Thirty five years ago today, my husband and I took that step of love and faith, and committed to love each other “until death do us part.” Entering marriage in our “older” years (he was 39 and I was 31) and each of us for the fist time, we began our marriage marathon.
As part of our vows, we committed to be “forever by your side”, running this marathon, not sprint.
In spite of the reported increase in domestic violence, Covid stressed lockdowns, finanical strains, political discord and declining marriage and divorce rates we are still running our love race.
We have survived the bruises of that brutal first year together, when two lives are thrown together in marital bliss only to discover that two being made one is a painful and pertetual process. During those days I remember looking at Den and thinking, “Oh my goodness, how are we ever gonna make it a lifetime?” We were (are) both so strongwilled. We had lived on our own, doing things our own way for a long time. We were both “successful” in our careers and involved in leadership away from our careers.
The following years continued to rub off edges, smooth our dings, and sharpen us up, as “iron sharpens iron, and so a man his friend.”
At year five, we had our son, after some pregnancy challenges, and prenatal medical forcasts. He was perfect! Now our family was complete. We were elated and still running our marathon.
Somewhere around year 8, 9 or 10, (I can’t remember exactly) suffice it to say, we were dangerously close to dropping out of this marathon. I told a friend I was ready to, and without her love and commitment to pray us through, we may have become a statistic. Perhaps we were mistaken and this race was really a sprint!?! Den and I went to counseling, (after much opposition) and found our way back to each other and continued the marathon.
The next 10 years we lived life as a happy family, with focus on our son’s activities, and managing our own differences and issues as best we could.
As our son grew into manhood, becoming his own person, the focus in our marriage shifted now. Our careers became the focus and lots of time was spent in logging hours on work projects. Lots of introspection too, on who we were, who we wanted to become and where we wanted to go together. What was important to us had to be shifted through and priorities set or renewed.
As eventual empty nesters, there was nowhere else to focus the spotlight now. We had each other. Is that what we wanted, is that who we desired? Were we still committed to running this marathon together?
YES! A resounding, yes, pierced our hearts.
When Den retired, again things changed. He was now “on the sidelines” from what he had known and done for over 50 years. Who was he, what was he, where was he going? So many questions swirling for him. The best I could do for him was be there and support him, encourage him. Ya know, “Forever by your side.”
Years later, I retired and now we were full time together, with no other focuses. Would we kill each other? How would we manage those two strongwills in the same house all the time?
It has been an amazing welding together these past 3 years. We are closer than we have ever been, on every level. We share deeper, talk more, laugh more, cry more, and pray more – together. I can proudly say we are running together, in stride toward the same goal, supporting each other along the way.
Marriage will be like a freeway. There should be a destination in mind for your marriage and you both should travel towards it together. But, along the way there are off ramps. Some are rest stops and vital for completion of the journey or relieving of wasteful buildups. Others are off ramps that will change your direction and still others are off ramps that will take you out of the race altogether. Your marathon will come to an end if you take that off ramp.
The traditional 35th Anniversary is said to be coral.
Let me close with making a comparison.
Coral takes a long time to form with a lot of dying polyps along the way, just like a 35 year, bond of love has alot of dying to self. Both take a long time to form. But, healthy coral are able to withstand 97% of a waves energy as it buffets the shoreline, taking the rough current, waves and storms. Additionally, when corals are stressed by changes in conditions like temperatures, light, or nutrients, they expel an algae that lives in their tissues, thus causing them to turn completely white. This is called bleaching. The coral is not dead, when it is bleached, it can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and subject to mortality.
Whether it be through the pounding waves of life, the death of ideas, or the stress of conditions and bleaching out, Den and I have survived and are growing stronger. We’ve taken off ramps but always choose to re-enter the marathon.
We continue to be “forever by your side” through this marathon called marriage.
