To love or to be loved

Why did you do that?

I ask myself that question on a regular basis lately.  It’s a good question to ask.  And, it’s a hard question as well.

Another question I ask is – Was it done to love or to be loved?

This is a question best answered slowly…thoughtfully…honestly.

To love, or to be love – why do you do the things you do?

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Friendship Lost

Today I celebrate the birthday of someone I’ve known and loved since my college days.  This individual doesn’t know I celebrate…don’t talk to me anymore…doesn’t consider us friends.

Why?

Oh, years ago I thought I knew best about something and thought it important that my view be seen as the right view…only view.  I drew a line in the sand and my friend drew a line across it and crossed me out.

I think of this friend often and I grieve my attitude and actions that brought separation and estrangement.

Sometimes “I’m sorry” just isn’t enough…even when it’s heartfelt and sincere.

Every year on January 26 I celebrate this individual and the richness this person brought into my life.

Happy birthday! May God bless you richly this day and always.

As You Wish

As I struggled through an extremely difficult and emotional situation I cried out to God in my tears,

This isn’t the way I’d planned…not the way I’d wanted things to go!

A soft, almost imperceptible voice whispered to my heart,

What if it’s going the way I planned…the way I want things to go?

Stopped dead in my thoughts, I bowed my heart and prayed,

Not my will but Thine be done.

Nothing changed about the awfully painful situation.  What did change was my focus, my understanding of it, my place in it, and my responsibility to it.

I am called to love – not to have things go my way.

As You wish, Lord.

Forty-three Days Sans Ketchup

Can it be?  Was Ash Wednesday truly 43 days ago?

Wow!

It’s been 43 days since I last tasted ketchup.

I’ve three days to go before my ketchup fast ends.  Will I make it?  I hope so.

My birthday, last Saturday, was probably my most difficult day of all – not because I craved it physically.  No.  I wanted it on an emotional level. Hubby and I ate out at a favorite fast food restaurant, Zaxby’s, and I wanted to dip those delicious fries into a tub of ketchup so deep that my fingers were coated…finger licking good.

Yes.

It wasn’t that I desired the taste.  I wanted the emotional smile it would give me…the happy feeling that I was doing something for me because I deserve it, I like it, it’s my birthday, etc.

My Self even tried to reason with me.

  • what will it hurt? it’s only one time.
  • it’s our birthday
  • come on, it’s ZAXBY’s! how often do you get Zaxby’s?
  • you can go back on the fast as soon as you empty those 6 tubs of ketchup…eat that last fry
  • trust me, God won’t care
  • no one will know but you and Hubby and he will enjoy your enjoyment
  • look, you’ve been faithful to this fast since the middle of February…you’ve done enough
  • hey, no one thought you would hold out 40 days – it’s ketchup, what’s the harm
  • it’s not like you’re committing adultery or something – it’s JUST KETCHUP!
  • go ahead, you know you want to
  • look, you need this break.  lighten up a little, do something for YOU for a change
  • you want this and you need this
  • the Bible does not say “thou shalt not eat ketchup” – you said that.
  • this is your choice and you can choose otherwise any time
  • what’s the matter with you? loosen up, eat a little ketchup, enjoy life a little, sheesh you’re too stiff
  • what’s going to happen? is the sky going to fall? is God going to zap you with lightning? No.  You’ll eat ketchup, you’ll enjoy your birthday and you’ll go back on the fast for the next week just like nothing happened.
  • no harm, no foul – this is not something that affects anyone
  • NO one cares about this crazy fast but YOU! Do you think God cares? Um…no!
  • Ok, look…I know this ketchup fast is about more than just not eating ketchup. I get it. But, this is the 39th day you’ve been on this fast.  Lenten fasts last 40 days…Sundays don’t count.  You’re ahead of the game here. You’ve not taken any days off. Technically, you could stop the fast tomorrow at day 40 and declare the fast a success.  Just take your birthday off – come on…you deserve it.

My reply was “no.”

How could I?

What would it say to those who are watching?  To those who are helping me keep my fast?

Yes.  Those nearest me are helping me…reminding me to order my burger sans ketchup and offering to go without ketchup on their own fries if it will help me.

What greater love is there than to have someone offer to forgo ketchup for me? How could I betray that love?

I can’t.

First Date

“How long has it been?” I asked Hubby.

“36 years,” he replied.

I was just days shy of my 19th birthday. We had become friends in class. Spring Break had arrived and he was staying on campus. I lived in town. He was newly single. My dad saw us talking when he came to pick me up to take me home, inquired about him and then said, “you should ask him over for dinner.”

