THE GREATEST OF THESE

 

Our small group has been studying I Corinthians, and we have been camped out for a couple of weeks in chapter 13.  The love chapter.  Most people are familiar with this passage even if they are not churchgoers or Bible-readers, as it is a favorite reading at weddings.  For centuries people have been expounding upon this passage, and writing about love in general.  So I am not sure I have anything new to add.  But if you will excuse the wandering and random thoughts, I would like to share some things.

This morning I woke up thinking about the infinite quality of love.  That is, we have an infinite ability to love, because love is infinite. Specifically I was thinking that when we love more, when we add more people into our love circle, love is not divided.  It is multiplied.  Love does not run out!

Ask any new mother who is holding her second (or third, or fourth…) newborn.  She is overwhelmed with love for this new little one.  But in no way does it subtract from the love she has for her first child, or for her husband for that matter.  She has enough room to love both children, because love never runs out.  Unless we willingly turn it off.

In my work, I see a good number of blended families…second, or third, or fourth marriages.  Think of the different family configurations these scenarios can present.  A common problem I see is something I will call turf wars.  I’m brining my children into this relationship, but I am not going to love yours.  Maybe I don’t even like yours.  It is as if loving these new children, or sometimes adults, will somehow diminish one’s love supply.  Sometimes the children of the new spouse are seen as a threat to the new marriage.  I don’t want you to continue loving your children.  You must now love only my children and me.  And sometimes it works the other way.  The children make no room to love the new stepparent.  They may not want to share their biological parents with these new outsiders.

Or consider friendships that are jealously guarded.  There is only room for you and me (or our chosen group).  No one else gets in.  Learning to love a new friend does not mean I no longer love you.

Now as I write these things, I acknowledge that while love is infinite, time is finite.  We have a limited amount of time, and relationships take time.  That is where priorities come in.  And intentionality.  I am blessed with a number of enduring friendships.  Some I see or talk to weekly, others maybe once every month or so. They are the kind of friendships that are relatively low maintenance.  We are all busy and we see each other when we can.  I know that June is having fun in London with Jeff, and Stephanie is busy with her grands, and others are on vacation or just plain busy! But these are people I love dearly and I know they love me too.  All I have to do is pick up the phone and they will be there.  In a few days Jerry and I will be going to Dallas to reconnect with a group of high school friends.  We have a mini reunion every year that is open to anyone who can make it. It always amazes me how those bonds that were so strong in high school fall right back into place.  I love them across time and miles.

Back to the love chapter. I told you this is random and meandering.  One commentary I read suggested replacing the word “love” with your own name:

Fran is Patient, Fran is kind. She is not proud.  She is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrong.  Fran does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  Fran always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I can tell you I fall short, woefully short, on every one of these.  And God has taken every opportunity to remind me.  “Fran are you keeping a record of a wrong, are you too easily provoked, are you persevering with this person even though they are difficult” and on and on.  I realize it is taking me a lifetime to master love as defined by God.

One more though about the infiniteness (is that a word?) of love.  It is in the last verse.  “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” One day, when this earth has passed away, when we are in the presence of Jesus, we will have no need for faith and hope, for those will be realized.  But love will always remain, because God is love.    

HYDRANGEAS AND QUIET TIMES

 

I have to give my sister credit for this one.  We were talking on the phone a few mornings ago.  She is in New York visiting her daughter, my niece, Jacque.  Apparently the part of New York where my niece lives (Long Island) produces hydrangeas in abundance.  I can’t even get mine to bloom!  My sister told me that Jacque went into the yard one afternoon to cut some hydrangea blossoms, and brought them into the house and put them in a vase of water.  They quickly drooped, and by the next morning they were gone.  That is when my sister gave Jacque a tip our grandmother had given us. She always cut her roses in the morning and quickly put them in the bucket of water she carried.  Jacque followed this procedure the next morning and the hydrangeas lasted for days.

 

I became curious about why this technique works so well.  I’m so glad I live in the Google age, because one can research anything. And I can’t pick up the phone and call my grandmother anymore.  It seems that early morning is the best time to cut flowers because they have had the benefit of a cooler night and their stems are full of water and carbohydrates. As the day heats up, flowers lose moisture, their stems are less firm, and the blooms become limp.  They have a hard time recuperating when they are cut and brought into the house.

 

So as my sister and I were talking about our grandmother’s advice, she pointed out the parallel of having a quiet time early in the morning, before the day heats up.  I know my day goes better when I start it with the Bible and a conversation with God.  And many times, if I don’t do it in the morning it just doesn’t happen. There are too many distractions during the day.  I am reminded of the last part of Proverbs 8:17: those who seek me early shall find meThere are other places in Scripture that encourage us to be still and alone with God before our day gets hectic. 