Sunday Sermon 5.15.21
When our son was working in the entertainment industry, there was a phrase that we heard often, learned it’s meaning, and have ourselves implemented on many occasions. It is –
“Back to 1”
At the end of a scene or run through of a section, the director would call out, “Back to 1”. Everyone would then move and return to the start of that scene, their original positions. They would return to their first and beginning spot by readjusting everything to where it all started. People, costumes, props, equipment, lights, sound, crew – it all returned to 1, the original start spot (of that scene). Lines, marks, and brains all had to return to 1.
As I consider this, I realize that most, if not all of us could benefit from this practice.
What is our 1? Why do we need to return to it?
In the many scenes of our life, we find ourselves spending our energies, ideas, words, and feelings on those we love or things we love. We give, do, help, and speak almost constantly. And then, eventually, we notice our speech, feelings, attitudes and maybe even our actions are not filled with love.
Note taken, but we still continue with all we are doing, because after all, it still has to be done, and who’s gonna do it?
That is why, we need to go back to 1. That is why we must return to love.
Number 1 is love, and in this context I do mean love of God.
You see, I am a better wife, when I am loving God. I am a better mom, the more I love God. I am a better sister, when I am closer to God. I am a better friend as I have talked with God.
As I love God and fill up with His love, this enables me to step into each scene in my life fully equipped to pour out what He has poured into me.
When I go back to 1, back to God and His love for me, back to talking with Him in prayer, and in His presence, then I can do the things that I need to with love and motivated by love – not obligation.
Years ago, I was reading my bible and was in Matthew 22, I was reminded of what Jesus said about this when He said the number 1 thing in life is to:
“Love God…….and love others as yourself.”Matthew 22:37-39
I was so impressed with that challenge, that I drew a target in my bible over those verses to remind me that this was my focus, this was my target in life and this was my number 1.
Back to 1 is returning to the greatest commandment, returning to what is most important, and checking our love. How is our passion for God? How are we doing with talking to Him, hearing from Him and receiving His life changing love in our life?
The way we face everything and everyone in our life will be based on our number 1 relationship – with God. All other relationships flow from our relationship with Him. If we are filled up with God and His love and ways, that will flow from us. If we are empty of God’s love, so too will be our relationships and responsibilities.
Look at the full text of what Jesus answered, when he was asked, what is most important –
“Jesus replied, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:37-40
What you do is important. Who you are helping is important. The job you are doing is important. But what is MOST important is loving God. Your love for and relationship with God is number 1. Is it your focus, your target, and your priority?
The Apostle Paul told us this about love,
“If I speak…. and don’t have love… I am a gong, … if I have understanding…. and don’t have love…I am nothing… if I give all …. and do not have love, I gain nothing. These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”1 Corinthians13′:1-3;13
Matthew mentions in the last days –
“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold”Matthew 24:12
In the end of the New Testament age, John the revelator, saw a church in Laodicea and said this to it:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”Revelation 3:15-16
Perhaps Matthew and John were seeing into these days, into our lives. Seeing times when love grows cold, when it no longer offers refreshing. Seeing times when love is hot, full of passion, healing and health.
The picture in John’s revelation of the lukewarm being spit out of the mouth, is an Aramaic idiom that means, “I am about to give you my mouth.” Or, we would say, I’m gonna give you a piece of my mind. I’m gonna say a few things. In other words, God has a few things to say to the lukewarm, He’s about to give them a piece of His mind.
Going back to 1 involves checking our “love for God temperature.” Hot- passionate for Him? Cold – offering the refreshment to others that He gives us? Or cold, in the way Matthew put it, Cold- towards God and the things of God. Cold – overcome by things that have put our love for God out.
Our love for God is our number 1. Love is the most important thing in all we do. Love is the motivation and motor for what we do. Love will sustain us in the long and tiring deeds of the day. Love, love, love.
I hear the Director calling, “Back to 1!”