My reply was, “I did.”

Our first date was on March 19, 1977 – he dropped by for supper and then we went bowling.

He commented on my curves.  You see, I can’t bowl straight.  The ball always curves and so I had to learn to adjust my placement when releasing the ball.

Gutter balls are my specialty.

I bowled a 27 and a 36 that evening.  And, apparently bowled him over as well.

We’ve been a couple ever since.

Our road has not been easy, but I would not give up a single bump, pot hole, or detour.  The miles we’ve traveled together have made us the couple we are today.

And, though we remember our First Date on its anniversary, we revel in the memories we are creating each day.

Together.

I love you, Hubby!

Always!

Love Quotes Quiz

Love.

We may not know how to fully explain it or adequately express it, but we all know what love is when we receive it.

Our thoughts and beliefs about love are as individual as we are – and as you will see in the quiz below, often reflect our life experiences.

Quiz – Who said it? (Answers are at the end of this blog.)

  1. “It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together… and I knew it.”
  2. “Only time can heal your broken heart, just as only time can heal his broken arms and legs.”
  3. “Don’t settle for a relationship that won’t let you be yourself.”
  4. “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure…don’t deserve me at my best.”
  5. “Pleasure of love lasts but a moment. Pain of love lasts a lifetime.”
  6. “Love is a promise; love is a souvenir, once given never forgotten, never let it disappear.”
  7. “A simple ‘I love you’ means more than money.”
  8. “I like to believe that love is a reciprocal thing, that it can’t really be felt, truly, by one.”
  9. “When you break up, your whole identity is shattered. It’s like death.”
  10. “A wise girl kisses but doesn’t love, listens but doesn’t believe, and leaves before she is left.”
  11. “You know it’s love when all you want is that person to be happy, even if you’re not part of their happiness.”
  12. “Love is absolute loyalty. People fade, looks fade, but loyalty never fades. You can depend so much on certain people; you can set your watch by them. And that’s love, even if it doesn’t seem very exciting.”
  13. “…love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”
  14. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

What would your love statement look like?  What would it reveal about you, your perception of love, experiences with love and expectations of love?

Answers.

  1. Tom Hanks, Sleepless in Seattle
  2. Miss Piggy
  3. Oprah Winfrey
  4. Marilyn Monroe
  5. Bette Davis
  6. John Lennon
  7. Frank Sinatra
  8. Sean Penn
  9. Dennis Quaid
  10. Marilyn Monroe
  11. Julia Roberts
  12. Sylvester Stallone
  13. The Woman, Song of Solomon 8:6,7 NIV
  14. Jesus, John 15:13 NIV

(Quotes 1-12 were taken from Top 50 Famous Love Quotes on She Knows and 13, 14 were taken from the Bible New International Version.)

The Fallen

I took a tumble.

The alarm sounded and in the darkness I reached for my sweatpants.

I grabbed Hubby’s instead.

With my right leg in, I leaned right and lifted my left leg and stuck it into the remaining leg opening, then proceeded to straighten my left leg…weight on my right.

But, my left foot would not clear the end of the pant leg. I pressed the issue, pushing down harder with my foot and pulling up harder with my hands as I attempted to get my foot through the leg of the sweat pants.

Suddenly I was off balance.  My foot popped through the opening just as my right foot left the floor and I teetered to the right and began to fall.

What a helpless feeling to be off balance and know there’s nothing you can do to prevent a fall.

Arms reach out to brace and hands grab at anything.  But, when you’re upended there’s not a lot you can do.  Gravity is in control and down you go.

The bed was behind me and a glass/metal shelf was to my right under the window.  Our bedroom is small and the space in which I tottered was limited.

Up my feet went and down the rest of me crashed – part of me glanced off the bed but most of me fell hard onto the shelf.

As I crashed downward my mind was screaming “NO!” but my body could not comply with my heart’s desire.

Down I went.

The racket I raised was enough to alert Hubby but I was already on my feet by the time he got to me.

“Are you okay? What happened?” he asked.

As I rubbed my bruised arm and stretched my aching back (and gave thanks that the glass/metal shelf did not break) I explained what had happened.

  • It was dark.
  • I grabbed his sweatpants, not mine.
  • Left foot wouldn’t go through the leg.
  • I forced the issue.
  • Right foot was standing on the opening of the left leg.
  • When I pulled hard, I yanked the pants out from under my foot
  • which upended me
  • and I fell, off balance, glancing off the edge of the bed and into the glass/metal shelves.

