HE who knows Love—becomes Love, and his eyes
Behold Love in the heart of everyone,
Even the loveless: as the light of the sun
Is one with all it touches. He is wise
With undivided wisdom, for he lies 
In Wisdom’s arms. His wanderings are done,
For he has found the Source whence all things run—
The guerdon of the quest, that satisfies.
He who knows Love becomes Love, and he knows
All beings are himself, twin-born of Love. 
Melted in Love’s own fire, his spirit flows
Into all earthly forms, below, above;
He is the breath and glamour of the rose,
He is the benediction of the dove.

By: Elsa Barker

“Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel” (Joshua 24:23)

Joshua was speaking to the Israelites in this short verse, telling them to cease the worship of the idols brought in among them by the foreign people they were coming into contact with and to cleave to the Lord. The instruction was simple, “put away… the strange gods which are among you…” Unfortunately, the Israelites did not do this and suffered as a result.

Now perhaps we live in a time where not many of us will be enticed into the worship of a golden calf, but we all hold onto our strange gods fervently. The term “strange god” has a mutable meaning, which allows it to take on the sign of the times. Worship of the golden calf turns into worship of the dollar bill, the human body and its desires (or lack thereof), our friends, our families, our significant others… the list can go interminably. Anything  placed ahead of Christ in the heart or the mind is a strange god.

What makes our strange gods far worse than those of the Israelites and their golden calf is the fact that our strange gods can be kept hidden deep within us so that no one has to know. If only it were as simple as bowing down to a golden calf. How many of us would be brave enough to parade our strange god so publicly? But we don’t. We keep our strange god locked deep within our hearts and souls and actively running through our minds and as the love of it increases, the love of Christ decreases. And as Christ diminishes in our lives, everything begins to deteriorate. The Israelites turned from God and were overcome by their enemies and so the same thing happens to us.

“…incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel.” He does not ask for much, only for your heart. The question that we all must answer becomes: will I give it? If there is any hesitation within you, look to the cross and there you will find your answer. He who created you was born and died in the most painful way for you. How can you not give Him your heart? It seems as if it is too little to ask of us.

…And all the single men and those who are taken and those who are married and those who wish to marry and those who are widowed and those who do not wish to marry… There is only One who sees you as a lily among the thorns. There is only One who appreciates your beauty and values it above His own life. Find Him. Love Him. Your soul will find peace.

“Like a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.”

“Above all else, guard your heart,  for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

What enters the heart will run and rule your life. What emerges from it will affect the lives of others. Choose those you let into your heart wisely. Give love from it freely and without restraint.

“…humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of affection, fear, and desire which they call ‘being in love’ is the only thing that makes marriage either happy or holy. The error is easy to produce because ‘being in love’ does very often, in Western Europe, precede marriages which are made in obedience to the Enemy’s designs, that is, with the intention of fidelity, fertility and good will; just as religious emotion very often, but not always, attends conversion. In other words, the humans are encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-coloured and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as its result. Two advantages follow. In the first place, humans who do not have the gift of continence can be deterred from seeking marriage as a solution because they do not find themselves ‘in love,’ and thanks to us, the idea of marrying with any other motive seems to them low and cynical. Yes, they think that. They regard the intention of loyalty to a partnership for mutual help, for the preservation of chastity, and for the transmission of life, as something lower than a storm of emotion. (Don’t neglect to make your man think the marriage-service very offensive.) In the second place any sexual infatuation whatever, so long as it intends marriage, will be regarded as ‘love’, and ‘love’ will be held to excuse a man from all the guilt, and to protect him from all the consequences, of marrying a heathen, a fool, or a wanton…”

From The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

*******

Being young and having little experience in the world, I personally cannot say very much about marriage and the love between a married couple but I found this excerpt by C.S. Lewis to be interesting and tought-provoking. I think Lewis encourages his reader to seek out the substance and the heart of a person as opposed to the feelings the person invokes. The inability to connect with the substance of man or a woman is one thing, waiting for the one to give you butterflies in your stomach is another. Lewis would most likely tell you to forget the butterflies; afer all, they only have a lifespan of a week.

I have heard the quote “You must be the change you want to see in the world” several times before without ever giving it much thought. It was just always one of those positive platitudes that were supposed to be inspiring, but nothing more. But the other day I was thinking about perspective and points of view when I found it unexpectedly crossing my mind.

Of course a world changing for the better would be ideal, but I am taken with something smaller at the moment. Simply the vision we have of others, or more aptly put, the vision we project onto others. If we take the premise of the quote–the vision of change will enact change–and apply it to the way we see others, then the way we see others is the way they will be. The next logical conclusion would be to interact with goodness and love from others we must see goodness and love in them. It is easy to see the faults and the flaws, even easier to exxagerate them to gross proportions, and easier still to concoct flaws that aren’t there at all in the name of wisdom and knowledge–false wisdom and false knowledge.

It is clearness of sight to see past all that and to see the goodness and beauty inside our fellow man. Perhaps then we can continue to mold and transform ourselves into the image of Christ when He said “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Seeing past the sin, the flaw, to the inner man, Christ came to gather us unto Him. If He afforded us with the benefit of the doubt that is the very least we can do to others.