Go with God,
Sunday Sermon 2.13.21
Love is a powerful force. It’s potency is beyond measure and it penetrates all boundaries, obstacles and fears. Love can see what the human eye misses, and what our mind struggles to understand. It is transforming, refreshing, empowering, and yes, sometimes frustrating.
Decades ago (yes, I’m THAT old), there was a fad called “Glamor Shots”. Those of us who gave in to it found ourselves going to the mall, and into the Glamor Shot store for our appointment. We were then made over with a new hairdo, makeup and clothes for a photo shoot. Photos were taken in silly poses with props and looks that were s’pose to be glamorous. Then you chose which shots you wanted prints of, ordered them and went home to wash off the make up. (and try to figure out what to do the rest of the day with THIS hair!) I knew my husband wanted one, which is why I was there.
Yes, I caved and bought one (maybe more, I don’t remember). I remember the one because to this day, it sits on my husband’s night stand, in our bedroom! I’ve tried to replace it, throw it away, you name it. He’ll have none of it.
For years I asked “why”, and always got the same response, “Because THAT is the way I see you. You are beautiful and glamorous to me and always will be, nothing will change that.” (Talk about humbling…)
I have had to learn to let him keep the picture and let him keep his perception, because his love is powerful and sees what others don’t. (like me)
Perhaps that is why, in the greatest love song of all time, The Song of Songs, Solomon’s love song to his bride and an allegory of Jesus and His bride- the church, Solomon begins his song with the bride/Shulamite saying this:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.Song of Songs 1:2
In order for love to have affect we must let it, allow it. In order for Jesus love to permeate your life, you have to let him love you. He lavishes His love on you, chooses you, desires you, sees you as the theme of his love song and yet, you must yield to his love and let His love touch you deeply.
We each hold the key to how close we become with Him, and how much of ourselves we allow Him into. Isn’t that the dance of love relationships? Fear, trust, yielding, opening up, changing, safety, love.
Will we allow Him to express His love for us, faith in us and delight over us? Will we allow His picture of how He sees us to become our picture, too?
Love is a powerful force. His love is inescapable.
In Solomon’s Song, we have a vivid picture of how He sees us. Let’s take just a peek.
In this allegory, Jesus is the Bridegroom wooing His chosen maiden, the Shulamite. Male or female, Jesus is wooing you and speaking in tender words of love, affection and devotion to you. You are being called to come close and let him have your whole heart. Let Him have your passion, focus, love.
Scripture says, “What a person desires is unfailing love.” Proverbs 19:22 This is the love that Jesus lavishes on you. Unfailing, unconditional, pure, and holy.
Digest these descriptions of how he sees you, as written in just the first 2 chapters of Song of Solomon.
- dear one
- a rose
- the theme of His song
- companion who stands out
- pure in the midst of sin
YOU. That is you, glamorous you. His love sees you always and only this way!
Over and over in Song of Songs, He, Jesus, the Bridegroom calls to His bride, us and says, “Come away, my beloved.” We are His beloved, His dear one, His tender love. He gently woos us to come away with Him, to come closer, to let him love us. To trust Him. To step beyond our fear and insecurities and trust Him and His love.
I’m here to tell you my friend, that the seasons have changed. This is the season of His love and season to love Him more deeply. Listen to the call of the Spirit (to you) in Song of Solomon 2:11-15:
- The bondage of the barren winter is over and gone
- The season of hiding is over
- Rains of refreshing have come
- It’s time to bloom
- It is a season of singing
- A season of pruning
- A new day of destiny is breaking forth around you
- My purposes and plans are bursting forth
- It’s time for buds
- It is blooming everywhere
- Change is in the air
- Arise, my companion, run with me
- Let me see your radiant face & hear your sweet voice
- How beautiful is your worship
- How lovely is your prayer
- You must catch the troubling foxes that hinder our relationship
- They raid our budding love
- They ruin what I’ve planted within you
- Will you catch them and remove them?
- We will do it together
These phrases are taken directly from Song of Solomon and the Passion Translation version.
