True Love

If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Princess Bride,” you’ll know any number of quotes from it.  In this case, I’m thinking of Vizzini, who keeps lisping “Inconceivable!” every time something happens that he thinks shouldn’t.  Finally, as he watches The Man in Black (Wesley) climbing The Cliffs of Insanity, he lisps “Inconceivable!” one last time.  Inigo Montoyo looks at him and, in his heavy Spanish accent, delivers the great line, “You keep saying that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

“Like” is one of those words.  Think grade school.  “Does she like me?”  Or “Of course I like you!  I mean, not like that, but we’re friends, right?”  Ah, clarity!

Love is even tougher.  Just what are we saying when we use that word?  Is it that hormone rush when you’re physically attracted to someone?  Is it lust?  Is it a powerful emotion?  English is not the best language when it comes to nuance.  So let’s forget emotion, lust, and attraction.  Take those away, and what do we have?

Love.  And that’s still vague.  I love my friend’s wife.  Is that adultery?  No.  I don’t want to possess her.  She’s a great friend, a great person.  I haven’t got any romantic feelings for her, but I feel for her all the same.  I love my friend.  I admire him and would do most anything for him.  Am I homosexual?  No.  But I love him all the same.

Let’s return to The Princess Bride.  While there a several sub-plots and a lot of things going on, the movie is really about just one thing: True Love.  For True Love, Wesley leaves Buttercup behind to carve out a life to bring her to.  For True Love, she understands and awaits his return.  But, upon word that he was killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts, she agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck (the bad guy).

“Tell me, madam…”

Wesley, having become the next Dread Pirate Roberts after the last one retired, returns to find Buttercup.  He is angry with her for forsaking Wesley.  Still disguised as the Pirate, he berates her: “Tell me, madam.  Out of respect for the dead did you wait a whole week before your engagement?”

Shortly afterward, he is revealed to her as Wesley.  She apologizes for her engagement, “…but I thought you were dead.”  Smiling at her, he says, “Death cannot overcome True Love.”  Although not intended, I see something Messianic there.

Not even death could overcome True Love.  Jesus rose from the grave, so great was His love and the Father’s.  And Jesus doesn’t love us because we’re attractive or sexy.  He loves us, because He CHOOSES to.  The people He ministered to were the dregs of society.  They were ugly physically, emotionally, socially, morally…  Think of a negative –ly word, and that’s who Jesus spent His time with.  From where I sit, it wasn’t easy.

Even His disciples tried to get Him to avoid certain people and places.  “Get the kids outa here!  Quit bothering the Master!”  “Make that whore stop kissing your feet!”  “Don’t open Lazarus’ grave – he stinks by now!”  Yet Jesus chose to keep on loving.  Even on the Mount of Olives, He prayed to His Father to find another way and let Him off the hook for all of the suffering He knew was coming.  And when the Father said “No”, He chose to perform the greatest act of love ever.  He CHOSE.

True Love IS work, work, work!

One of my favorite Shakespearean sonnets is Sonnet 116, especially the following lines:

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

So, when your spouse has grown old and wrinkly and lies at death’s door on “the edge of doom,” you will continue to love that person and care for him or her to the very end.  True Love appreciates the “rosy lips and cheeks,” but bears it out past those winsome days.  Anything else is just flowing wherever our hormonal winds blow us.  And, if we surrender to those, how are we different from a pack of dogs, humping whatever we can climb on to?

Why is divorce so prevalent?  Do we marry for True Love?  Once married for whatever reason, do we choose to be human beings with the willpower to choose True Love or just be another mutt in the pack?  Look at reasons given for divorce, and you’ll see a laundry list of how “I’m not getting out of this marriage what I think I should.”

Let’s look at the so-called Love Chapter, I Corinthians 13 verses  4-7:

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

These behaviors of love are not always what are driven by sheer emotion.  Given our sinful, selfish nature, it should be quite apparent that these are not what we come to naturally.  These are choices that True Love makes.  Consciously.  Deliberately.  Painfully.

