Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Love Never Fails

Sitting here on the airplane (okay I wrote this yesterday, pretty low-tech with pen and ink) thoughts fly through my head (see what I did there??) as I reflect on the series of events leading up to this moment in time.

Anyone that knows me, knows I am not a relaxed person. I'm high maintenance, I get stressed easily, and I often have a short fuse. All of these result in very unloving, untrusting, un-Christlike examples of living. Whenever I run into situations where my emotions are on overload, I often seek an escape to those feelings or that situation. My escape in these times is often my music. Not my music (I have not been blessed with stellar vocal chords or "called deadly for a killer show tune medley"... I've got a dream) but the music I listen to I consider "mine"... ** on a brief side note, no blog post would be complete without a Disney/Tangled reference. If you caught it, I commend you. If you didn't, check out the youtube video below. ;) **

As I now poorly transition back on topic, I was sitting on the airplane after a long, exhausting day and as I began drifting into the semi-dreamland that airplane rides allow a melody by Brandon Heath started playing through my headphones -- "Love Never Fails". If you've never heard it before, listen to it.. or else!... you are missing out on a really great song. The first few lines of the song go like this: "Love is not proud. Love does not boast. Love after all matters the most. Love does not run. Love does not hide. Love does not keep locked inside. Love is a river that flows through and love never fails you." (This song references the Bible in case you didn't know ... 1 Corinthians 13) When the song came on it really struck a chord (unintentional) with me.

I have been struggling lately. I've been anxious and stressed, trying over and over to overcome these emotions on my own accord. Sometimes (more often then I would like to admit) when I allow negative emotions to control me, it often results in me hurting those I love whether it is shutting them out or acting out of anger... so completely unloving. I'm writing a blog about how I am learning to be more loving and admitting that lately I have not been nearly as loving as I should be. Lately, I > anyone else. Lately, I have failed to love. Luckily for me, I have the intellect to learn and the blessings of knowing how loved I am that I can change. Using better terminology, I can allow myself to be changed for the better. The more I learn how to be accepting and trusting of the love from the creator of love itself, the more I will allow Him to change my heart to be one that is completely giving and completely loving. I can be changed to be a true example of love that brings true JOY.

JOY, J-O-Y. It is a small word that can have a huge impact especially for those who know where true joy comes from. True joy comes from the Lord. It comes from loving and trusting in our Savior and knowing that He is faithful. It is very clear to me that I am not always faithful or loving or trusting and there are times when I am a selfish human being. I fall. I fail. I struggle. God is constant. His love is constant. His love never fails.

He has reminded me of that a lot lately. That He hasn't given up on me and that He has no intention to. It's a sad thing when I choose "me" over anyone else especially my Creator, my Savior, my Helper and Guide because it emphasizes how I have fallen and failed. I (we) ultimately have two choices in this life that result in where we end up in the life to come. We either love God first, love others second, and love ourselves last (JOY... Jesus, others, yourself - in that order) or we love the promises of this world and ourselves above all others. We can choose to trust in His promises and give Him our struggles, our temptations, our fears, our anxieties, and our weaknesses to let Him heal us or we try to carry it all and solve it all on our own. We accept God or we reject Him. There isn't a middle ground. Accepting God is choosing to give up ourselves, our plans, our comfort zones, and our desires for a greater purpose and for the promise of eternal life in heaven with our Savior.

God's been "tugging on my heartstring" as my fiance put it. I was propelled into a journey of seeking a better relationship with Jesus about a year ago. I sought out Truth and discovered all these "truths" about what Christianity is. I got lost in different doctrines and systems of belief, worship, and praise. I was trying to find out what truth was complete and what to trust in rather than focusing on who to trust in.

I have a sticker on my computer. It says "Jesus, I trust in you." When I started trying to focus on what to trust in, I got reminders (in Church, in the car, at home, in a Lighthouse Catholic Media CD, and on Divine Mercy Radio) over and over again telling me to trust in Him. I need to focus on who (Jesus!) to trust in and the what will be revealed (yes it will take discernment and understanding and numerous blessings and gifts from that awesome helper the Holy Spirit) but the who comes first. The phrase "Jesus I trust in you" was re-iterated over and over in Church and the media I listen to. That should have been my first hint. I was being given what I needed but I was blinded or I chose not to listen. I still really believe that it is necessary to find the complete truth (as complete as God's revelation allows for me and my life) of Christianity (because relativism just doesn't cut it) but it is essential that I am trusting completely in the One who saves before any of that is possible. "Jesus, I trust in you." X as many times as needed. That will be my constant prayer and reminder.