These are His words to you. This is His love and desire for relationship with you. It is a new season. He wants to hear our voice, prayers, worship. He longs to see our face as we spend time with Him. He desires for us to bloom and blossom and bud with all that He has planted inside of us.
He also wants us to check for spoilers in our relationship. He called them the “troubling foxes”, those things that will eat up our time and focus, keeping us from Him, keeping us from fruitfulness. He asks us to catch them, then He tells us we will do it together.
He is absolutely willing to help us identify our foxes and then work with us in being free of them. He longs for our freedom in relating with Him. We have nothing to fear and a wonderful, intimate relationship with Jesus to gain.
Change is in the air. His love is in the air, it is inescapable and powerful.
Will we let Him love us? Will we let him change us? Will we let his picture of us become ours? Will we see ourselves through His eyes and in His love? Will we catch those troubling foxes and let Him help us be free of them?
Let Him love you, more.
Go with God.
Sunday Sermon 1.23.21
The nation I live in is changing and I don’t recognize who we are any longer and I wonder where we are headed.
There are terms and words and descriptions and ideas I don’t understand; words like- woke, intersectionality, gas light, call-out culture, and microaggressions, to name a very few. I have been learning a great deal and trying to make sense of it all.
Perhaps that is why, over the holidays, upon the recommendation of my son, I read and thoroughly enjoyed the book, “The Coddling of the American Mind“. (G Lukianoff, I. Haidt) In the book, the authors address many of these terms giving their foundational meanings, as well as submit what they call 3 great “Untruths”. These untruths, according to the authors, are well intended, but bad ideas being prominently promoted in academia, our culture, society and law for the past many years.
One of their ideas, using my summarization is, “Us verses Them”.
Listening to and watching events of recent months in our nation, “us verses them” is clearly visible. We are never without someone or group raging against another group. One set of beliefs is criticized and mocked by another point of view. “Us verses them” is at play.
We have been segregated into groups based on immutable qualities and characteristics that we did not even choose because they were beyond our control. We have been pitted against one another in an effort to divide us even more. “Us verses them” is at play.
But today, I want to offer a time tested solution to “us verses them”, and in doing so reaffirm a much needed foundation for not only our personal lives but our nation. For when we build on sure foundations, our security is guaranteed no matter the blasting “us verses them” winds that blow.
What foundation is that?
God made all of us.
Without exception, we were all made in God’s image, each unique in design, purpose and destiny. What God makes is good! He don’t make junk or second class citizens. Genesis 1-2
He breathed life’s breath into our lungs and as a proud parent, took joy in his design and marveled at our likeness. Created in His image, God’s idea, His child – that is who I am. I am because of Him, He made me. I had nothing to do with it. He loves me just the way He made me. Psalms 139; Psalm 71:6; Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15
All 7.8 billion people on the planet right now can make the above proclamation. God made each one of them, delights in each of them and loves all of them equally.
Please review these ancient verses:
- Genesis 1:27 – God made man in his image, male and female he created them
- Deuteronomy 10:17 – He does not show partiality
- Acts 17:26 – From one man he made all nations
- Acts 10:34-35 – God shows no partiality
- Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- Colossians 3:11 – Here there is no Gentile nor Jew, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all
- Acts 10:28 – But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.
- Malachi 2:10 – Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us?
God, through Jesus death on the cross, erased forever any lines of segregation, prejudice and “us verses them”. Talk about inclusion?!
As new creations in Jesus, we are given His identity, and that identity has nothing to do with religious, ethnic, cultural or socioeconomic features. Galatians 3:26-29
Our challenge then, is to keep putting off our old identity and way of referring to others and put on the new man which should be without distinction. Colossians 3:8-11
We are reminded that upon Jesus death, when the veil in the Temple was ripped in half, it represented the destruction of barriers and all dividing walls of hostility, thus making one new humanity, in peace and reconciled to God. Ephesians 2:11-22
These and other ancient scriptures remind us of the basic foundation of the oneness of mankind. All of us made by God, in His image, for His pleasure. All. of. us.
