My family and I decided to start off our vacation by visiting family back in Kenosha, Wisconsin. That’s right, THE Kenosha, Wisconsin.
We arrived a day after riots, fires, and looting had started.
Places that I had walked past my whole life were now piles of smoldering rubble. An old friend’s business, was burned to the ground. Our first night there, three people were shot, and two of them died.
It was far from the “best place to raise your kids” town that I grew up in. It had become a frightening place where people from outside the community had come to create chaos and destruction.
I was heartbroken and anxious. But, most of all, I was angry. Furious. I wanted to hurt back. A friend said that he knew where all of these out-of-town rioters had parked their cars, and suggested that we pay them back by vandalizing their vehicles.
I have to admit, I was tempted. I wasn’t going to let the fact that I’m middle-aged, and not particularly fast, stop me.
But then my wife (and voice of reason) chimed in, “Is that what Jesus would do?”
I hate it when she asks that.
Needless to say, I didn’t slash any tires or graffiti and windshields. I just seethed and wrung my hands.
Then, some local church leaders announced that they would be gathering in the park where the protests began each night, and that they were going to pray and worship the Lord for two hours.
Unfortunately, we had to head out of town a couple of hours before their meeting began, but I heard the reports, and they were amazing.
Nothing short of supernatural.
Around a thousand believers showed up to cry out to God for their city. People were set free, they gave their lives to Jesus, and were baptized. There was reconciliation. It was miraculous.
You know what else? The protests that night (and every night since) were peaceful. No more burning. No more looting. Just marching and declaring their petition.
I guess love really does win. Fighting fire with fire really is futile. When Jesus wanted to flex his muscles, he washed feet and sacrificed his life.
If only we could learn to ignore the impulse to take an eye for an eye, and turn that energy toward prayer and loving service. We might just see more miracles!
Wherever you stand on the issues we face today, I hope it’s motivated by Christ-like love.
Well, hopefully, the rest of my vacation will be more relaxing!
I remember, years ago, a mentor of mine saying that no two people should ever get married without first having an intense fight. Luckily, my then fiance (now wife) and I had that covered. About an hour after I asked her to marry me, we were standing in the street having a shouting match on a cold winter night. Classy, right? I know but we worked through it, and here we are still married after almost 25 years.
One of the mistakes we make when considering love (for a spouse, our children, or anyone else we claim to love) is that we assume that fond feelings must be attached. We might be endeared to a person and tell them that we love them. Love and endearment really aren’t the same thing.
I remember a guy walking up to me, after a particularly lively and emotional time of church worship, saying, “I love you man. I’m committed to you.” I hardly ever heard from him after that.
A very good friend of mine, who was married for decades, told me he was leaving his wife because he wasn’t enjoying himself anymore and there was a younger woman who made him feel special.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned about love. If you’re not willing to put the work into it, if you’re not willing to stick with someone when things get tough, if you’re not willing to commit when you’re not getting anything out of it, then it’s not love.
Maybe it’s like, maybe it’s fond feelings, maybe it’s fun. But it’s not love.
The thing with love (real love) is that it’s willing to work through the ugly, willing to go long periods of time performing acts of love without feelings, and even willing to pray, believe, and be kind when the other person is pushing you away.
I have an autistic son that is currently going through a phase where he flies into a rage for seemingly very small things. When he has one of these episodes, he says hurtful things, yells, and shakes his fist. My gut response is to say something cutting and walk away. I’m tired.
Every time, I have to make the a deliberate decision to love.
I have to intentionally speak with love, not fight fire with fire (which I sometimes fail at), and renew my commitment to walk with him through this season of his life. It’s hard but love is hard. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.
Before I wrap this up, I want to ask you, who do you need to love stronger?
Have you checked out of one of your most important relationships? Do you find yourself judging people that really need love? Are you distancing yourself from someone who’s difficult to love?
Love stronger. Push through. Keep loving.
