Traditions, Expectations, and Love: Valentine’s Day in Retrospect

I was highly amused by my Facebook newsfeed on Valentine’s Day and felt a few observations were in order. The newlyweds were gawking over the elements comprising romantic perfection (e.g. cards, chocolates, flowers, and special dinners). The singles were contrasting this day of love with their own life by generally either mocking the holiday, eating too much chocolate, or encouraging others with God’s love.

And then a select few posed an entirely different perspective. “Why should demonstrations of love be reserved for just one day of the year?” they asked.

This question puzzled me. As a sincere romantic, I initially thought this was disgracing the legacy of love. But thoughtful consideration has generated even deeper questions.

Photo Credit: Freakysita via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Freakysita via Compfight cc

Have we allowed holiday traditions to dictate our expectations of love? And consequently, have we reduced love to chocolates and roses?

Isn’t the truest love to lay down our lives for another? (John 15:13) To esteem others better than ourselves? (Philippians 2:3) Authentic, Christ-saturated love is not bound by time or tangibles. It is perpetual and powerful. (1 Corinthians 13:8, Song of Solomon 8:7)

Flowers wither in time and chocolates vanish once eaten, but real love never fades. Let me be quick to say, I love both flowers (especially gerbera daisies) and chocolates (the darker the better). And I realize these can be demonstrations of love.

My concern is the subtle replacement of intangible, self-sacrificing charity with tangible perishables. One box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day will never mask the absence of genuine love on the other 364 days.

Love endures long and is patient and kind;

Love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy,

Love is not boastful or vainglorious,

Love does not display itself haughtily.

Love is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride);

Love is not rude, unmannerly, and does not act unbecomingly.

Love, God’s love in us, does not insist on its own rights or its own way,

Love is not self-seeking;

Love is not touchy or fretful or resentful;

Love takes no account of the evil done to it (pays no attention to a suffered wrong).

Love does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes,

Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person,

Love’s hopes are fadeless under all circumstances

Love endures everything without weakening.

Love never fails, never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end.

I want to propose a 365-Love Challenge. It is simple: each day pick one aspect of love (listed above) and intentionally demonstrate it. Take it one day at a time. Love is a marathon, not a sprint.

My desire is to be an incessant conduit of Christ-saturated love so that by next Valentine’s Day there will be a legacy of authentic love to validate gerbera daisies and dark chocolate.

Will you join me in purposefully and authentically loving those God has placed in our lives, every day for the next year? Would you take 60 seconds to send me an email so I can pray for you and encourage you along the way?

Let the 365-Love Challenge begin!

3 Steps to Stop Not Losing and Start Winning

In most sports the overall objective is to win, but with soccer, not losing is a legitimate goal. If the team can tie up the score, they will have achieved a satisfactory measure of success.  Not winning, but not losing either.

Photo Credit: VarsityLife via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: VarsityLife via Compfight cc

This might be acceptable for soccer, but when it comes to living life, not losing is a pitiful goal and typically not something we desire. Very few people wake up and think, “Mediocrity will suffice today. I just want to maintain the status quo. I want to not lose.” Even if we did think this, we probably wouldn’t admit it. But too often our actions reflect this kind of thinking. We are risk adverse. We gravitate towards safety, comfort, and convenience. It’s natural. We like the idea of winning, but its reality seems elusive.

What if we dared to actually win? To be the best in our field? What if we wanted our work to be characterized by excellence and not mediocrity? How do we stop not losing and start winning?

1. Identify the win. And be specific. What does “win” look like for your job? Your family? Your community? Write down every detail.

2. Implement the means. How will you begin today to chart the path to your newly identified win(s)? What sacrifices will you have to make? Who will keep you accountable? Begin with one step towards winning. And then take another step. And then another.

3. Anticipate the challenge. Whether it’s your doubtful extended family, a strained economy, the inevitable unexpected, or the known risks, you will encounter resistance. It’s part of winning. Expect it. You must have the will to prepare to win.

Winning may look different for different people, but it is always illustrated with intentional focus and perseverance. Would you be willing to forfeit not losing for the sake of winning?

Stillness in an Over-Stimulated World

Chatter, music, movies, advertisements, social media, and a plethora of electronic devices ensure our lives are, at a minimum, noisy. Life has become a perpetual stream of consciousness fed by the loudest digital source at the moment. We have an epidemic condition commonly referred to as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). We can’t sit still. We can’t be quiet.

paris driving

Do we even remember what silence is? It’s the complete absence of sound.

When was the last time all of your electronic devices were simultaneously in the off position and you were not flying? Perhaps we’re afraid of missing something. Or maybe it has been so long since we were truly quiet that the idea of a world absent sound terrifies us.

The question naturally arises, why do we need to be quiet when there is much to do and see and talk about? The answer is simple: to know God.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

Stillness is an opportunity to learn who the Lord of Hosts is. It forces us to listen. Unplugging from the constant entourage of stimulation allows us to focus entirely on the Creator of the universe. He is a self-revealing God who desires for us to know Him intimately deeper than our 30-second-microwavable devotionals.

The Amplified version phrases the admonition, “Let be and be still, and know that I am God.” Knowing God requires time and stillness. However, retaining an unmoved posture does not automatically equate with the knowledge of God. Stillness is a conduit that allows the Word of God to seep into our minds and penetrate our hearts. Silence prepares our heart to learn.

Being still is rare because it is difficult. Well, let’s be honest- it’s almost impossible in our over-stimulated world. But the reward for intentionally silencing the commotion around us to know our God cannot be measured.

Will you join me in taking the challenge to be still and know our God? To completely unplug from the world and listen to the Lord of Hosts?

Whether it’s thirty minutes, 2 hours, or the whole day, let’s set aside time today to be quiet.

Be still and know that He is God.

Go adventure.

Life happens fast. Whether categorized by survival, maintenance, or sheer delight, time escapes without return. Seize every moment. Stop postponing your “someday” plans because someday is never guaranteed. We have today, this moment. What about the vacation to Santorini, Greece you’ve been dreaming about?  Or the dance lessons you always wanted to take? The Tough Mudder you purposed to conquer? The friend you promised to meet for coffee? The course you wished you could take? Buy the airfare and block your calendar at work. Sign up for a dance lesson. Create a Tough Mudder team. Call your friend. Enroll in the course and secure your books.

tough mudder

Be intentional about your life. Start living this moment to the fullest instead of fantasizing of an alternate life in a world of somedays. Break your comfortable norm and take a risk. Go adventure.

What risk will you take today to start living your someday dreams?

Craving Community

We are all designed for community, regardless of personality.

And I’m not just referring to the kind of community that resides in the same zip code. We were created to communicate with others. Friends, family, colleagues, classmates, and clients are all part of this network called community. And with today’s technology and social media, it is easier than ever to connect with hundreds and even thousands of people around the world.

How is it possible then, that I can be drowning in connections and still crave community? Where is the disconnect between being surrounded by people and actually having community?

Intentionality.

Community springs from authentic relationships that require effort to initiate and maintain. Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and LinkedIn connections, are merely an avenue to facilitate building relationships. Assuming a social media platform will magically be transformed into community is a catastrophic misconception. It requires individual hard work and persistence. But most importantly, community demands intentionality.

Communicate purposefully. Invest relationally. Create your own community.