innocence blurs the lines of what we allow into our hearts and minds through our eyes, ears and societal influence. Also, as parents, friends, leaders, servants and human beings all subjected to these things, we are setting examples, leaving legacies and always being scrutinized for our choices. Check out a few of the verses:

“Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow
Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray

It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away

People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see”
(some lyrics from Casting Crown’s “Slow Fade”)


Our Father looking down on us with love; forgiving for those “not-so-wise” choices we made.
And our Good Shepherd who anoints and protects our souls with the blood He shed on the cross. He has set us apart. When we are weary, rest is found in Him. When we weep, He comforts. When we are weak, He is our strength. When we thirst or hunger, He is our bubbling water of life and our manna for the day.

Today, I pray that no-thing is able to put a bug in your ear to distract you from seeking the Good Shepherd. I pray that no harm come near your home. I pray that nothing, no height nor depth, no demons or mean people, no distance, no depression, no death nor divorce shall ever separate you from the healing, anointing love that is found only in our Good Shepherd.

LEARNING TO SPELL

Webster'sLearning to Spell

She’s only thirteen and still innocent. Her eyebrows arch in question as she toils over her homework at the kitchen table. She bats her long lashes covering her blue eyes and looks up at her mother by the kitchen sink. “Mom?”
Her mom, a school teacher, stoops over the dinner dishes in the condo the two of them live in. “Yes, honey?”
“How do you spell – salvation?” Her eyes are hopeful.
Her mom purses her lips and then smiles, “Honey, I’ve told you before how to spell it:
D-I-C-T-I-O-N-A-R-Y.”
“Aaaarrrgh!” She throws her pencil down. She goes to the shelves to find the red book with “WEBSTER’s” across the top.

–Now that we have spell check, we don’t have this argument anymore, but this actually happened to my friend all the time.
Spell check doesn’t solve all the mistakes.

Her mother wanted her to find the answers herself.


I witnessed an argument between my two friends who are married. I was in the back seat of the Honda CR-V as the two of them argued over the homemade pasta they two of them made several months earlier. We were heading to the store to get the ingredients for them to make it again. Since I am in no way a gourmet cook (and this was before everyone had internet on their phones), I couldn’t help them. I watched.
“There are eggs in pasta.” I see him smile in the rearview mirror. He never raises his voice. He knows he’s right.
“No, we didn’t use them last time. Your mom’s recipe didn’t have them in it.” She is a little red in the face. She’s certain she’s right.
“Yes. Her recipe. We did. We used eggs.” He is steady.
“No. We didn’t.” She is firm.
“Yes, we did.”
“No, we didn’t.”
“You will soon find out.” The smile again.
“I already know.” The heat rising in her cheeks.
It went on for the rest of the trip to the store. She never gave in. He bought the eggs anyway.
She still didn’t believe him. When we got to their house, she checked three recipe books and scoured the internet. She couldn’t believe there were eggs in pasta. She called his mother. She’s had her back before in disagreements; it must’ve been a special recipe?!
Guess what?
There are eggs in pasta.

Sometimes we just don’t believe it; even when we find the answer.

I am a Taurus (the bull.)
I once dated an Aries (the ram.)
Once.
We disagreed on many things. One time, we spent an entire Diamondbacks baseball game arguing over marathon runners. I was considering doing my first marathon. He swore I couldn’t because all marathon runners are thinly built and I didn’t have that build. I am a runner—I have seen many fit people in all sizes and shapes finish marathons. He could argue a point into the ground. He was relentless and I often gave up because it was too exhausting. (But I still ran the marathon!)
I searched for a different way to end our arguments. I discovered betting. I have always been pretty lucky.
So, we had just seen the movie, “Meet the Parents.” We were disagreeing about the scene where the ex-boyfriend (Owen Wilson) reveals his wedding present to Gaylord (Ben Stiller) and his fiancée (Teri Polo). In the movie, Owen’s character carved an archway for Teri’s character out of one piece of wood in just 70 hours.
My boyfriend couldn’t believe this could happen. He knew it would take longer—being an amateur wood-worker himself. He claimed they said it took him 700 hours. I had seen the movie twice and knew the scene. I argued for the 70 hours.
I was laughing.
He was fuming.
I said, “Let’s bet on it. If it’s 700 hours, I will buy you the movie. If i’s 70 hours, you buy me the movie.”
This betting tactic worked to silence the argument; temporarily.
I now own the movie.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying I have never been wrong. I have been wrong PLENTY. I don’t have it figured out, but I know what I know.

You might have your own thoughts on why something doesn’t make sense, but truth is truth.

