Forget Me Not

It’s Mother’s Day and I’m fortunate enough to have my mom yet alive so as to celebrate this day with her. There have been times this past year when her health brought her mortality into sharp focus. While she is currently living in remission, this too is a gift because this reprieve of disease is a reminder to all of her family, that each day is a gift to be lived to the full.

But I’ve also noticed that when life settles into dull routines, minus the urgencies of life-threatening drama or stress, it is easy to get lazy about cherishing the gift of life and the gift of those precious people God has put in our midst to love.

This is why it is a special comfort and delight to know that our Maker, the Designer and Engineer of Mother-Love, has no capability or capacity for forgetfulness. The proof of His abiding love for all of us is in the indelibly engraved love note in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus.

Can a woman forget her nursing child?
Will she have no compassion on the child from her womb?
Although mothers may forget, I will not forget you.
I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.
(Isaiah 49:15-16 GOD’S WORD Copyright © 1995)

No Longer an Exile

Death is no longer banishment, it is a return from exile, a going home to the many mansions where the loved ones already dwell.
We are not far from home–a moment will bring us there.

(Morning & Evening ~ Spurgeon)

I love the image that is conjured in my mind when I consider Spurgeon’s description of death being our return from exile. I strongly identify with being in exile because that’s what I so often feel like as a resident of O town ~ exiled from the larger world, from so many friends and family. And yet, these feelings perhaps are not too far from true if I view them in perspective of eternity.

If I believe that I am a created in the image of the Living God, then while I exist in this world He created for us to inhabit, it only makes sense that I feel like I am living in it as a foreigner; this world is not my home! While I clearly delight in the natural beauty of His creation, my heart tells me that there is so much more to life than what I experience through my senses. This world is not my final destination! I was created and designed to live in the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the only possible explanation that makes sense to my heart; this can be the only explanation as to why everything here on Earth feels so other worldly. So while I live on Earth I live as one with dual citizenship. A resident of Earth, but a native of the Kingdom of Heaven. This world is not my home!

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:2-4 NIV

So as Spurgeon notes, “we are not far from home — a moment will bring us there”, my dual citizenship allows me great privilege indeed. I may access the Kingdom of Heaven while living in the Kingdom of Earth when I practice the native tongue of my homeland: LOVE. So then, I am indeed something like an Ambassador…a representative of the homeland, and as such I live closest to my homeland when I live in LOVE during my exile. And while I simultaneously straddle today and eternity, I find comfort and joy knowing that my days in exile are not so long as to make me forget from whence I came. Because, in a moment, in the not too distant future, I will close my eyes and awaken again…no longer an exile.

A Tough Nut

Whether we use this term to describe a person or the hard shelled edible fruit or seed of a tree, a tough nut is hard to crack for many reasons. Sometimes I think of myself in these terms. I don’t know if others do, it doesn’t matter really, but I do know that mental toughness is a valuable skill to attain. As a runner, I’ve learned that mental toughness is absolutely essential when engaging in competitive long distance events. The ability to effectively manage bodily discomforts during a long distance run via the mind, can mean the difference between success or failure.

But long before I was a runner, I had endured enough hard-knocks which toughened me up in other areas of my character too. Of course, as a person who holds firmly to my faith as a Christ follower, I would sometimes feel guilty for the hard lines that characterized my inner self. But I rationalized this hardness of me, by perceiving it as my safety mechanism. Hardness protected me from those things, those people, those situations that had the potential to break me down.

And then today I continued my reading of a book by Anne Lamott, Small Victories, and what does she do but describe her beautiful friend who is dying from leukemia as “a pretty tough customer in her private life, though she had become visibly softer.” Ms. Lamott observed in her friend that it took cancer to ‘wedge a certain kind of person open, so that many new things can get in.’  Wham! Wow! Seriously? A certain kind of person? What kind of person? A tough nut kind of person? Um, yes…hello! So tough nuts get wedged open? by cancer? by hard things in life? Ouch! I don’t want to be that kind of person!

I next find myself ruminating on this idea while I’m running later in the morning. And of course, I’m thinking about tough nuts and how hard some of them are to crack open. Then I considered the destiny of the hard to open nut…it isn’t pretty…and I am sure you know what’s coming…the hammer, right? That’s right, a tough nut gets the hammer or it gets tossed into the waste bucket. And why I wondered do we treat hard, unopened nuts with such force and determination? Why, because unopened, nuts are not good for much of anything, except maybe the compost pile. A nut’s value is in its insides, its fruit or seed is it vitality; its life-giving energy; so first, the hard shell must be cracked open.