I was reminded to trust again (this seems like a process... a very re-iterative one) last week at church and this week as well. Last week, the pastor talked about our daily walk with Christ and being rooted in Christ. I need to walk with Him daily if I am going to be rooted in Him... DUH (**gets hit on the head with a hammer or a Bible...no, gets handed a Bible, an open a Bible full of God's promises**)

"Me. me. me., wedding planning, and major life decisions have been ruling my life the past month (or two) and here I am being reminded again to trust and not only being reminded but being taught ways that I can build up that relationship and that trust. I'm an engineer. I should be able to figure this out, correct? 1 + 1 = 2 (if only it was that easy). If a radio navigation box is put together without screws and installed into an aircraft, that radio is going to fail the harsh environmental conditions (vibration, probably thermal) because it is not complete. A door may fall off or something inside the box will break because it wasn't secured properly causing other internal failures to the circuitry and the components that keep the radio working. If I try to work, live, or exist of my own accord without God's grace, help, and mercy then I am the unsecured box trying to function in harsh conditions. I am not complete and I will fail. The initial failure mode will continue to cause other failure modes until I allow myself to be fixed, put back together, and secured properly to withstand any conditions. A human being without a Savior will live in a life of sin without healing and without hope.

We all struggle. We talked about that in Church this week. All the biblical examples of people who were chosen by God to fulfill his promises, struggled and sometimes (often) failed. However, they had faith. They knew their (our) Lord was worthy of trust because His promises are unmatched and fulfilled. We read Hebrews and they spoke of people who overcame and conquered through faith, but it also spoke of those who were tortured, condemned, and suffered for their faith. People who trust in the Lord's promises and believe in His unending love and grace find joy and hope and love in all situations.

There is a woman I heard about when listening to Catholic radio. She got pregnant with her first child and her and her husband were told during the pregnancy that the baby was going to die shortly after birth. The doctors tried to convince her to have an abortion but they decided they were going to give the child as much life as possible. The woman went through her pregnancy and the child died shortly after birth. She got pregnant again and they found out the same thing about this child as they had with the previous pregnancy. The couple made the same decision to give the child as much life as possible and the child also died shortly after birth. A third time, this couple got pregnant. The baby was healthy, but the mother had been diagnosed with cancer shortly after the pregnancy. She refused cancer treatment for the health and life of the child. The third child was born and the woman died from her cancer shortly after. Through all her trials she didn't stop trusting in God's promises or plans and she chose the life of another through love over her own life.

Pope (now Saint) John Paul II was shot in an attempted assassination. He not only forgave the man who attempted to kill him, but he befriended him. He showed him love, care, and concern for his soul. He knew of Christ's love and promises and he shared these with this man. I get upset when people hurt my feelings and find it difficult to forgive. How much strength it must take to forgive someone who tries to kill you. How much trust, joy, and life He must have found in Christ in order to be able to act out of love over anger.

There was another young woman I heard about named Chiara Badano (look her up!). She died the month and year I was born. October 1990. Chiara was so in love with Jesus. She was diagnosed with bone cancer and her response was "It's for you, Jesus; if you want it, I want it, too." How much trust this woman had to be able to declare through her painful, terminal illness her complete faith and trust in our Lord. She had so much love for the Lord. A Cardinal came to visit her in the hospital once. He asked her, "The light in your eyes is splendid. Where does it come from?" Chiara replied, "I try to love Jesus as much as I can."

Human examples of grace and love are not even close to Christ's love or grace but through the help of the Holy Spirit and knowing where to place our trust we can learn to love others better. We don't deserve what we have been given by Christ through His death and resurrection but He gives it out of love. We should be able to grown and learn to give love others in that way. We should try to love Jesus as much as we can no matter what life brings.

Everytime I thank Brent for being patient with me or for loving me when I am being selfish, he often (always) says "that's grace hon" because I'm usually asking for forgiveness and love when I don't deserve it. He loves me even when I am a pain, stressed, "bride-zilla" or a "scared of change-zilla" He forgives me and he continues to love me ESPECIALLY when I don't deserve it. That's an amazing human love. It shows me how much greater and how perfect God's love, grace, and forgiveness is.

I could probably write pages and pages of my sins throughout my life and even daily. I know everytime I sin, I'm choosing something else over God and that it hurts Him because He loves me (and you!) infinitely and perfectly. He never stops calling or seeking or tugging at our heart. Love is a two-way street. We have to not only acknowledge God's love, but we have to choose whether or not to accept the love and grace and we have to choose to love Him back just for who He is.

Choosing God means allowing Him to change you. It means making ammends with Him because you have hurt Him. If you love someone, you apologize and you make ammends for the hurt you have caused. You (we) need to be reconciled with Him and we need to open our hearts to allow Him to change us. Months and months ago on my journey, we were reading a Bible passage where we were described as clay in the potter's hands. An artist, a potter takes nothing and turns it into something. God doesn't tweak lives to fit into the mold, ideas, or plans we have. He changes lives in order to fulfill His greatest plans.

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