Friday, February 24, 2012

Which One of Us Do You Love The Most?

Let’s stay with the topic of love! We’ve had a pretty good run at it so far this month!

One of my 4 kids used to wonder which of them I loved most of all. I’d tell her the story about my Grandmother to help her understand that I loved each one with the same intensity, but with individualized focus and propensity!

Grandma Kringel modeled grace and mercy to the 9’s. My biological grandmother died when I was 2 and my grandfather later married this lovely woman! She affirmed me, whether teaching me to play canasta, single deck of course, when I was 8; or exuding over the sour cherries I picked from her tree so she could make pies with my help and when she sewed clothes for my “Bride Doll.” She and Grandpa traveled to be with us when our parents went out of town. In contrast to his miserly affection, she was my cheerleader and encourager no matter what was going on in my life. She had no idea what WAS going on in my life, actually, because I was a shy child and didn’t share my fears or hopes with anyone. It would have been pretty hard for her to guess, since she’d had no children of her own.

I was drawn to my grandmother because she made me feel special, so special in fact that I was pretty sure I was her favorite. That was NOT spoken, mind you, but if I’d had a trusted friend, I would have confessed it with little guilt. I felt really good about my relationship with my grandmother. She never knew it, but there were times when she was my “life-line!” I could get quiet inside just thinking about sitting next to her on the porch swing in Pittsburgh when she tried to teach me to knit. I was terrible at it and had no patience with the knit one purl two part…but I loved being with her so much I held the needles and made truly awful looking doll scarves! Her fondness for me, her unconditional regard, soothed my soul, even when she wasn’t around.

When I had my first child, the miles between us were many, but I did take the baby to meet her. We had a sweet time. My parents traveled to see her more often in her later years and were concerned about how frugally she lived, turning off her water heater at night for instance, or cooking down her leftover bars of soap to save money. They supplemented her meager income a little now and then when she would let them. So it was with great surprise when she died and the will was read that, lo and behold….Grandma Kringel left me money in her will! There it was…my name and the amount! And, there it was…the name of every other one of her 10 grandchildren ..and their amounts, the same as mine! $2,000 for each of us! Imagine her sacrifice on our behalf! Who would have guessed? We’d all benefited from her unconditional affection, as we were able to receive it. I never talked it over with my cousins, but I assumed they must have felt as loved as I did. I wasn’t loved any less or more than they were. I was loved for who I was by who she was!

That story seemed to settle my daughter’s curiosity about how I could love each one of my four children as much as the others!

Incidentally, my dad offered to invest my inheritance for 5 years. This was in the ‘70’s and times were good. That investment increased 17 times, significantly multiplying the blessing of my grandmother’s sacrificial love! I see a reflection here of God’s love for us. The Bible calls believers “adopted” sons and daughters of the King, whom He loves equally! In fact we can’t do anything to make Him love us more or less! I was “adopted” into my grandmother’s life when my widowed grandfather married a second time. I knew my grandmother loved me, humanly speaking, for sure! God loves us for sure, no matter what. I had no idea about my grandmother’s riches until she died. In Eph 3:8 the Apostle Paul describes the “boundless riches of Christ” for us to expect and enjoy them! In RO 11:33, St. Paul again. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” That’s Who God IS! That’s a peek at how His love draws us close to Him every day!

I can still feel my grandmother’s affirming presence when she comes to mind. My heavenly Father’s Presence is always with me whether I can feel it or not. Whom does He love the most? Everyone He ever made. That’s you. That’s me. And that’s the Truth! Feel the love?!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Some Kinda Love!

One of my favorite love letters ever came, not on Valentine’s Day, but just in time to catch my heart by surprise! My grandson, James, who calls me “Oma,” was 5 years old when he asked his mom for an envelope. Sure…why do you want an envelope? “To write Oma a love letter!” I didn’t know about this until it came in the mail. I’d like to read it to you, if you have time! And you DO have time. 5 year old love letters aren’t very long. My name and address were printed on the envelope and inside, the penciled letter read, “Dear Oma, This is a love letter.” Love, James

This week we’ve been delivered a lot of love notes at best, love topics at least. From Valentine’s Day love to the Grammy’s with their love songs about love gone wrong and love that’s good, to Whitney Houston’s tragic death and the playing and replaying of her hit, “I will always love you!” This church choir child came from a privileged heritage that included famous soul singers like her mother Cissy Houston, cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick, and her godmother Aretha Franklin. Whitney was 11 when she sang in her New Jersey church's junior gospel choir. After being discovered and nurtured by Clive Davis, she went on to win diamond, multi-platinum, platinum and gold for her incredible voice. 140 million albums, sold worldwide. She sang the song in her heart to the world that fell in love with her. But along the way, something changed her tune, altered the key in which she lived her life and nothing was ever the same. The beauty and grace of her notes and her face had a different place toward the end of her “space,” called 48 years.