I hashed it out in life. Checked the answers and fought the battles within my own soul. I don’t know why things like 9-11 or the Boston Marathon happen. I don’t know why innocent souls are taken by evil men and haunted for years of their innocence. I don’t know why there is injustice that goes seemingly unpunished.
I don’t know the mind of God.
But I did the work. I “went to the shelves.” I found The Book. I don’t know the answers to every mystery, but it contains the truth.
How do I spell “salvation?” With the blood of the Lamb:
J-E-S-U-S C-H-R-I-S-T
I am a very lucky person when it comes to betting.
I am betting my life on this One.

FREEDOM

anonymous freedom

anonymous freedom

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10)
Have you ever been afraid? And not just afraid, but truly fearful. I’m not talking about what I will call “scary movie” fear. –Who didn’t feel this type of fear in the movie “The Exorcism?”–The original one–Linda Blair and the pea soup. Scary stuff. I’ll admit my fear in that movie. But it wasn’t the fear that paralyzes. Thinking back, I’ve really just barely touched this type of fear.
True fear.
The paralytic kind of fear in which your brain sends sudden large amounts of adrenaline to your muscles and it either moves you into heroic action—the mother lifting up the car to free her trapped child, the soldier propelling in to saving his or her comrades in the heat of battle—OR the opposite occurs and fear overpowers you–your muscles are immune to the new fuel they’ve been flooded with and they simply freeze up. Not a chilly “goose bump” freeze, but absolute loss of function. The massive pounding in your chest blasts sound waves of blood pulsating throughout your head and eardrums. Your breathing is nearly non-existent and shallow in your chest, your body poised to strike, yet no amount of will can budge the load of bricks that have become your legs. Your nearly catatonic body that has become utterly non-responsive as deadly rigormortis settles around your soul. Surely you know this by now as the “fight or flight” response. It is (or at least, it can be) life changing. It is where the proverbial “rubber meets the road.”
What will you do in those circumstances? Action or paralysis?
We all would like to think that we would experience that “hero” response and be moved to achieve something transporting us beyond our human capacity. But if you have never been in one of these situations, how do you know?
When a friend of mine told me of her sister’s experience, I realized my fear experiences, though terrifying to me at the time, only skim the surface of this “true fear” that I am referencing. My true fear experiences were ones in which I could’ve lost my life. At least that is how I felt when I was knee deep in the experience. Really, it felt like any future I conceived turned completely moot and void. Nothing but that moment mattered because I didn’t think I’d survive past it. Falling out of the two man raft in a level five rapid on the upper Animas in Colorado. In retrospect, my life seemed in jeopardy but I wasn’t as close to losing it as I thought. That hike up the tallest mountain in Arizona when I freaked. The recurring nightmares haunting each of the 40 years of my life: the dizzying vertigo, loss of control at life’s edge of whatever chasm, bridge, or ledge it might be, the accompanying nausea, paralytic muscles, brain lock, shallow breaths, heartbeats quick rabbit-like but pounding like blare drums. All of this–nothing like what she details. Nothing. –Not to spoil the ending of my true fear story, but, SPOLER ALERT– I survived! I didn’t fall off that mountain and I was pulled back to safety by an experienced guide on the Animas River. However, I did experience momentary paralysis. Frozen in that moment and left with a choice. I will never forget the experience. But it just skims above the depth of what she tells.
Back to my friend.
I use that term judiciously because I see her as so friendly that I think she’d make friends anywhere. Or, it could be that I perceive her differently. Most people in my generation are keenly aware and sensitive to what she must’ve gone through to be here in America. She doesn’t always get this reaction. She’s a U. S. citizen and 23 years my senior. My friend, choosing to be unnamed, is one of five children born into extreme poverty in a small village less than 30 miles from Saigon. As a child, she saw a war-torn Vietnam, blossoming like a fungus as incomprehensible confusion, chaos, unnecessary death and lack of compassion overtook the scenic beauty of her birthplace. To this day, upon her return visits to try to help her village and her remaining family, she still sees the devastating, flesh-eating effects of Agent Orange on the civilian population left there and the health horrors that poverty permits.
We met at a food bank where we both volunteer. Often times the bank is low on food and with no other jobs to do, there is time to chat. My friend, who retired from a nearly 25 year career at Motorola, as she learned English in her spare time, is always one of the hardest workers and rarely is involved in chat time. If she isn’t marking foods or carrying out boxes, she is mopping the floor, sweeping or cleaning out bins. Today, except for the occasional carry-out, all is done.
Time for a rare chat.
Today she proudly wears a red, white and blue embroidered touristy shirt from her most recent trip to Vietnam. She is bubbling over with conversation and telling of her bravery at the doctor’s office. Yesterday she received a cortisone injection directly into her spine to help her deal with the pain and the numbing and tingling in her knees and legs brought on from work-related injuries through her career at Motorola. Yesterday. She refused anesthesia so she could drive herself.
She pounds her chest Tarzan like, “I so brave!” and smiles her huge toothy smile. Did I mention it was just yesterday?
A huge needle, (aren’t they all?) that could actually truly paralyze if moved just millimeters in the wrong direction, was inserted into her spine while she was awake and aware. She avoided burdening anyone for a ride. She’s a master at the self-sufficiency we Americans pride ourselves on. And ready to be working at the food bank today.
“Hey, Mrs. Saigon!” Buddy, who has been around longer than any volunteer (and most human beings! *wink*wink*!) razzes her, “You’re looking quite spry this morning!”
Her big smile erupts again.
She’s been married to an American soldier now coming up on 40 years. With two children and two grandchildren, this woman has more drama in her life than in most incident reports I read from the police department’s “ripped straight from the headlines.” (Can you hear the Law and Order “bong-bong?”)
Several weeks ago she told me one of her memories while living and working in Vietnam. She worked at the Vietnamese military base located just across from the American military base. She often walked between the two. She, totally in character, made friends with many of the Americans. The Vietnamese Military Police didn’t like this.
“Feel ‘dis.” She nods at me, picks up my hand, places two of my fingers on the top of her head, just to the left of her black hair’s part-line. My fingertips register the sheen of her soft hair. She pushes down on my finger and I feel it. Rough and uneven through skin, scalp and silky hair: granite.
Unaware, while walking between the two bases, she was stoned. Not that kind; an actual stoning. Out of the blue, she felt something smack into her head. Confused, disoriented, tears stinging her eyes and in pain, she realized her own countrymen were hurling rocks at her. Bloodied, and too embarrassed to tell anyone about her pain (and too poor to do anything about it,) a quarter-sized stone is still lodged in her scalp to this day.
I felt it.
Other drama in her life story includes very unwelcoming parents-in-law. It wasn’t until ten years ago (only 30 years in to her marriage) that her in-laws, still skeptical, admitted their continuing mistrust in her relationship with their son. They believe she is using him for her “green card.” For the record: she obtained her citizenship outside of marriage and on her own. They are from a different generation that is immune to her style of cooking, refusing her food at family gatherings and refusing the overwhelming kindness in her heart, and apparently severely lacking in the compassion department for what this woman has experienced and overcome. She is proud. Their treatment of the overly compensating, foreign daughter-in-law borders on the criminal.