Are you mad at your spouse and are thinking about divorce?  Have you considered whether your love to that person has been True Love or selfishness which only wants that person to fulfill your needs?  And before you even start wondering how your partner stands up to that question, forget about it.  True Love doesn’t ask that question.  It only asks how its owner stacks up.  It wants True Love from the other, but doesn’t require it.  It loves too much for that.  It seeks to draw True Love out of the other by example, by earning it.

True Love.  Not easy, not even natural.  But it is beautiful!

About the Guns

About the guns and last week’s horrid murders in Florida, please allow me to remind everyone…

Magnum 44It most certainly is not about the guns!

Let’s be clear; if it was about guns, these stories would have peaked and plateaued decades ago here and around the world. They haven’t. Events like Florida’s are a more recent development in American history. Guns have been part of America since before we freed ourselves of the crown over 200 years ago. They have been a matter of self-defense and food.

I used to teach a corporate course on problem-solving and decision making; the Kepner-Tregoe model for those who are familiar. It is essentially paint-by-number Aristotelean logic, using wall charts and forms to lay out the facts and draw a conclusion. The defining moment is when you can accurately answer the question, “What changed?”

If guns have been a part of our culture since before our independence from Britain and yet the problem is recent, blaming guns is simply nonsense. One might argue that technology has changed, but that is only so much noise. Technology in gun design has been ongoing for centuries.

I submit the only meaningful change happened when the country as whole followed the words of someone who earned the designation of The Most Hated Woman in America: Madeleine Murray-O’Hare. It was her pushing and bombast that led the charge to abolish prayer in school and remove Christianity from a nation founded upon Christian principles. Why an entire culture would follow the rants of the person IT designated to be Most-Hated is quite beyond me.

Simply, what changed is that The United States of American told God to bugger off. We stopped doing what is right. What stopped so much as caring what is right. We started caring less about objective truth and more about what we decided we wanted our own personal truth to be, all the rest be damned.

We. Stopped. Loving.

Would you shoot someone you loved? Would you shoot someone if you thought you were loved?

Gun control? A fool’s errand. I’ve said so for years, and I’ll say it again here.

GUN CONTROL IS A FOOL’S ERRAND!!

Facts bear me out. An article in the Washington Post showed quite conclusively that gun violence has declined in the last few decades in proportion to an increase in gun ownership. The only places where gun violence has increased have been where gun ownership is severely restricted. You can say anything else you want, make any emotional plea, and parade any number of teary survivors, but those facts stand. Anything else is just noise.

Facts made a believer out of a gun control advocate:

Leah Libresco is a statistician and former news writer at FiveThirtyEight, a data journalism site.

She decided to use her resources to do a massive study of gun violence. The facts she herself accumulated convinced her, much to her dismay, that gun control is ineffective.

I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.

I urge you to read her article for yourself.

Other articles I’ve written that address the core of the whole problem:

I sometimes quip that if you are day-dreaming during Bible class and you’re asked a question, you can simply answer, “Jesus” and likely be right.

Truth be told, it isn’t as funny as it is correct. Whatever the problem, Jesus and the love He taught us and commanded us to practice is always the solution!

Jesus Smiling

Quote for 2/16/2018

In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another…   1 John 3:10-11

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At the risk of sounding too ‘60s, all we need is love. It really is that simple. It really is that difficult. With love the recent shooting in Florida would never have happened. That love could have taken a number of forms just as God’s love takes many forms for us.

It may be a hug, a reprimand, or calling authorities over something worrying in your community. Love is about one-on-one, but it is also about a community loving and caring and looking out for each other.

But it really is that difficult. Who now loves the young man who has caused so much death? Despite what must be his mental illness, could love from others and knowing the love of God have mitigated his own pain?

Who loves him now? Who could? What best form should that love take; prison, execution, treatment…the Gospel?

Just remember that God loves him. The only way to heal his and everyone else’s wounded psyche and soul is to apply love, to apply God.

It really is that simple. And difficult.

“Father, we believe. Help our unbelief!”