Her music lives on, as does her inspiration. I take to heart other lessons from her life as well. In her 2009 interview with Oprah, Whitney openly confessed her dilemma, especially concerning drugs and a difficult marriage. "When it gets to the point where you're sitting in your home and you're just trying to cover what you don't want people to know. It's painful," she said. "And then you want more, just so that you don't let anybody see you cry."

Whitney Houston revealed that"amazingly," through it all, she continued to read the Bible. "I knew God was there. I knew the light was there and I was just trying to get back to it." She also told Winfrey that her ex-husband "was my drug...that's what my high was. Him." How easy it is for us to put someone or some THING on a pedestal and do what they do, let ourselves be enticed, even when we know God warns us to “have no other gods before Me.”

One of the many messages in this highly talented woman’s life is to be careful with whom we spend time and with whom we fall in love. When the Bible teaches to “guard your heart,” that includes falling in love wisely, because when you fall in love you give you heart to the object of your love. Pedro Arrupe, born in Spain, served the Lord as a missionary for much of his incredibly dedicated life (1907-1991). He described this love, “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what gets you out of bed in the mornings, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

“I will always love you” the way we all WANT to be loved. But there’s only One Who loves perfectly like that. We leave Whitney’s eternal destiny in the Hands of a loving God whose mercy and grace will be celebrated in her memorial service for family and friends, right where she first fell in love with Jesus.

Part of the take away for me is that it’s not only about how she died, how we die, when and where. It’s “Where do we go from there?” How did we live for Christ, IN Christ, with Christ? How did we respond to His promise to be with us always, even to the end of the age? Dolly Parton wrote “I will always love you” to a business partner she was leaving. Jesus says, “I will always love you” to you and to me. The music stopped in Whitney’s case. But the beat goes on because God says through Christ, “I will always love you.” Some kinda love! What’s your response?

Feb 10 The Valentine of All Valentines!

Are you decorating a shoebox to be filled with valentines from your friends next week? Maybe not, but I bet you salivate when you see those little boxes of heart shaped candies! It’s not that they’re so good, but that we’re conditioned to do that, beginning with our first tiny candy hearts with “u r cute” printed on them! Well, guess what? Marketing picked up on that one a long time ago. Those folks use the same principle, more often than we realize, to get the pupils of our eyes to dilate with pleasure over a product or idea, or to get us to respond in a certain way. Buyer beware! The more aware we are, the less we fall for the wrong response triggers out there!

Our human nature goes for marketing gimmicks like earning bonus points or double coupons when we shop here, work out there, fly a certain airline enough for a free round trip. Obviously some of it’s to our advantage, so why not? My question is, why is that so appealing? It’s partly because we like something for nothing, we’re drawn to the extras, the add-on’s. They give us reward. There’s nothing wrong with that. But when you use ‘em up, where’s the reward? After we get the prize, the free trip, the free whatever it is, then it’s “Thanks for the memories.” That lasts awhile, but eventually it’s back to start and we have to earn the bonus points, the add-on’s all over again.

By contrast, God’s great, over-the-top marketing of His love is a bonus, like a reward we can never use up. For openers, we can’t even earn it. He doesn’t dole it out as a perk for good behavior or for praying to Him so many times a day or attending church every week. He gives it freely because God IS love. BTW, “freely” doesn’t just mean gladly, to everyone, always no matter what you’ve done or are doing. That’s true and it would be more than enough, but He goes even further on the love scale. His love is free. It costs us nothing. But it cost Him everything. So he’s serious about love. His commitment is to everyone who believes His Son Jesus Christ willingly/lovingly gave His life on the cross for our sins. He didn’t do this just to start a religious movement. Love came down at Christmas, lived among us so we could see Love in the flesh and then Love conquered sin, death and the power of the devil.