But what happens is we forget. And when we forget, we inevitably end up sitting in judgement of others. Isn’t that prejudice? And what results is an “us verses them” mentality, or perspective. Voila, that’s where we are today.
Not one of us is without guilt here. We are not perfect and yet, we still need to strive to live by our foundation(s). That is the beauty of walking with Jesus; he loves us enough to stick with us as we change and to allow us to fail as we grow along the way. But he loves us so much He will not allow us to remain the same. Made in His image, we have our work (actually His work in us) cut out for us, right?
Jesus walked with Pharisees, tax collectors, fishermen, men, women, Jews, Greeks, soldiers, prostitutes, thieves, lepers, Samaritans, the demon possessed, rulers, peasants… you name it. Jesus not only associated with but loved equally everyone. He even took flack from others that He did so.
His heart was always driven by love and mercy. His heart was free from prejudice and favoritism. He was not partial. He is our example. In Him there is no “us verses them”. He loves us all and expects us to do the same. He told us so in John 13:34, “Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
This foundation of love for all, because we are all made in the image of God, is for both personal and national stability. It is time-tested. It is sure.
Therefore, it is incumbent on us to re-fortify this foundation in our lives. To fight against the tendency to see things as “us verses them”, but rather to show mercy, love, and grace for all – period.
So, as I am learning these new terms and labels in our society, I will also seek to live without them and stand firmly upon the time-tested solution of love, mercy, and grace for all.
Lord, please help me, help us – all.
Go with God.
There’s just something iconic about that 1985 song, “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & the News. For those of you not familiar with is, here it is:
Are we rooted and grounded in love and its power?
In 1965, a song hit the charts, written by that famous team of Hal David and Burt Bacharach, called ” What the World Needs Now”. It was a call that resonates in our hearts today. Here it is:
My heart has been hearing the call for LOVE and the full extent of its power in our lives and society.
A phrase I have been mulling over lately is “being rooted and grounded in love”. What does that mean? What does that look like? What is the power of love that the world needs?
Let’s dive into that phrase –
“Being rooted” of course is an agricultural reference. Roots grow below the surface and in most cases are unseen. Their function is to anchor the plant in place in order to resist the forces of wind and water that come at them.
In addition, those roots take in oxygen, water, nutrients and move them through the plant to stems, leaves and blooms.
Easytogrow.com tells me, “to evaluate the health and long term performance of a plant it is all about the roots.” “Signs of poor, damaged roots will lead to an unhealthy plant with short life and limited blooms.”
So, we see that the roots are the indicator of the plants quality of life.
I’m told that you can tell if a plant is stressed out if you look at the leaves. If they are limp or yellow then those are signs of stress caused either by extreme temperatures, drought, predation or disease.
Lord knows, there are enough stress factors on us plants, right? Are we showing signs of stress, limp or yellowing? Then let’s check our roots, what are we rooted in?
Just think now, if our roots, the roots of our life, were embedded and fixed in LOVE. Only love, all love, exclusively love.
Think what the effects would be if only LOVE was the nutrient coursing through us, feeding us, watering us and growing in us.
May we choose to plant out roots deeper and deeper into love and receive all the nutrients we need so that love grows and blossoms from us.
Oh, the power of love.
The second part of that phrase, is “grounded in love”.
This is a building term, referring to laying the foundation and making a building stable, having it grounded and ready to be built upon.
Yet, I am going to look at the electrical perspective of “being grounded”.
In electrical appliances a grounding wire gives the appliance a safe way to discharge excess electricity. The electrical circuit receives both positive and negative charges in order to operate. If something goes wrong, there will be a build up of energy within the wiring that will be stored there.