Guns: A Root Cause Analysis

It’s different now. If you have some savings, take them with you. If you have a pack, fill it and bring it. If you don’t have a sword, sell your coat and buy one.    Luke 22:36

Jesus: Put your sword back. People who live by the sword die by the sword.    Matthew 26:52

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.    Matthew 22:37-40

How do we reconcile the first two passages above? Defending yourself is one thing, both individually and as a nation.  Having the means to protect yourself is one thing.  Owning and using weapons as a way of living is quite another.

Karate SparringI’ve had friends who earned black and brown belts in a variety of martial arts. To a man and woman, they all had the same basic message for me: every good fighter avoids a fight at all costs.  You never know when you might be standing in front of that one person who’s going to hand you your ass.

Jesus was saying more or less the same thing, but more delicately, of course. Be prepared for trouble, but don’t go looking for it.

Matthew 26:52 also needs to be taken in context. Jesus wanted to be taken.  It was His job.  He had to be arrested, suffer, and die for our salvation.  That wasn’t the time for a sword fight, especially against trained troops.

So that leaves me in favor of gun ownership for home and self-defense. If you look at my article from last Monday, Gun Violence, you’ll see two very important messages.  First, the solution is in changing our hearts as a nation.  Second, you can follow the link provided to a Washington Post article from 12/3/2015, which clearly demonstrates that overall gun deaths have declined over the last two decades, coinciding with an increase in gun ownership!  The only parts of the country with increases in gun deaths are those states – Illinois, most notably – with the strictest gun laws.

Love HandsAs for Matthew 22:37-40, well, that would pretty much solve everything, now wouldn’t it?

Below I’ve pasted in a complete article from msc.com, which does a great job of talking about FACTS, not hyperbole and politics. When I taught corporate management classes, one mantra for solving problems and making the best decisions was “Think about WHAT’s right, not WHO’s right!”

It’s about fact-based discussions. Following is a great one.  I’ve highlighted parts to help you skim the article.  I also kept the links to other articles, which I don’t all agree with.  I provide them for you to look at and analyze yourself in light of the December 2015 article cited at the top and the article below.

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Opinion | I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/opinion-i-used-to-think-gun-control-was-the-answer-my-research-told-me-otherwise/ar-AAsRR7y?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=iehp

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Leah Libresco is a statistician and former newswriter at FiveThirtyEight, a data journalism site. She is the author of “Arriving at Amen.”

Before I started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate me. I wished the National Rifle Association would stop blocking common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly.

Then, my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence. The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.

I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths.

When I looked at the other oft-praised policies, I found out that no gun owner walks into the store to buy an “assault weapon.” It’s an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos.

As for silencers — they deserve that name only in movies, where they reduce gunfire to a soft puick puick. In real life, silencers limit hearing damage for shooters but don’t make gunfire dangerously quiet. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jackhammer. Magazine limits were a little more promising, but a practiced shooter could still change magazines so fast as to make the limit meaningless.

As my co-workers and I kept looking at the data, it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a big difference. Two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States every year are suicides. Almost no proposed restriction would make it meaningfully harder for people with guns on hand to use them. I couldn’t even answer my most desperate question: If I had a friend who had guns in his home and a history of suicide attempts, was there anything I could do that would help?

However, the next-largest set of gun deaths — 1 in 5 — were young men aged 15 to 34, killed in homicides. These men were most likely to die at the hands of other young men, often related to gang loyalties or other street violence. And the last notable group of similar deaths was the 1,700 women murdered per year, usually as the result of domestic violence. Far more people were killed in these ways than in mass-shooting incidents, but few of the popularly floated policies were tailored to serve them.

By the time we published our project, I didn’t believe in many of the interventions I’d heard politicians tout. I was still anti-gun, at least from the point of view of most gun owners, and I don’t want a gun in my home, as I think the risk outweighs the benefits. But I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them. Policies that often seem as if they were drafted by people who have encountered guns only as a figure in a briefing book or an image on the news.

