God Delights in Goodness and Truth…

     The Apostle John declares …God is love. (1 John 4:8). If that statement is true, which I believe unequivocally it is, then 1 Corinthians 13:6 could read,

God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

     There’s no doubt about it. We live in a world filled with much evil and pain.

     Theological debates over God’s role in the suffering of humankind have raged for millennia and is not the discussion today. Instead, during this time when we’ve been exploring several verses from the Bible’s ‘love chapter,’ I’d like to say, my firm belief and personal experience are that while God never initiates pain and suffering, God’s mercy and grace can recycle it for a very good purpose.

     The life, death and resurrection of Jesus illustrate that truth like no other. My friend, JC’s, story also testifies to the veracity of 1 Corinthians 13:6.

     I met JC when I went to Spain on an educational pilgrimage in 2018. A fellow pilgrim, she became a sister-of-the heart. I was delighted to learn JC was also going to be a student in the same Spiritual Direction program I began in September 2019.


     After being named first runner-up in a state Miss America pageant, JC became a grooming consultant for Pageant contestants and successful business owner. Now in her middle-age years, JC continues to exude panache and is what I’d call a “woman of influence—” poised, articulate, generous, kind spirited, and a true friend to many.

     Despite numerous good gifts, JC has experienced great loss, pain, and suffering in the past few years: bankruptcy; the death of her beloved strong, body-builder husband following a short and brutal bought of cancer; followed almost immediately with her own debilitating fight with the dreaded “C” word.

     Following our trip to Spain, JC spent a year in Europe teaching music in an International Christian school. During a break in October, she went to Paris. While there, JC walked alone across Love Lock Bridge. She said, “I felt sad not having anyone to share the beautiful city and sidewalk cafés with. Life’s experiences are much more enjoyable when they are shared with a friend or companion.”

     During this season of being alone, JC began working with a Spiritual Director. “Even though I know I am fully capable of walking alone, I discovered on that bridge in Paris I desire companionship.” In her relationship with a Spiritual Director, JC found unconditional love and companionship that revealed Christ’s love and helped her discover who God is and what God’s next step was for her.

“Recalling the emotions of that walk alone is what drew me to see the value of Spiritual Direction and developed the desire within me to be there for others.” JC is quick to point out, “A spiritual director doesn’t take the place of Christ, but the director is desiring with every moment and prayer to be pointing a person to see Christ’s love even in life’s darkest days.”

     With a twinkle in her eye, JC relates, “Six months later I returned to Love Lock Bridge with my personalized padlock on which I had hand-written JC loves JC. I attached the lock to the bridge and tossed the keys into the Seine River. I am still alone, but I am not alone because I have Christ and a Spiritual Director.”

     JC has experienced 1 Corinthians 13:6 first-hand. Even though she has faced deep pain and suffering, she knows God did not delight in the forces of evil she experienced. Furthermore, she walks with joy in this truth:

God is love!

My prayer for each of us:

God Who is Love,

Please help each of us walk in this amazing truth JC has discovered.

Amen

Sue Reeve

What Love is NOT About…

     Sometimes I’ve found the best way to define something is to contrast it with what that thing is not. I’m guessing that was the Apostle Paul’s decision when he wrote his treatise on love. 1 Corinthians 13, also known as the “Love Chapter,” does quite a bit of contrasting, telling what love is not.

     Verse 5[1] is the sentence I’ll consider today.

     Love does not dishonor others. Gossip, cliquish exclusions, distracted listening, sarcasm or even disdainful facial expressions are dishonoring behaviors.

     Labeling is another. Several years ago, I decided to avoid attaching “labels” when discussing people.

     I desire to reflect grace by not using disparaging adjectives. I also try to avoid focusing on another’s disability, race, politics, religion, or least attractive feature, never using those the first descriptor. Although not perfect, this is one way I’ve committed to honor, rather than “dishonor others.”

     Love is not self-seeking. This one makes me say, “Ouch!” In the past few months while pursuing my certification in Spiritual Direction and doing my own intensive ‘soul’ work, I’ve become aware of how important it is that others think highly of me. If not mindful of this tendency, this desire may lead me into “self-seeking” behaviors.

     I am grateful for awareness such as this. An aspect of choosing a faith journey that becomes an adventure is there will always be an element of transformation—change that occurs from the inside out—in which the Spirit invites me to participate.