Picture that, a build up of positive and negative charges, building up and being stored, unseen within the wiring. What we have here is an explosion ready to happen. An unseen power surge, ready to cause damage. This build up will not be noticed until contact is made and then the excess energy will be released.
A grounding wire in that same appliance will take that build up and send it outside of your home, back into the ground or external housing – hence, a “grounding” wire.
So, when the malfunction happens, rather than having the energy build up in the circuit, it flows back to the ground and turns off the circuit and pending explosion.
Imagine now, you are that appliance, you have been receiving all kinds of negative and positive signals. Something goes wrong in your life and now these charges are building up inside of you. Unseen to others perhaps, but they are there, caught in your circuitry.
When contact is made, with another “conductor”, sparks fly and an explosion and potential fire erupts.
But what if, your grounding wire were firmly attached to an external housing of LOVE thereby allowing love to shut down any circuits from blowing?
Imagine love being your grounding wire. The source of not only your power to shine, but also you ability to sort through positive and negative charges and malfunctions in your life. Love, as the grounding rod or copper water pipe of your life .
Oh, the power of love.
May we be healthy plants with strong roots, firmly established in love. May we also be those lights who are able to withstand overloaded circuitry malfunctions because our ground wire is in love.
What the world needs now is love, the power of love. Love flowing in us, through us, from us.
Cheers to you.
I woke up this morning thinking about Barabbas, an insurrectionist, revolutionary, and murderer during Jesus’ day.
“Insurrection – a violent uprising against authority or government. An act or instance of revolting against civil authority or established government.”Webster
He sought to bring political revolution to Jerusalem which was under Roman rule and was an active participant in the political turmoil, and religious unrest of Jesus’ time. He was arrested, found guilty of murder and insurrection and was awaiting his due punishment – death.
The crowds gathered before Pilate’s judgment bench and asked for Barabbas to be released in exchange for Jesus. After thunderous exchanges, Barabbas was set free and Jesus was condemned to death.
Barabbas and Jesus…
One man wanted a political revolution, the other a revolution of love.
I believe one can work towards producing the other. I believe the latter will birth the former.
Do you know what lies at the heart of a man or woman’s deepest longings? Guess… what would you say? To be loved? To be accepted? To be wanted? Yes, those are all huge.
But one of our deepest longings is to feel heard. We each need to feel understood, to have our feelings noticed, our hurts legitimized. We find a way to handle it if people don’t agree with our feelings, but we still want them validated.
Don’t you find yourself more willing and ready to do something for someone who gave you that validation, acknowledged your hurt; the one who actually gave their ear and heart to you and your expressions?
” Empathy – the action of understanding, being aware of, sensitive to. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”Webster
When you empathize with someone, you have taken action. You have given your attention, time, focus, effort and heart to listen to their feelings and do your best to understand them. Whether or not you fully understand is less important than the point that you consistently make the effort to listen. For in time, you will see a clearer picture and begin to feel what they have felt. We learn to empathize and can grow in empathy.
As a matter of fact, smart people have established a category of people called HEP’s – Highly Empathic People; and have outlined 6 habits that those HEP’s have. They :
- have a curiosity about strangers
- challenge prejudices & discover common ground instead
- try another person’s life
- listen hard and open up
- inspire action and change
- develop an ambitious imagination
Now, more than ever, in these days of revolution, I believe we are in need of a Revolution of Empathy. A Revolution of love in action that hears and feels the hurt, feelings, and deep seated emotions. A revolution that seeks to listen, feel, and cry with others. A revolution that will indeed change society, politicians, and government.
A revolution of people committed to strangers, who will not just lay aside personal prejudices, but change them, all while seeking to hear broken hearts and try on what it’s like to be that person. Revolutionaries who will listen hard and be open in return. Revolutionaries who will inspire others to join in this Revolution of Empathy and Love and expect big and lasting changes in our world.
We are in need of the Revolution of love that Jesus demonstrated with Barabbas.
Cheers to you.