Instead, I found the most hope in more narrowly tailored interventions. Potential suicide victims, women menaced by their abusive partners and kids swept up in street vendettas are all in danger from guns, but they each require different protections.

Older men, who make up the largest share of gun suicides, need better access to people who could care for them and get them help. Women endangered by specific men need to be prioritized by police, who can enforce restraining orders prohibiting these men from buying and owning guns. Younger men at risk of violence need to be identified before they take a life or lose theirs and to be connected to mentors who can help them de-escalate conflicts.

Even the most data-driven practices, such as New Orleans’ plan to identify gang members for intervention based on previous arrests and weapons seizures, wind up more personal than most policies floated. The young men at risk can be identified by an algorithm, but they have to be disarmed one by one, personally — not en masse as though they were all interchangeable. A reduction in gun deaths is most likely to come from finding smaller chances for victories and expanding those solutions as much as possible. We save lives by focusing on a range of tactics to protect the different kinds of potential victims and reforming potential killers, not from sweeping bans focused on the guns themselves.

Read more:

The Post’s View: The worst kind of American exceptionalism

Chris Murphy: Mass shootings are an American problem. There’s an American solution.

Richard Glover: How Australia beat the gun lobby and passed gun control

The Post’s View: Gun control’s silver bullets

Charles C.W. Cooke: The right to bear arms isn’t up for debate

Activation!

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.   Galatians 6:2

BBBLast week BeautyBeyondBones (BBB) paid a beautiful tribute, Finding the Why, to a former acting teacher, Hope, who died.  The woman had a big influence on her life, and my comments to BBB got me thinking about how it’s a message we should all consider and act upon.

So thank you, Beauty, for inspiring another article here!

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We are the sum of our experiences. It’s true.  What that cliché doesn’t admit to is that there is a usually a mere handful of people that create really pivotal experiences.

Ice Cream Bicycle

But without the umbrella!

At the end of it all, I was not very close to either of my parents. Still, they kept my sisters and I clothed, fed, and sheltered.  Thanks in large part to my maternal grandmother, I believe, we were sent to a Lutheran grade school at our church, grades K-8.  “Little Grandma,” as we called her, did most of the rearing and was the one who always helped us with our homework.  She played with us, taught us countless games, bought us ice cream when the ice cream boy came around, pedaling – yes, pedaling! – his freezer box cart.  Little Grandma lived across the street from us, and that’s where I remember spending most of my childhood, playing with her or in her stuff-filled attic and basement.  See Memory Warehouse.

In short, the three of them put the basic pieces together. But they didn’t provide me with everything I needed.  No parent can.

Your parents produced you, taught you, and influenced you. But every family has its own “dance.”  It’s what happens when you go back home and feel like a little kid again, due both to the physical surroundings and the simple stimulus/response of those life-long relationships.  We fall into those familiar patterns whether we want to or not.

 

DancingPeople outside of our families “activate” us. That’s the best word I can think of at this moment.  In any event, they do something different.  The introduce us to a significantly different dance from the one ingrained in our family, one that is not familiar but still resonates with something our parents and family put there.

BBB’s acting teacher, for example. I had my theatre professor, Jim Austin, at Heidelberg College, high school friends Steve Harris and Rick Michael.  There was even one other acquaintance at Heidelberg I cannot even now name, but I wrote about him recently in Washing Feet.

ACTIVATE! That’s what Hope did for BBB and Jim did for me.  It’s the love BBB talked about that we’re put here for.  We are here to make a difference in other people’s lives.  As a college or corporate instructor, I didn’t find teaching the curriculum so satisfying as  helping other people with their lives by way of the class.

I helped one corporate student from Canada break through a glass ceiling she was caught under at her facility and helped a thirty-something college student remember and reclaim who she really was; see Smart Blonde.  I’ve played unofficial and official mentor to co-workers and assigned myself as a second dad or unrelated “uncle” to others who accepted whatever help I offered them.

