What is radical love? In looking for an image to illustrate my thoughts, I typed in the word “sacrifice.” This image of Jesus on the cross is the first choice. Is there, a more perfect example of radical love than to lay down one’s life on behalf of others? If there is, I can’t think of one.
I am having a hard time living in the world as it exists today. It isn’t just the political turmoil or the rapidly changing social dynamics, though both of those things play a role in my discontent.
I don’t do external conflict. I don’t argue, discuss, or debate. I turn inward. Thoughts roll around in my head like rocks in a tumbler. I want the edges to smooth out and the surface to become all shiny and pretty, but that is never the outcome. It always seems as though no matter how much I ruminate on a particular topic I fail to come to an adequate solution or even a soap box to stand on. Surely I am not alone.
And then I remember the one. The one who came to earth as a baby and as a man died to pay the price for all humanity. What would Jesus do and say at a moment like this?
The denomination I have belonged to my entire life is in the throws of a split. There are two issues that divide our country and our churches – abortion and homosexuality. No matter how hard I try, I do not see evidence of Jesus’ radical love involved with either of these situations. In Jesus’ earthly life he was surrounded by “holier than thou” religious leaders that condemned others while elevating themselves. How are we any different?
Who needs the radical love of Jesus anymore than a young woman facing an absolutely gut wrenching decision? Do I belong in a church that condemns rather than loves?
How about the gay man or lesbian woman who has been rejected by family and been told God doesn’t love them because they are homosexual?
I believe we are called to love like Jesus and leave the rest to God. Somewhere along the line it feels to me as though knowledge and logic eclipsed love and compassion. Dissecting the Bible to the point where the student feels superior has naturally led to being just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. I have participated in that kind of study. I know I have thought myself superior in knowledge therefore it was my duty to educate others. I have begged forgiveness and received mercy and grace.
Today, I choose to see the holiness of God in each person that crosses my path. Even if their light is dim, they are still his creation and deserving of kindness.
I want to exhibit radical love as Jesus taught his followers to do.
Today I pray for the courage to be who God created me to be in all situations, not for my good but to point the way back to Him.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16
It really is so simple yet so profound. Jesus, for thirty-three years lived on earth – God in human skin. He lived to show the world what it means to live a life that is pleasing to God. In return we are asked to do one thing, believe he is who he says he is.
Humans have made it complicated. Humans put rules and regulations in place. To belong you must….and the list begins. Jesus simply said, “Believe.” Put your faith and trust in Him. That is it. You ask, He answers. When we trust Jesus with our lives, our very existence, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are reborn and God’s Holy Spirit resides in us to guide and teach us. It is a living miracle.
Jesus came to do a specific job. Everywhere he walked people knew he was different. I think that’s what we are all supposed to do. We don’t have to knock on doors or preach on street corners. We just have to live a light-filled life. And when someone asks, we can tell them, “It is Jesus.”
I’ve stopped watching the news and reading newspapers. News stories have always been about the bad stuff that happens in the world, but today it is all so sad and what makes it worse is that the people in charge (both political parties and so many in big business) are doing whatever they need to do to maintain power and wealth. Everyone has an agenda; how do we know who is telling the truth? There is no care and concern for ordinary people. They are all crooks and thieves.
In a world that is upside down and backwards, who can we trust? There is only one who loves us all with a perfect love and that is God. Psalm 94 is one that I turn to for comfort. The closing verses give me hope and peace in the midst of the chaos of the world.
I can’t change all the wrongs in society, but I can lean on and learn from God then go about my life bringing that perspective into all my interactions with people. I can be a little ray of God’s light amongst the dark and pain. So can you. Your smile or small act of kindness could be the difference in someone’s life and day. Accept God’s love and his care then pass it on…the world will thank you.
Before moving on to Christmas, I am not done with Thanksgiving. I would be remiss if I didn’t share a story of generosity, friendship and thankfulness for the people God gave us for neighbors over thirty years ago.
It is a rare thing, in my life anyway, to have friendships that span decades. As a child once we started moving for better opportunities, I never lived in the same place for more than five years. As an adult my friendships have been all work based; when the job changed those relationships slowly faded away. None of the usual ways people make lifelong friends seemed to apply to me. I didn’t have a mommy group or college friends, and I didn’t stay long enough anywhere to establish and maintain relationships.
I do accept responsibility in this matter. I am not a great friend. Well, let me clarify. I am delightful to be around and willing to help anyone with anything. But when it comes to initiating contact, following through and actually doing things to maintain a long term friendship…well, let’s just say I could do better.
Mr. Means has been a tremendous help in this department. He is a quintessential extrovert who pushes me out of my comfort zone and into social gatherings. Unlike me, he does have friendships that have stood the test of time primarily because he is the person who will call and stay in contact; every relationship group needs that person.
In February 1989, I took up permanent residence in Stately Means Manor — living in a historic house with a name has been a running joke between us so we gave our house a pompous sounding name. We were engaged and I didn’t want to renew the lease on my apartment. I thought I had won the lottery living in a nearly new home in a lovely master planned community. Never in a million years did I envision this for myself. It was a magical time. Kids playing in the cul-de-sac, neighbors visiting while doing yard work, decorating and playing house. One day Mr. Means called for me to come outside and meet the neighbors; they had a new puppy.