I recently wrote a short e-book called The Love Stronger Manifesto and I want to give you a copy. Just click here to download it. My prayer is that you’ll read it and accept the challenge to love yourself and others in a way that can change the world.
Love can heal broken people, can transform your life, and can make a difference in our families and communities.
I have the privilege of working with Bethany Neumeyer as the Prayer Team Leader at our church. She’s also a great spoken word poet and wrote this as an illustration during our “Living a Passionate Mission” series. It’s pretty much an amazing piece. Enjoy!
This is my friend Shelby. She frequently visits the shelter I help at. I met her there last Christmas when my family and I went to go help serve Christmas dinner. She usually wears sunglasses and a cute hat. I’ll join her towards the end of lunch and she’ll tell me what the squirrels say when she drinks her coffee in the park. She also shares about her daughter in New Mexico, her kittens, and the life she once knew a long time ago.
Yesterday, she approached me and asked if I would pray for her. She said she was on day 5 of her “new life”. She couldn’t tell me what her new life was all about or what it entailed but she knew that she needed a new life and that she couldn’t live it without a little help. I was honored to sit next to her and say a prayer.
I have to admit, I wonder why she asked me. We’ve never really talked about faith before. Most of the time I just sit and listen. When I’m not sitting with her, I’m usually helping participants fill out assistance forms or hauling bags of dog food for our pet assistance program. It’s not like I wear a t-shirt that says “Licensed Minister” and I know she’s never read my blog.
The only conclusion I can make is that maybe all that sitting, listening, smiling, and serving has made an impression that no amount of preaching, shoulder patting, scripture quoting, or advice giving could ever make.
Whatever the reason, I’m glad she asked me to pray and I’m still praying that her “new life” continues on to day 6, day 7, 8, 9, 10 and keeps on going.
For a long time I’ve believed that the truly hard things in Life were the “big” things. You know, taking that missions trip, making that financial pledge, praying like crazy every day. Something really adventurous might be starting a ministry or learning a new skill. Lately I’ve come to realize that those things aren’t really that hard at all and that the things I once considered no brainers are actually quite soul-wrenching. Here are a few examples of what I mean…
Forgiving others. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to truly forgive someone? We say the words but the pain is still there. Letting go of the bitterness, anger, and feelings of betrayal can feel exhausting at times. These things are like the neighborhood cat that won’t stay away from your house! You get rid of them, and you never hear them sneak back up on you.
Letting dreams go. Eventually, we have to just let some dreams die. The truth is, there is only so much room in our lives and, if we’re going to be faithful in the position God has placed us in, we have to let some things go. Let’s face it, can we really be a good father, husband, or whatever and still pursue all our “great ideas”. That’s not to say some dreams aren’t God given and He will give them back to us, but the right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.
Trust. Do we really trust God with everything? We’ve sang about trusting, declared our dependence, and spoken confidently about giving everything to Him. The truth is, we don’t mean it. When the rubber hits the road and a real life choice is before us, we chicken out, rationalize, or make excuses. We hold on to relationships we don’t belong in, we stay in jobs that aren’t right for us, and we hold on to our money because we’ve financially overextended ourselves.
Be loved. Why is allowing ourselves to simply be loved so difficult? Here we are the very center of Abba’s affection and we won’t just let him lavish His love on us. How do we do this? I’ll tell you how…
By forgiving others, we allow God to heal the pain they’ve caused us. We release them from judgment and His love just seems to settle on us like a tailored coat.
Letting go of our dreams allows God to lead us in new directions. He longs to take us by the hand and walk with us to new places.
Trust is the truest sign of love. As we trust God with everything, I mean really truly, holding nothing back everything, we experience God’s love in a whole new way. Trusting God is like saying, “I receive your love. Let’s do life together!”
The great thing about receiving God’s love is that it makes it so much easier to love other people. It’s unselfish love because it doesn’t have to be returned or reciprocated. It doesn’t have to be returned because no love, that any person gives us, can be compared to The Father’s love.
So choose to do the hard stuff. Forgive, let go, trust, and receive His love. The rest will seem like cake!