Old and Young Together

Contributing, Activating

That’s a lot of “I’s”, but it’s not for self-promotion.  It’s to make the point that there are ways we get “activated” and – most importantly – activate others!  It’s simply a blessing, which is to be  discovered and treated to when any of us ACTIVATES something in someone else’s life.

That’s why BBB is such a phenomenon; she contributes to other people’s lives in meaningful ways. 31,000+ at last count.  Which begs the questions, if you aren’t following her yet, why not?  I mean, 31,000+ people; that’s an above average sized town for crying out loud!  Over half of Americans live in towns of 25,000 or so.  She practically has her own city!

Jim Austin

Jim Austin

I raised my daughters, gave them what I could as a father. The rest of what they need, I don’t have.  They’ll have to get whatever it is from their “Jim Austins,” their “Hopes.”  Having raised my girls, I still have a responsibility to activate, to love others in different ways.  There have been the opportunities and successes listed above to name a few.  God will place more opportunities in my path; I just hope don’t miss too many of them!

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.    Ephesians 2:10

What contribution can you make to someone’s life this day, this week? Even if it’s just giving the half empty bag of mini chocolate donuts on your car seat to a beggar on the exit ramp (and that one hurt, people); significant doesn’t have to be big!  Any gesture can have – dare I say it? – eternal consequences!

Well, done, BBB! Both in contributing to other people’s faith, recovery, need for light, and honoring the memory of your teacher.

You and me, my friends?  Let’s build a similar history for ourselves and, more importantly, to honor God and the Activating He has done for us!

A Love Tutorial

Re-published from 9/11/2014

“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” I Corinthians 13:3-5

Please see this video next: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTOzt-aqxbo

This video struck me as being something like a parable or illustration of God and humanity. It’s touching both in itself and in how it can show how God deals with us.

Dog & Boy 1First, let’s characterize the players. There is one, vastly more powerful being who denies its strength and humbles itself to woo a decidedly less powerful, less capable being than itself.

Second, the individual it wants to win over is mentally incapable of understanding just what this big, perhaps scary individual is trying to do. Even if the intent is understood, the object of affection tries to push away – and even flee from – the being trying to love it.  But the stronger individual is not deterred from its purpose.

Dog & Boy 2Third, the stronger is infinitely patient, suffering repeated rejection in order to wear down and win over whom it loves. Time is neither an object nor obstacle.  It is virtually the tool of choice, as the lover outlasts that which is loved.

Dog & Boy 3Fourth, love conquers. In the end, the boy in the video embraces the dog.  God conquered on the cross 2000 years ago.  Alas, we do not all respond as the little boy does, finally recognizing just what a friend is before him.

What do you think of the dog in the video? Does she warm your heart?  Does her unconditional love inspire you?  Do you admire her persistence?  Do you think she would be hurt if she never succeeded?

Well, take all of that and make it infinitely bigger to fit God. NOW what do you think of Him?  What will you do about it?  Say thank you?  Tell other people about this great big, cuddly God who just wants a hug back?

Hopefully, your answer is a positive. To everything.

What a Real Friend Can Do

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

A friend of mine recently found herself confronted with some past situations that caused pain. Regrets came flooding back anew, and the only words she heard were “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda.”

I tried to tell her some things. I hope my words landed as intended. But then I got a little help from Mr. Shakespeare:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought (Sonnet 30)

William Shakespeare, 1564 – 1616

Shakespeare

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past,

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:

Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,

And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,

And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,

And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er

The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,

Which I new pay as if not paid before.

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,

All losses are restored and sorrows end.

 

Even ol’ Bill had his days, his sessions of sweet, silent thought polluted with the regrets and cares of the past. He kept circling the drain, carried on the currents of broken dreams, ever closer to disaster.

But then the most important thought entered his mind; that of his friend who made sorrows end.

For me, it’s my wife Julie and my daughters. Rick Michael has been my best friend since my sophomore year of high school, was best man at my wedding, and collaborator on several songs, including the one for my wife at our reception.

You have yours too, I imagine. A different list from mine, certainly. There is one more name on my list that I pray is on yours too. Jesus.