Puppy was the magic word. Little did I know that meeting Buster and his mom Lisa and dad Tim would change and enrich our lives forever. A friendship was born that has spanned thirty two years, and experienced births, deaths, laughter, tears, and lots of Mexican food. These dear people were our first couple friendship and to this day the only couple friendship we have made together. We dearly love these friends – they are an extension of our family.
Loss – Closure – Generosity
When we first met there were eight parents between the four of us. Now we have three. A few months ago, after several years of battling an invisible illness, Lisa’s mom was tired; she went home.
When the time came for her to prepare her mother’s home for sale, Lisa made an incredibly generous offer. Knowing my affinity for mid-century modern decor she offered me a king size bedroom suite. I was elated. The day came to go see it in person to be sure it was a fit and I walked into a home full of furniture from that era. All of it was mine for the taking. I stood in disbelief in the middle of the living room and wept. I had to talk to Mr. Means and figure out what I could make room for in a home already stuffed with furniture.
This offer was so big that I initially turned it down. I felt a sense of responsibility for someone else’s family memories and wasn’t sure I was up for the task. But two days later I agreed to take a different bedroom suite as we will be needing guest bedroom furniture one day. It pained me to leave the rest behind but I just couldn’t accept so much. It was too generous.
There were two items I could not forget about. I could envision them in my home. I kept thinking, “surely someone else had snatched them up…but what if…” After sharing this story with family at Thanksgiving, I decided to ask if they had been given to anyone else. In hindsight it sounds kind of insensitive. “Happy Thanksgiving, and oh by the way can I have the coffee table and china cabinet?” Fortunately they have known me long enough to not think twice about my methods.
I am now the proud owner of these items.
All of the furniture came from the same collection manufactured by Drexel Heritage in the early 1960s. Lisa’s mom was a fastidious lady and she cared for her belongings so well that, despite a cross country move, her sixty year old furniture looks brand new. These amazing pieces are now living at SMM and will be cherished for as long as I live.
Tim and Lisa would not accept money for the furniture or even the rental truck required to move everything to our house. What was important was knowing that her mother’s furniture had a new home where it would be loved and cared for as her mother had lovingly done for so many years.
Humility & Gratitude
I am humbled to have been entrusted with these precious items. My heart skips a beat every time I walk in the living room and see my beautiful new treasures. I am grateful beyond measure for these friends. Not because they gave us stuff, but because they have been part of the fabric of our lives for so many years. It is easy to take people for granted. We go through our days preoccupied with the mundane and suddenly wake up and realize something has changed. I am getting too old to live like that. I know that in the blink of an eye life can change.
If we have learned nothing else from the Covid invasion it is the reminder that life is fragile and fleeting. We are mortal human beings with a finite number of resources at our disposal and the rest is left to God. How many times and in how many different circumstances does God have to tell me, “Trust Me. Lean not on your own understanding.” What I see with my eyes is only part of the story.
As we decorate and plan for Christmas, it is important to remember what we celebrate on December 25th. The real story is Jesus. Jesus came to earth as the embodiment of God and His love. To follow Jesus is to love others better than we love ourselves. To see the pain and need in the world then help as we are able; to love people not because of who they are but more importantly, despite who they are. Jesus turned the world inside out and left us to do the same. We are here to love because like the song says…love is all there is.
It was 51º when I got up this morning. Each year I wait patiently, or maybe not so patiently, for the first real cool front of the season. Living in a subtropical climate means this type of weather pattern is a rare and treasured event. I celebrate its arrival by opening windows and allowing as much cool, crisp fresh air indoors as possible. The only problem is, my blood is still thin – does it really get thin or is that just something we say when our bodies don’t know how to deal with the cooler temps?
Each summer I bemoan the weather because of the heat and humidity. After forty some odd years I know that the first few weeks are the the worst. As I get used to the wet blanket feeling each time I step outdoors, it doesn’t seem so bad and I go about my life. And now, the same is true for the cooler temps, but rather than bemoan, I rejoice. Cool dry temperatures put a spring in my step and suddenly everything in the world is just a little brighter. However, just like the initiation to the heat, there is an adjustment period for this season as well.
It is chilly inside the house. It takes some time for the radiant heat from the sun to warm things up in here. My hands and feet are cold, and for a brief moment I consider flipping the switch to turn on the heat. Immediately I self flagellate. To even allow such a thought to cross my mind should be criminal. So, I wait, again, but this time for the sun to rise so the temperature inside the house can climb to a comfortable 72º.
Two cups of coffee later I was still feeling chilly yet resolute in my determination to be tough, when, as I walked through my bedroom I remembered there is a solution. A practical and cozy solution: hand knit socks.
Hand Knit Socks
Warm wool socks made by me for me. Unlike mass manufactured socks, these little treasures are made just to my specifications and fit my foot perfectly. Only those of us who love socks and have experienced the joy of a hand knit sock can possibly understand.
Sock knitters have heard every clever comment from those who don’t get it and would never be gifted a pair of these treasures.
“Don’t you know you can buy those?”
“I can get a pack of six pairs for less than you spent on that yarn.”
With eyes rolling, “A sock is a sock.”
Socks are a simple necessity. They provide warmth, protection and can also be a bright and colorful fashion statement. Because of their simplicity they can also be taken for granted. My advice, try them before you reject the superiority of a sock made by hand, created to your feet’s specifications. If someone in your life loves you enough to spend the time making something to cover your feet, be kind. Wear them with an open mind. Feel the snuggle and the warmth. Remember the hands that crafted them, and be thankful. These are no small gift. They are a true demonstration of love.