Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Art of Love: Sacrifice

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One of many problems with the English language is the lack of specificity when it comes to certain words.  I think the one that bothers me the most is the word LOVE.  It’s too general and encompasses everything from familial love to friendship love and even the full physical desire of sexual love.  It’s confusing and has caused a great deal of chaos within our own culture as the meaning of the word can bend upon context and situation, depending upon what we talk about.

So how could it be handled differently?  Let’s take look at how the concepts of love are handled in the Greek language.  There are 4 different words for love in the language.  1) Sacrificial love (agape); 2) Sensual love (eros); 3) Friendship love (philia); 4) Natural affection (storge).  I’m thinking I might actually write a short series about all four types of love, but today we’ll focus on sacrificial love–agape.

Agape (pronounced: a-GAH-pey) is the unconditional, self-sacrificing love and it is a spiritual love where one person continues to hold someone else in high esteem and serve even though there is no guarantee of reciprocation.  There is no expectation of receiving anything in return.  The famous love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 uses the word agape when describing what “love is” and what “love isn’t”.  This is the type of love often expressed for how much God loves us and is exemplified by the willful and determined sacrifice Jesus displayed for us all by submitting to death upon a cross.

I find my marriage to Caitlin has deepened over the last six months by placing her first in all I do.  One of her primary love languages is service, and I admit freely that in the past ten years I have not been the best servant.  In many ways I have served her, but it was rarely about putting her first while doing it; my attitude was all wrong.

It’s only been over the last half-year that my own world and perspective have been shaken in every area, and it started with my attitude and relationship toward Jesus and quickly turned me toward my relationship and attitude toward my wife.  Our marriage needed to be refreshed, and indeed that happened as we both went through colossal heart transformations.

I guess the simplest example I can give is how our mornings changed.  To be perfectly honest, I love sleeping in…or rather, I loved sleeping in.  I used to sleep until the absolute last minute before needing to get up and go to work, or even on the weekends I would draw it out as long as possible.

However as Caity and I started making intentional changes to our habits, one of the things I found that helped to serve her everyday was to wake her up with a cup of coffee.  I started by planning the evening before, setting the timer on our coffee pot to go off each morning at 5:30am; I would then get up and pour us each a cup and then bring it up to our bedroom and wake her up while placing a hot cup of joe into her hands.

It was wonderful because this simple act of sacrifice showed my wife how much I value serving her–speaking her love language of service.  I sacrificed my desire to sleep in and replaced it with a desire to love Caity through service and spend time with her.  And our mornings have transformed even more where we now have a regular time of connection through the bible, prayer and conversation.  I don’t even miss sleeping in; I’m excited to get up each morning!

Many, many things have grown from there over the last few months as I’ve learned how to lean into the housework and share that responsibility.  Tackling special projects around the house have been fun too.  Sometimes I start it on my own, only to have her want to jump in and finish it with me (like our new walkway).  And other times she starts the projects and I want to help out and so we go at it together (like repainting our downstairs).

As we learn to sacrificially serve each other, we both find our love deepening and expanding into new areas we never thought possible.

And it all started with a cup of coffee.

What does sacrificial love mean to you?

SOLI DEO GLORIA!

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Categories: On Faith, On Life | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweetness of the Song

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Delight is the expression of my joy,
Perched upon my lips the song rings aloud;
The lark within my own soul does employ,
A tune for the humble, din for the proud;
Where about me away the chaos fades,
Focus on the important resuming;
And finding truth within the music’s shades,
Within to outward a new life blooming.
O let the glorious notes rest in throng,
Upon you and me and all who are here;
Take heart you downtrodden who hear the song;
Come far and near all who wish to endear.

Let my joy’s delight to all I proclaim,
The sweetness of the song, when in your name.

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Surviving or Thriving?

This weekend was a huge blessing in many unexpected ways.

Firstly, Caity recognized that it has been a full month since she finished working and has been adjusting to being at home full-time.  This gave us reason for pause and reflection together as it began to dawn on each of us that things are going alright–in fact we are less stressed and have less anxiety than before when she was working.  I would dare say that we are thriving more than ever and looking back at where we we’ve come from, we were just surviving in so many ways.  It’s amazing how God’s forward looks backward to us, but the truth is that it is always we who are moving backward when God wants to take us forward.

Then on Sunday morning we decided to be intentional about staying home and yet do something that would be fun.  Just as a quick note of background, we are currently without a TV since ours broke a few weeks back; Caity and I have decided not to replace it at this time but instead focus on getting creative about spending time together.  Our kids have expressed their feelings about the missing TV, but overall it’s been amazing to see how quickly we’ve all adapted.  Time doesn’t slip away from us anymore.

So anyway, we decided that we would make a fort under our dining table.

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It was big enough to fit us all.  Caity strung up Christmas lights underneath and we played our Rain & Thunder CD so it sounded like a storm outside.  Then to cap it off with a fun smorgasbord of snacks served up, we pretended that we were weathering the storm together and would laugh each time a thunder clap rang out through the downstairs.  It was hilarious.  It was fun.  It was relaxing.  We were thriving.

It’s amazing how sometimes the things that get taken away are actually done to give us back something more important.

SOLI DEO GLORIA!

Categories: On Faith, On Life | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

October’s Fire

Cool October’s fire shine upon me from on high,
Where each tree is a beacon bright,
To top the fog and claim the night,
All burning bushes in my sight,
God’s voice upon me nigh.

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Identity in Crisis ~or~ Identity in Christ?