He is the Friend Who leads me beside the still waters and restores my soul. He is the Friend Who anoints my head with oil and causes my cup to overflow with His blessings.

 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;

And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord

Forever.

 

When your sessions of sweet, silent thought are hi-jacked by old woes that new wail your dear time’s waste…well, my friend, think on Jesus, Who, through His immeasurable love, saved us from ourselves, made us His friends, and stands at the door, waiting for us to arrive and dwell in His house. Forever.

 

32 Years of Marriage

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”   Genesis 2:24

This is the third time I’ve commemorated our wedding anniversary on my blog. First was Thirty Years Together in 2015 and 31 Years: A Marriage Album last year.

This year I’m not just looking back at 32 years with my Sweet Julie. This past year I’m feeling more and more happy with being her husband.  I just want time with her.  That’s hard when the job has me traveling so much.  I want to watch movies with her, travel with her, and do whatever else we can think of.  Together.

I’ll turn 60 in June. I’ve been caught up short at the fact that I’m much closer to my end than my beginning.  Given my family history, well, we’re not especially long-lived folks.

However much future I have left, I want to be spent enjoying each other. Whether it’s sitting silently at home reading or taking a trip – long or short – I just want to enjoy her.  I want to listen to her laugh, feel her warmth next to me, tease each other about the same idiosyncrasies as we have for the last 32 years, have countless more Saturday mornings at Panera with a pastry, our books, and talks.

I’d like to revisit Paris and just watch her sipping her “Café’ American” coffee in the little park behind Notre Dame as she did before. Maybe there will be one more new overseas adventure.  Who knows?  Scotland?  Australia?

I’d enjoy another fall Saturday riding our bicycles around Put-In-Bay out in Lake Erie. I remember doing that the fall after my heart surgery.  Fatigued, she had me lay down on some lush grass and sat there next to me as I napped in the fall sunshine.

There are so many good memories, I find myself hungrier for more. I want that now more than I ever have.

I’m reminded not to let time be wasted, because when you have a fine wife every second is precious. We have a trip coming up this year to plan.  There are more holidays.  There are more times with both of our daughters.  There are more evenings spent with friends.

And not a few Saturday mornings with a pastry, a good book, and a chat with the love of my life, my Jewel.

Live Fearlessly!

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.    1 John 4:18 [Full Chapter]

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.    Luke 12:7

I recently found it necessary to verbally slap a friend upside her pretty, little head. You see, she’s living in fear.  Mind you, she’s done some very brave things, battled some very real demons, but she’s gone timid as of late, and, well, it has to do with relationships and age.  That’s where we all fall down, right?

We all get scared when it comes to putting ourselves out there, whether it’s looking for love or a job. Job interviews give us the cold sweats.  Finding ourselves in the vicinity of a cute guy or girls give us a case of the heminah-heminahs.

That’s not how God intends us to live! Paul’s letter to Philemon is about doing the right things in life, both as regards God and people:

Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.    Philemon 1:21

Confidence! That’s how we need to live; confidently, fearlessly!

Job interviews: do you realize you are in the driver’s seat? The person interviewing you gets paid to make a tough, very expensive decision in hiring someone.  But your perfect love can cast out fear!  You are there to help that person!  Be nice, be sympathetic, be helpful.  Don’t be fearful!  And remember you are interviewing them too!  You BOTH need to make a good decision.  If the interviewer isn’t your cup of tea, you might not want to work for him or her.  Taking the job, even if offered, might be a bad idea!

Perfect love casts out fear. Love the other person, recognize their situation, and be the job candidate God would want you to be – your very best self!

Relationships. Hoo boy!  Here we go.  Do you understand that most everyone is just as afraid and nervous as you?  Are you checking someone out?  Maybe they are checking you out too.  But both scared, little mice scurry along, too afraid to take a chance.

OK, you might make a fool of yourself. It can happen.  But you’ll never see that person again anyway, so who really cares?

They might be nice and still say no, and that’s OK.

They might say yes. From there, maybe things will work out, maybe not.