This is the Valentine of all Valentines. Whether or not we get a long stemmed rose or a box of candy or valentine card from someone special, we have an everlasting Love from The Living God, Who makes our hearts beat one hundred and three thousand, six hundred and eighty nine [103,689] times a day! Those beats long for Him because He built that in to our design. St. Augustine put it this way, "God loves each of us as if there were only one of us."

His everlasting, unfailing love is bigger than any candy, cake or flower shaped heart we can imagine. It’s sweeter than anything we’ve come up with since time began! It’s a little like the way humans market, come to think of it. We hear about this Love of God for us, even though we don’t understand it and can not wrap our human minds around it. Then when we welcome God’s Holy Spirit into our hearts, He gradually teaches Who He is and about the take away for us in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, things like forgiveness and courage and peace that passes understanding. We open up to the potential we have through this Love as we try it on. And we get a FREE TRIP at the end! This is not a round trip, but entrance into the very Presence of our Heavenly Father, the Love of our lives, for eternity! Won’t that be heavenly! Think about it as you open that Valentine right now! And as you pass it on, remember why… We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Friday, February 3, 2012

For the Love of God

Does anybody know where the expression, “For the love of God!” originated? I can’t find the source. When I hear reverent people who love The Lord God Almighty, say “For the love of God,” it focuses me on His love, over all other kinds of love. I do say it to myself now and then as a reminder of that in trying moments. But I have to confess, I won’t say it out loud, because it can sound like I’m taking the name of the Lord in vain, about which He warns, “DON’T!”

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, something new popped into my thinking. I’ll call these examples of the “love of God” that’s missing among us. Through the years people I care about have “graduated to heaven,” as my friend Pastor David Maier puts it. Go to for my interview with David Maier & his wife and son. It was the first show in 2011. It’s called “Out of Control Is Ok!” Incredible story of facing opposition. Back to “the love of God” expression and those missing among us. As I attend events where my now “graduated to heaven” friends were major players, I see things that aren’t as lovely right now, simply because the person who shared the love of God in them, is gone. This is not meant to slight anyone. It caught me by surprise, but it’s happened more than once, so I do want to think further on it.

For example, to give you an idea of where I’m headed, at the church dinners, bazaars, especially the soup and salad fun raiser, it’s not the same anymore. I finally figured out what’s missing. It’s Shirley’s homemade soup and her fresh baked breads, loaves and loaves of different breads, which she cut with an electric knife! And her jams and jellies aren’t there either, much less her pickles. Also missing are Margaret’s little potted aloe plants and other starts from summer cuttings neatly rooted to take home. Her home grown elephant garlic and generous bunches of fresh basil, absent from the offerings on the table. Now we have good enough rolls from the bakery and no one comments on the soups, but we all know the difference. We’re in a bit of a pickle.

I did inquire once, to see if Shirley’s recipes went missing. No, I was told, she did them from her head and never wrote them down! Now she’s forgetful and that was that. I left it alone and moved on and then one day it hit me. Shirley and Margaret and the others carefully, dutifully, endlessly, joyfully shared their gifts quietly through the years. We’d all say “Uhmm, wonderful!” and “Thank you for taking the trouble to do all this!” But who wondered what would come next?

That’s what I’m wondering right now. WHO will come next? Part of my answer came rather too quickly. “You will!” I heard very clearly in my head. I’ve enjoyed serving the Lord by loving people with other gifts than those that are missing. But as I’m getting older, would it be a nice way to love through some of those replacement duties that are missing? I do pick my own berries and fruits all summer and put them up. How much trouble would it be to make a few more batches? I used to make all our breads before the best bakery in the world came to town. I could do that again, just for special church occasions. The aroma would be worth it! And maybe I’ll even buy an electric slicing knife! I give friends slips of my garden plants all summer long. I suppose I could pot a few to put out for others to buy and raise some money for charity. About those soups…uhm hmm…well, I could cook up some of favorites from the website recipe column. I’d forgotten how my sister and I used to trail the gargantuan pickle truck over to Bear Lake, MI from the cottage and wait til it loaded up all the right sized cucumbers and left. Then we’d buy a bushel of odd sizes to take home and pickle! I still have those mason jars!

Thanks for accompanying me on this mental detour! Does it make you wonder how you can restore some of the LOVEliness that’s missing in your little corner of the world? Maybe that’s where the saying ,“For the Love of God” came from; someone pondering, “Now what will I do to share it!” Your turn!