     Love is not easily angered. Controlled anger is a worthwhile emotion, but when expressed outwardly or repressed inwardly, anger leads to hurt and harm. I’ve worked hard on this aspect of my character, but there are still times when my anger wins.

     Anger is the type of issue people often discuss with a Spiritual Director. As I’ve done so, I’ve made some important discoveries. One, anger is a secondary emotion. The underlying emotions are generally fear or pain. I’m grateful for God’s grace and willingness to help me gain greater understanding. Allowing God’s Spirit access to emotions such as anger always results in freedom.

     Finally, Love keeps no record of wrongs. Does this mean we must forget about harmful wrongs we’ve experienced? No, I believe only God has that capability. Instead, we can

     choose forgiveness,

          learn to set healthy boundaries,

               take proactive action steps, and

                    allow God’s transforming grace to weave dark experiences into a beautiful, rich life tapestry filled with depth and meaning.

     In addition, concerning a “record of wrongs,” my husband reminds me not to forget Garth Brook’s hit tune lyrics and make sure I don’t bury the hatchet but keep the handle sticking out!

     I close today with a prayer I wrote one recent morning:

Lord of Light,

When darkness fills my soul;

When shadows from the past dim my senses;

When cares cloud my way,

Remind me to:

Grasp the hand of faith;

Step into the light of love; and

Allow you to lead me onto the best pathway

For your glory and honor.

Amen

May your days be blessed with transformational love…

Sue Reeve

  1. From NIV

Love Does not Envy and Boast; Love is not Proud…

     1 Corinthians 13 is called the “Love” Chapter. In Monday’s post we began to look at verse 14. The first sentence tells what love is: Love is patient and kind. The second sentence in verse 14 identifies what love isn’t:

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:14b

     According to Wikipedia, Aristotle defined envy as the pain a person experiences at the sight of another person’s good fortune. Jealousy, bitterness and resentment are all characteristics of envy. As I think about envy, I realize this is often an interior, perhaps secret attitude of the heart. Envy can be masked with a disingenuous compliment.

     Boastfulness, on the other hand, is generally pretty noticeable. Arrogant, bragging, big-headed behaviors are hard to hide.

     Pride may manifest itself with egotistic, vane or self-important characteristics. Another form of pride, however, occurs in the person who believes he or she is indispensable or responsible for taking care of the needs or sins of others.

     The other day, I was visiting with a young wife who told me her conscience was pricked when she realized she was focusing on her husband’s behavior weaknesses rather than her own. The sincere woman said she’d been reminded of words Jesus spoke:

 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  (Matthew 7:3 NKJV)

     I’m no longer a young wife, but I sure could relate to her observation!

     I must be purposeful about dealing with my “plank” rather than focusing on another’s “speck.” For instance, it’s a whole lot easier to identify envy, boastfulness and pride in someone else.

     Ignatius of Loyola stressed the importance of experiencing sorrow, tears and confusion over one’s own sins, but always in the light of God’s unlimited love, grace and mercy. Before I became acquainted with St. Ignatius, I’d reached this same conclusion.

     The more I realized what the Apostle Paul called the width and length and depth and height of God’s love (Ephesians 3:18) and that there is no accusing voice of condemnation against those who are joined in life-union with Jesus (Romans 8:1 TPT), the more I realized the freedom that comes when I’m willing to recognize and acknowledge “planks” in my own eye.

     When I say, “God, I’m so sorry. I did IT (whatever IT may be) again,” I come with the absolute assurance God won’t be angry and won’t abuse me emotionally or spiritually. God won’t gasp an exasperated sigh, wag a warning finger, or make a sarcastic comment.

     Instead, God will wrap arms of unconditional love around my soul, accept my confession and validate my growing self-awareness. God will give strength for my next steps and grace to help me amend my ways.

     If you’re one of my friends fortunate enough to receive a sweet Valentine’s card tomorrow, enjoy. Whether or not you’re blessed with a Hallmark sentiment, I hope you’ll allow the words of a never-changing God to sink deeply into your heart:

To __(insert your name here)__, the one I love,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”[1]

From your God who is love…

Happy Valentine’s Day…

Sue Reeve

 

  1. Hebrews 13:5