Example: MANY years ago I had a gym membership and swam a one mile workout in the lap pool. Adjacent to that was a hot tub.  So I’d do my mile and then relax in the tub.  Once evening a nice young lady was in there too.  We chatted.  No ring.  I asked her out.  Well, she was married.  The ring was off so she wouldn’t lose it.  I could’ve felt foolish, but why?  I apologized.  She said no need.  Before she left, she thanked me!  It was nice to know she was attractive!

Love casts out fear. I was nice.  She was nice.  We both won that evening.  She got a great compliment.  I got a no that would’ve been a yes if she was single.  We both went home feeling good.

Believe it or not, I did that one or two other times too. Did I feel foolish?  Aw, heck no!  It was kinda funny every time, and she always left feeling desirable.

Love doesn’t have to be romantic and sexy. Love can be as simple as being nice to people.  It can be as simple as, “Hey, I’m looking for someone, and you seem nice.  How about we spend some time?”  For all you know, they wish they had the courage to do that.

Live fearlessly, my friends! Above are merely two examples to get you to a bigger idea – have confidence.  If you don’t’ have it, act like it.  The mind tends to follow the body.  Feeling down?  Smile.  Keep smiling.  Your mood will improve.

In other words – Fake It Till You Make It! Go forward with God’s peace in you.  Act like He’s got your back, because He does.  If you stumble, He’ll  help you back up.  You will find more success than failure!

Decisions, Decisions

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.    1 John 4:18

Drazen Erdemovic had a choice to make in July of 1995. He was a member of the Bosnian Serb army, attached to a non-combat unit.  He only joined to provide for his family.  He had no desire to fight and kill anyone.

That July he and others were pulled to another unit, whose task was to slaughter civilians as they came in by the busload. They were to shoot them as they were lined up next to a pit.  Horrified, Drazen told the CO he couldn’t do it.  The choice he was given was stark; either shoot them as ordered or line up and get shot with them.

What would you do? How would you decide?  Would you, like most all of us, decide based on fear or love?

Fear says, “I don’t want to die!” Love says, “I can’t kill innocent people in such an act of evil.”

Fear doesn’t want to lose anything, most of all our very body, our life. The love of Jesus tells us that to die in His name is gain.  Do we fear going through the door of death to meet Jesus face to face?  Enough that we balk at it?

Those of you who’ve been with me for a while know that I’ve almost died three times. I’m not going to tell you it was ever fun, but neither was it as horrible as I might have imagined.  If I’m told I have x number of weeks to live, I think I’d be OK with that.  I’d make plans and start the countdown.

Would I ever leave a firing squad and join the condemned. I would hope so!  I go to God innocent of murder, having stood up for what is right, even if the slaughter would go on without me.  Maybe that sacrifice would not go unnoticed.  Maybe whoever shot me would have to look me in the eye as they took aim.

What did Drazen do? He figures he killed about 70-80 people that day.  In an effort to bring that genocide to light, he found himself on trial for war crimes at the Hague.  The defense tried to use the defense of being under duress.  A split court denied that defense.  He was convicted of manslaughter and given a relatively light sentence.

What was his reaction in the end? He ended up pleading guilty before the trial ended.

His initial decision to kill was his concern for the fate of his wife and kids. His final statement to the court, however, is very telling.

“I (pled guilty) because of those victims, because of my conscience, because of my life, because of my child and my wife, I cannot change what I said…because of the peace of my mind, my soul, my honesty, because of the victims, the war and because of everything.”

His initial decision based on fear didn’t hold up for him! Even though it was at least in part based on providing for his family, he eventually realized that providing for them through morality was more important.  This from someone who perhaps didn’t even know God.  He knew he had to have faith in what’s right, even if he didn’t know it was God.

Thanks to Jesus and the Father’s mercy, we can make decisions, large and small, based on love and not fear. We can look death in the face, as we all must someday, smile at it, and say, “Take me home.  I don’t fear you, because Jesus defeated you.  He transformed you from a grave into a door.

So open wide, ‘cause I’m coming through!