Identity

Climb the right ladders.  Wear the right clothes.  Be seen with the right people.  Make socially acceptable choices.  Work hard to achieve success.  Make the right-sized paycheck.  Be independent.  Be self-sufficient.  Get noticed.  Get respect.

Is there any doubt about the messages the world bombards us with?  And not only that, but all of these above statements drill home on the true question each and every one of us face: Where is my identity?  All of these things do little to answer the question or assuage any doubt about the self.  In fact they can reverse progress and cause a personal identity to fall into crisis.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I struggle with this. I don’t have everything figured out, but I’ve been learning how to listen to what God says about identity.  The book of Proverbs is a perfect example of the chunks of wisdom that can be a source of direction when heeded and needed.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
    in the sight of God and man.” ~Proverbs 3:3-4

There is a direct connection between attitude (love) and actions (faithfulness) when it comes to accepting an honorable identity.  I find it’s important to go there first and perform an attitude gut check before following through on any possible decisions.  Then being faithful to my duties, whatever they may be, and being faithful to those whom I am committed.  The next two verses are also connected in a very important way:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6

There are times when we cannot problem solve our way out of the box that traps us.  This too has been a current struggle for my family as we’ve dealt with my wife losing her job and her unemployment benefits being initially denied.  There have been days where we feel like we’re hanging by a thread of hope, but that hope is always tied to Jesus.  We’ve learned how to submit everything we have and all that we are into his care at the foot of the cross, letting the things that are inconsequential die there while the things that are important are healed and given new purpose.

Caity too has struggled with her new identity as her previous one was wrapped up in working at her old job, serving people and making them happy; but now she is learning how to accept her new identity in Christ as a servant no-matter-what the position or paycheck.  She is currently a homemaker and starting to enjoy the new freedom.

I too have been learning how to submit everything at the foot of the cross, including my fears and hopes.  Fears of realizing that my current job cannot alone provide financially for my family.  Hopes of being a full time author as the next step in this journey.  There are other more minor fears and hopes too, but the biggies have kept me up at night.  This last week I had a moment of revelation from Caity–I needed to let these things go; submit them to God and be ready to accept their death and/or resurrection.  They are some of the last things I’ve been white-knuckling with my grip.

In the end I let it go.  I let it all go.  And with it went my stress and tension.  In its place now sits excitement.  I’m strapped in for the ride but I don’t have to drive–what a relief!  I don’t even know where we’re going yet, but I know that God is faithful. He will make my path straight.

I am relieved to know my identity is firmly in Christ and no longer in crisis.  Where is your identity?

SOLI DEO GLORIA!

Categories: On Faith, On Life | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Writing Tip: Natural Dialogue

Have you ever read a book where the dialogue was stilted, unrealistic, and unconvincing?  I’ve seen this happen all the time, and more often than not I end up delivering the book posthaste to my neighborhood used bookstore…unfinished.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t begrudge these writers of their efforts because truly natural dialogue–whether internal or external–is difficult to achieve in even the best stories.  However it can be glaringly obvious when it’s stiff and can dead-stop story momentum.

So what are the tricks of the trade to writing good conversation?  Start by having one–with yourself!  We all do it whether we are alone in the car, waiting in line at the grocery store, or simply lying awake at night in bed.  The conversation we each have with our own internal characters: friends, family members, our own soul or even with God.  Use these conversations as cues for how to write natural dialogue because you are already doing so on your own.  Make mental notes about what you’re talking about, to whom your talking, and even the kinds of words or terms you use on your own inside your noggin.

What do you do when you can’t get anything going on the screen?  When I’m particularly stuck, I go to a lined pad of yellow paper and begin jotting down the conversation as if I were looking at the script of a play; I try to be honest about the conversation as I write it down and it tends to come out naturally.  Often I end up laughing at myself (I’m easily amused).

Be willing to go wherever the conversation leads.  Let it be quirky.  Let it be open.  Let it be honest.  But most of all just let it be you.

Below is a sample from my book OLDE MYSTERIUM, and the types of conversations my characters have with each other…and in my head:

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“May I help you?”

The voice startled Daniel and he turned to see a man with wisps of white hair sticking out over his ears and circling around his bald, brown pate. The man was old and yet his frail frame did nothing to hide the vibrancy behind his black eyes. Daniel could not tell what his accent was, but guessed it was Middle Eastern.

“What?” Dan said.

“Are you looking for something containing the great mysteries?” the man said, motioning to the rack of books in front of them.

“Uh, not really. No.”

The man nodded. His thin hair waving, as if by a breeze. “Understandable. People today are far more concerned with the next football game or the next movie release…or the next great getaway from the drabness of life. The search for entertainment overcoming the search for knowledge. So what are you looking for?”

“Actually I was just curious. What is this place?” Dan asked.

The man’s thin hand waved over the store. “This is a lifetime of collected knowledge. The secrets of the ages.”

Daniel’s spine tensed, feeling uncomfortable but his curiosity nagged onward. “You’ve read every book in here?”

The man nodded. “Most of them twice.”

“Wow.” Daniel scratched his chin. “So what do they say?”

The old man’s smile was slightly wolfish. “Nothing mostly. Every book in here contains small gems of wisdom buried within pages of rubbish. Every book except one.”

Categories: On Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steadfast As The Pine

I will learn to be faithful, as steadfast as the pine;
Make my foundation strong and deep,
Bless the rain for my roots to seep,
Extend my shade to all who weep,
Benevolent and benign.
How did this change begin?
When firm I stand and won’t false start,
Loving all with a broken heart,
And willing to be set apart,
Evidence my growth, where now I am from where I’ve been.

Categories: Poetry | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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