Bless him – he didn’t laugh.

We all fall.

  • morally
  • mentally
  • physically
  • emotionally
  • verbally
  • relationally

It doesn’t take much and we find ourselves off balance, unable to right ourselves, and down we go.

Bumps, bruises, cuts, breaks…falls hurt.

It really doesn’t matter whether actions that led up to the fall were intentional or accidental – the result is the same. We fall.

Oh, sure, we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and attempt to get on with life without anyone knowing our pain (or, our embarrassment). But, it’s hard.  Falling hurts.

Hubby did exactly what I needed – he offered help, hugs, encouragement, a listening ear, concern – and later, advice that would help me maintain my balance and hopefully prevent another fall.

He didn’t judge me – fallen woman that I was. He didn’t go all righteous on me. He didn’t fuss at me.  He didn’t ask why or how.

He asked, “Are you okay? Are you hurt?” And, he said, “Let me help you.  I love you and I’m sorry you fell.”

May I be ever mindful to return that kindness and concern to another who is among the fallen.

Valentine’s Day 2013

“How many Valentine’s Days have we shared?” I ask Hubby.

His reply: “This will be our 36th.”

36.

That’s a lot of love and a lot of loving.

We have boxes filled with mementos – cards, letters, notes – that we will probably never look at again.

This year we choose not to give the traditional card, or the obligatory love letter.  This year, instead of throwing money away on things that will eventually be thrown away, we’re going to invest time in each other.

I’m a cheap date and Hubby knows it.  I like nothing better than to sit across a table from him and hold hands while we share our thoughts and dreams over a “value tea” at Wendy’s.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweetheart! I love you!

Ash Wednesday

In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the first day, or the start of the season of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to Easter (Sundays are not included in the count).

Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. During some Ash Wednesday services, the minister will lightly rub the sign of the cross with ashes onto the foreheads of worshipers.**

I’ve never experienced an Ash Wednesday service. Would I like to?  Yes, I would.   Would I receive the ashes on my forehead?  I want to say yes, but….

When I really get down to where the rubber meets the road, I don’t know.  It would be one thing to be one among many receiving the smeary cross on my forehead.

But, going about my business marked for the remainder of the day with it present, highly visible, AND out of context…I don’t know.

I don’t know that I would be willing to identify myself in that way, or to answer questions or receive attention because of the mark. And, I would receive attention – the only one in my non-Catholic/Mainline world marked with a black cross, center forehead. It would appear random – out of context.

But, then again, maybe not so out of context.

A search of Google images for “Ash Wednesday forehead marks” turns up a number of pictures of people of all ages receiving and/or bearing the mark of the ash cross on their foreheads.

When I imagine myself among them, I want to fall on my knees, beat my chest and cry out “be merciful, God – to me, a sinner!”

Each of us bears a mark – an expiration date.

I will die.  You will die.

And after that, what?

There is more to Ash Wednesday than the simple reminder that we are going to die and return to the dust from which we came.

The black mark does not cross us out with an X.  It marks us with the cross – a horizontal line that reaches out to us all, a vertical line that stretches above and beyond us, and the intersection (where both lines meet).

As I look at this picture, I am drawn to the intersection, where vertical meets horizontal.

That is what Ash Wednesday is all about – the Intersection.
Yes. Today we need to hear the “you are dust and to dust you will return” of Ash Wednesday, so that the definitive truth of the Gospel, the truth about the Resurrection, will unfold before us: believe in the Gospel.

I leave you with the words of Pope John Paul II, spoken during the Ash Wednesday Liturgy in Rome on February 21, 1996 (from which the quote above was taken).

Ash Wednesday Homily
1. “Memento, homo … quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris” (cf. Gn 3:19). “Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return.”The Church speaks these words in today’s liturgy, while ashes are placed on the foreheads of the faithful. These words come from the Book of Genesis: our first parents heard them after they had sinned. Original sin and original sentence. By the act of the first Adam, death entered the world and every descendant of Adam bears the sign of death within him. All generations of humanity share in this inheritance.I once witnessed the opening of a royal sarcophagus in the cathedral of Krakow. It was the tomb of a great monarch who had ruled when my country was at the height of its splendor and power. I saw clearly with my own eyes how his body had turned to dust. In his case, death had fulfilled its relentless law. This will happen to each one of us: “To dust you will return.”2. After the Council, the Church also likes to repeat another liturgical formula during the distribution of ashes: “Convertimini!” “Repent, and believe in the Gospel!” (Mk 1:15).