The Pastor of the food bank, who missed being drafted and serving in Vietnam by answering God’s call to serve those back home, asks her to delve into her experiences. Being the same age as my friend, he is very curious about her time in Vietnam and her journey to here–right now.
The three of us stand in an alcove and she diverts the focus from herself and chooses to tell us about her sister.
Both her and her sister dreamed of escaping the poverty, the confusion, and the madness of what overtook their country. She–newly enamored with a young G.I.–has been offered (through this new love) an opportunity to leave.
She takes it.
She is in the U.S. just two years and then– April 30, 1975. The day she describes as “the day the world ended.” The U.S. attacks Vietnam. Through her new connections, her military husband is willing to help her sister and sister’s entire family to come to the U.S.—The sister must simply collect her five children, her husband and, at the predetermined rendezvous point, at the designated time, there is an arrangement for them to get out for free. All can make it out. Freedom. Opportunity. A new start. A new place. No more war in your backyard. But she must choose it.
The designated time and place come and go.
My friend and her husband-to-be wait for her sister and the family at the rendezvous point. All the while, the sister is crouched low, in the dark of the dirty walls of the one room that is home for her family of seven. Paralyzed. Tears of terror escape eyes that have seen too much. The tears run down this mother’s face as a sick example. She doesn’t heed their message. Her body is frozen in the crouch. Paralyzed at the opportunity. Paralyzed about a new place. A new start. The unknown. Freedom?!?
The depth of the fear that must’ve permeated this mother’s soul as she crouched there.
Maybe true fear isn’t what I comprehend it to be. Maybe this fear is actually a more subtle enemy. Maybe true fear is simply the doubts that cloud our minds when we are about to step off a ledge into the unknown. Maybe it’s more about choices. My friend’s choice to move to a country that doesn’t understand her, mistreats her and yet, gave her opportunity and freedom to live without fear. Maybe this explains why she is so friendly. She lives without fear. She lives in the chasm of opportunity that was opened to her when she took the leap into the unknown.–To work hard, to live fully, to give unconditionally, to forgive hurts, and to live with the rocks that have been embedded in her soul. And later, to return to the fears of her birthplace as she visits her sister and family who live in an abyss of regret each day in the country of their birth. She returns to try to understand and to try to change her remaining family by giving whatever she can.
But she can’t stay long on her visits there.
“My heart bleed too much there,” she explains to the Pastor and me tilting her head to the side. Her eyes drift away from us and her brows crease in confusion.
“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
(John 10:10)
Where does your heart bleed? Are you courageous enough to re-visit those places? Are you ready for the leap of faith or are you crouched in paralysis?