After taking a monster of an exam, 5 grueling hours, a few of my friends and I went to local diner near school just to relax and share good company after a long day (2 came from work and 2 were also taking exams.) We ate, we laughed, we sang along with the Christmas carols playing in the background. After dinner we split up outside the diner to go to our cars and I went in one direction with two of them. What followed can most likely only be explained by entropy or perhaps even chaos theory. One minute we’re walking to our cars and the next we’re in this ridiculous tangled mess of violence. One friend put the other in a headlock, so to retaliate, the one in the headlock grabbed my arm and started twisting it, in which case I started kicking (and missing) in order to get my arm out of his death grip.  So there we were, three young adults, all soon to be attorneys, pummeling each other in a diner’s parking lot.

It was all over within a minute, and we laughed about it as we walked the few feet left to reach our cars. It made no sense at the time (ok, so maybe I instigated the headlock, so it did make sense) but oddly enough, it was a perfect ending to a nice outing. And even more importantly, it shed some light on a verse I’d been thinking about lately: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6).

I’d rather get pummeled with love by a true friend any day, than hear words of praise or advice from an “enemy,” which would do nothing but breed grief and sorrow in the end.

When I was younger I often struggled with one particular question endlessly. I asked everyone I could for an answer, parents, friends, Sunday school teachers, priests, bishops, anyone and everyone I could reach. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how one could go about living Christian love, a love that endures and gives and gives even to those who hate us, without getting hurt. All my attempts at living this love ended up with me sorely hurt and terribly afraid to try again (although through His grace, I always did try again.)

“Where do you draw the line?” I would ask over and over again. And every time I would never really get an answer. I grew even more upset and frustrated. All I could think was, so basically, if I live a life of love then I am guaranteed to get hurt endlessly for the rest of my life. Where do you draw the line? It didn’t seem right. Christ didn’t say come to me all you weary and feel even worse. After all, joy and peace are just two of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

My answer came one day some time ago in a lightening bolt-like moment when I was reading over this part of the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The answer plainly looked me in the face. He says nothing at all about drawing any lines, therefore one cannot be drawn if one intends to live His words and commandments. I could not love and give and serve to a certain point and then stop once I hit my line in the sand. No, in fact, He tells us to go two miles when we are asked only to go one, give to those who ask, and never turn away one who wants to borrow.

So if one can’t draw a line, then it’s a lifetime of hurt and tears?

No, not quite… You see, I was having what I have now come to refer to as an application confusion problem. This can be better explained by giving another experience of mine where I asked about the now-false proverbial line between love and pain. During a rough patch in life, I ended up going through what at the time seemed like a gross betrayal of trust (things are always so big in the moment and so much smaller in hindsight.) I went back and forth with my father of confession about it, me declaring that I couldn’t trust this person any longer and falling into the depths of my line-drawing despair, when he promptly stopped me and said, “You don’t have to trust her to treat her with love and respect.”

And so my lightening-bolt moment was really when what he had said to me and the excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount collided to create understanding. Since then, I have learned to put my heart in the hands of few, in the hands of those who reflect the Godliness I want in my life. To live a life of Christian love, one does not need to hand one’s heart away to every person along the path, more often than not people will be callous and careless with it. Instead, I learned that it meant to open up my heart to every person along the path. And the only way the heart can remain open to everyone and yet remain protected is when it is placed in the hands of God. He simultaneously shields it and multiplies its love and strengthens it. So ultimately the heart is made of extraordinary mettle, strong yet gentle like its Creator and Perfecter.

With finals bearing down upon, I can safely say this time of year is fairly gloomy so I’ve been compiling play lists of songs that make me smile, and I thought I’d share one of the songs with you. This one’s called “You owe me Nothing in Return.” I highly suggest giving it a listen. Yes, it is by Alanis, but I guarantee it will surprise you. Lyrics are below for the curious.

I’ll give you countless amounts of outright acceptance if you want it
I will give you encouragement to choose the path that you want if you need it
You can speak of anger and doubts your fears and freak outs and I’ll hold it
You can share your so-called shame filled accounts of times in your life and I won’t judge it
(and there are no strings attached to it)

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give
You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have
I give you thanks for receiving it’s my privilege
And you owe me nothing in return

You can ask for space for yourself and only yourself and I’ll grant it
You can ask for freedom as well or time to travel and you’ll have it
You can ask to live by yourself or love someone else and I’ll support it
You can ask for anything you want anything at all and I’ll understand it
(and there are no strings attached to it)

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give
You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have
I give you thanks for receiving it’s my privilege
And you owe me nothing in return

I bet you’re wondering when the next payback shoe will eventually drop
I bet you’re wondering when my conditional police will force you to cough up
I bet wonder how far you have now danced you way back into debt
This is the only kind of love as I understand it that there really is

You can express your deepest of truths even if it means I’ll lose you and I’ll hear it
You can fall into the abyss on your way to your bliss I’ll empathize with
You can say that you have to skip town to chase your passion I’ll hear it
You can even hit rock bottom have a mid-life crisis and I’ll hold it
(and there are no strings attached)

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give
You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have
I give you thanks for receiving it’s my privilege
And you owe me nothing in return

…when it seeks its own.

Any acts motivated by the self or self benefit cannot be called acts of love. Be careful when using love as the reason for the action.