 

I knew there had to be a physiological reason why God would tell us to seek Him early.  So again I did a little research on one of my favorite subjects, the brain.  I found out that our brains are actually bigger in the morning!  Researchers using MRI scans found that the brain shrinks during the course of the day, returning to its full size the next morning.  What causes the brain to shrink?  Dehydration!  Just like hydrangeas, the brain loses water during the day.  And at night our brains rehydrate.  Think of a sponge.  When it is dry it is not nearly as big (or useful) as it is when it is fully hydrated. One theory of this mechanism is that fluids from the lower parts of our bodies are redistributed when we are lying down.  Another explanation is that the time of day has something to do with hydration.

 

Our brains are about 85% water, and brain function depends on having that water.  Water is necessary for the brain’s production of hormones and neurotransmitters, and essential for removing toxins.  When our brains are fully hydrated, we are able to think faster, be more focused, and experience greater clarity and creativity.  We are more alert.  And who knows this better than the God who created our brains. Maybe that is why he encourages us to seek Him early, when we can concentrate, when we can fully attend His word, when we can hear Him.

 

Isn’t our God amazing?

 

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up” – Psalms 5:3

 

 

 

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IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

 

It is well with my soul. There are some days…some seasons in life, when that is that is all you can say.  But it is also the best you can say.

 

It Is Well With My Soulhas long been one of my favorite hymns.  It was written in 1873 by Horatio Spaffordfollowing the drowning deaths of his four daughters that occurred when the ship they were on sank.  That is really all I knew of his story, but after doing a little research I discovered that he had one traumatic event after another throughout his life.  Yet he could write this beautiful hymn that has helped sustain so many of us in dark days. I love the theology of this song…that no matter what happens in this world, I can know for certain that this is not my home.  I am just passing through, and one day I will live with Jesus in Heaven.

 

When you are stripped of everything in this material world.  When life slams you in the face and you didn’t see it coming.  When you have endured months and even years of a trial that seems to have no end, when life seems hopeless, can you say, “It is well with my soul?”  Because really, that is all that really matters.  It is the most important thing you can ever say.  When the 6:00 news alternately makes you scratch your head or shudder in fear, when the only voice you have is your one little vote, can you say, “It is well with my soul?”  When the doctor gives you a dreaded diagnosis, when you have run out of treatment options, when the miracle you prayed for seems like it is not going to happen, is it still well with your soul?   When you feel forgotten, rejected, and alone, do you know all is well with your soul?

 

When life is good, when you have the world by the tail, when you have love, health, and prosperity, can you say, “It is well with my soul?”  Sometime I think it is harder when things are going well.  I remember a friend I used to have when we lived in another city.  I have lost touch with her, but occasionally I wonder how she is doing.  When I knew her she was happily married, had great kids, lived in a big house, and had a job she loved.  One day I tried to talk to her about Jesus.  About her soul.  She told me that her life was good and she didn’t want to rock her boat.  Somehow she had the idea that if she let God into her life she was signing on for trials.  I’ve thought a lot about that and in all honesty she may have been right. God doesn’t just save us and leave us where we are.  He wants to refine us, to make us more Christ-like,  But she would have walked through any future trials with a God who loves her and has a plan for good for her.

 

I can tell you in my life, my biggest growth spurts have occurred as a result of trials.  That is where my faith has grown.  I haven’t had a Horatio Spafford life.  In fact, over all I would say life has been good.  But there have been days, seasons, when I had to come right up to a hard truth: I am not in control!  There have been times when I have had to say, “Not my will, but thine.”  And then I’ve had to let go and trust in God’s goodness.  Even in those dark, scary moments, I could say, “It is well with my soul.”  If life gives me the very worst it has (Oh and I hope it never does!  The mind can conjure up some horrible situations,) even if I am stripped of everything, I know it is well with my soul.  This is not the end.  I have a home in Heaven with Jesus, who will make all things right.

 

Can you say those words? It is well with my soul?  If not, I hope you will consider what the Bible has to say.   God loves you and has a plan for your life, but there is one thing that separates you from God and that is sin.  Welcome to the human race, for the Bible tells us that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  And to make bad news worse, the Bible tells us that the price for our sins is death.  That is what we deserve; but God has given us the free gift (we didn’t earn it) of eternal life because our sin debt was paid by the death of Jesus.  Horatio Spafford said it well:

 

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

 

If you are not sure that all is well with your soul, I urge you to settle that matter today.  Payment for your sins has already been taken care of.  Just talk to God from your heart.  You might pray something like this, although the words are not as important as the intent of your heart:

 

“Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I do not deserve eternal life. But, I believe You died and rose from the grave to make me a new creation and to prepare me to dwell in your presence forever. Jesus, come into my life, take control of my life, forgive my sins and save me. I am now placing my trust in You alone for my salvation and I accept your free gift of eternal life.”

 

If you have prayed that prayer, then you can sing along with Horatio Spafford and millions of other Believers: It is well with my soul.

 

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