At the beginning of Lent, these words on Ash Wednesday are a plan of life for us. They are the words with which Christ began his preaching.

Repent: Metanoeite! The readings of today’s liturgy speak especially of this.

“Return to me”, the Prophet Joel proclaims (2:12).

And the psalmist cries: “Miserere mei, Deus, secundum misericordiam tuam”. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, … of my sin cleanse me … I acknowledge my offense…. Against you only have I sinned…. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me…. Cast me not out from your presence, and take not your holy spirit from me” (cf. Ps 51[50]:3-13).

In the Gospel according to Matthew, it is Christ himself who explains the meaning of almsgiving, prayer and fasting, that is, of the actions by which we put sin behind us and return to God.

“Return to the Lord, your God” (Jn 2:13), exhorts the Lenten acclamation.

“Repent!”

“Repent and believe in the Gospel”.

3. What does “believe in the Gospel” mean? It means accepting the whole truth about Christ. The Apostle writes: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

Christ, our justification.

It is in him and through him that the tragic knot indissolubly binding death and sin is loosed.

“The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is 53:6) … and he, Christ, takes that terrible burden on himself, so that in him we may become the righteousness of God.

Henceforth then, it is no longer the pair, sin and death, that prevails, but the other pair, death, his death on the Cross, and justification.

This fulfils what the Psalm proclaims: “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (51[50]:12). Create! Redemption is the new creation: in the justice and the holiness of the truth.

4. Why does the Church place ashes on our foreheads today? Why does she remind us of death? Death which is the effect of sin! Why?

To prepare us for Christ’s Passover. For the paschal mystery of the Redeemer of the world.

Paschal mystery means what we profess in the Creed: “On the third day he rose again”!

Yes. Today we need to hear the “you are dust and to dust you will return” of Ash Wednesday, so that the definitive truth of the Gospel, the truth about the Resurrection, will unfold before us: believe in the Gospel.

On the threshold of Lent, it is necessary that this perspective be opened before us, so that we may believe deeply in the Gospel with all the truth of our mortal existence.

We are called to take part in the Resurrection of Christ. For this appeal to resound within us with all its force at the beginning of the Lenten season, let us realize what death means… “You are dust” … “Repent! … Believe in the Gospel”!

————

** What is Ash Wednesday? What do Christians Celebrate on Ash Wednesday?

The Price of Love

The Sunday before each holiday, my Sunday school teacher would bring a small paper bag to class with her.

The contents were dependent upon the season.

One thing was certain – each student received one of the delicious, individually wrapped Russell Stover Candy treats hidden within the bag.

I was a child, and like most children, accepted a gift willingly without considering the cost to the giver.  It cost me nothing and that was all that mattered, I suppose.

At some point I realized these treats cost her – she had to forgo something for herself to purchase the treats for us.

Wow!  It was free to me – but it cost her.

I thought of refusing the gift…of thanking her and saying “no thank you.”  But, that wouldn’t resolve my problem because I would have to do so BEFORE she purchased the treats.  That would have been presumptive on my part – showing I expected the gift.  And, somehow my childish mind knew it wasn’t truly a gift freely given if I expected it.

As much as any child present, I wanted the gift.  But, I wanted it without the price…without the cost to her.

And, as much as my mind wrestled with this, I was unable to figure out a way to obtain the gift without her paying the price.

And, then I realized…no one was making her purchase the treats. This wasn’t a condition placed upon her when she agreed to serve as teacher. She was paying the cost willingly. And, whether we had behaved in class that day or not, or were thankful or ungrateful, we received one.  The gift wasn’t dependent on anything we were or did.  She had done everything.

My childish mind, at first, thought the gift was to buy our affection.  After all, that’s how children do things at times (If I give you this gift, you will like me.)  And, then I realized she didn’t care if we liked her or not.  She was our teacher. She disciplined us, taught us, corrected us, prayed over us, and loved us.

She loved us.

That’s why she bought those treats.  That’s why she gave them as gifts.  That’s why the “good kids” as well as the “bad” received equally. That’s why she paid the price.

She taught me things she had no idea I was learning.  They weren’t taught in her lessons, or from our book. They were taught through her living example of love.

From the writings of Paul via The Message by Eugene H. Peterson

…no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Yes, the best is love!

Thank you, Juanita Nicholson, for loving us, for gifting us with such a wonderful life lesson on love.  Every time I see a small, individual pack of Russell Stover Candy, I think of you and of your sacrificial and unconditional gift. And, I think of Another, of whom you taught, who gave all so that I may have all.

I love you!