So yes, I am, from time to time, a tough nut to crack. But that’s only because I think ~ or rather, I perceive ~ that ‘hardness’ is akin to safety, to sanity, to longevity. But thankfully, today some cracks have been made anew on my tough outer shell; and through the cracks I continue to realize that hardness does not so much protect as it does to isolate. When I isolate my inner self, I shut out the illuminating life force of LOVE.

It takes LOVE to crack tough nuts like me, and you, open. It takes the LIGHT of LOVE to warm and guide us to safety outside our hard shells. But it is LOVE, and LOVE ONLY that will never fail to guide us so we may go forward to discover the treasures hidden for us in the hard things of life.

Love-Hate Relationship with Exercise?

Do you find yourself ‘zoning out’ during weight training repetitions or while you’re running for miles and miles on the treadmill? Are you looking for ways to distract yourself from the discomfort of your exercise routine instead of enjoying the physical activity for its own merits? Do you ever reach your fitness goals or do you lose interest or motivation long before a goal deadline? If you have a love-hate relationship with exercise, maybe you should ditch those exercise activities that you hate and start doing those activities you love. There is a strong connection between your mind-body when it comes to the benefits gained during exercise. If we don’t enjoy the activity, it is quite often not going to be beneficial to us. If we are not in-sync (mind/body) during exercise then we are inducing a stress response to exercise that negates any benefits we might otherwise reap from the activity. Instead, take the time to really dig down into your psyche, your memories, your feelings about exercise and consider the ways of moving your body which bring to mind happy thoughts or memories. These remembrances are the keys to identifying those activities in which you can happily engage on most days of the week. There is an oft quoted saying which states that “if we do what we love, we will never work a day in our life.” This same outlook or attitude can be transferred to the fitness activities in which we choose to engage. Once identified, activities that we love to do will seem more like child’s play rather than a prescribed, must-do exercise routine. So before you pickup another dumbbell or drag yourself to another group fitness class, make sure you know, deep down, what really drives you to stay fit; once identified, this knowledge will make reaching your fitness goals a journey you’ll enjoy rather than dread.

You have to fall in love with building the identity of someone who does the work, rather than merely dreaming about the results that you want. In other words fall in love with boredom. Fall in love with repetition and practice. Fall in love with the process of what you do and let the results take care of themselves.  James Clear

Got Love? Is it Genuine or just a Second-Hand Emotion?

Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy your loved ones today…and give yourself a hug too! Whether or not we feel it or believe it, our Creator is LOVE, and LOVE made all things in LOVE and for LOVE. And since we have been created in LOVE, we fulfill our destiny and purpose each and every day when we love the ONE who created us and when we love the OTHERS placed within our lives. Be careful then, how you live and how you love. Is your love life authentic? Or are you loving with the ebb and flow of your emotions? Not sure? Then you might want to review the definition of TRUE LOVE as defined by the AUTHOR of LOVE.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language)

Keep Love in Circulation

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day and everywhere we look we are reminded to actively engage our loved ones; whether we buy flowers or candies or cards to express our love, wouldn’t the world be a happier place if we lived ‘in-love’ every day of the year? Is that even possible? I think so…but we have to make loving others our primary intention for every day. Here are some wise words from other’s which can help us to better live our lives in LOVE:

John 3:16 For God So Loved the World That He Gave

No matter what your idea of heaven is ~ heaven on earth is about love ~ the biggest, most powerful, all-encompassing love you can imagine.
Marci Shimoff from Love for No Reason

For true love is inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have. And if you go to draw at the true fountainhead, the more water you draw, the more abundant is its flow.  Antoine de Saint-Exupry, 20th Century French writer and aviator

Love only grows in the world when we all share love. Love only grows by giving, by being broken and given like bread. We all only get more of the lives we want by giving away bits of the lives and love we have.  Ann Voskamp ~ The Way of Abundance

By its very design, the physical heart is made to give and to receive. It takes blood in from the body through one side and then pumps it out from the other, circulating it throughout the body. A healthy and open heart center does the same thing with love. It sends love out into the world and receives it in equal measure; it keeps love in circulation.  Marci Shimoff in Love for No Reason

Where there is love there is life. ~ Mahatma Gandhi