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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Do You Love Me?

I have to be honest. It's been a long time since I've felt... I mean, really felt the spirit move in and through me. But, at this moment, despite the throbbing pain of a migraine that's ramping up and knowing that I'm going to be sidelined for the majority of the day, I feel alive! I feel the spirit churning in me, and pushing to come out. So, I turned on the computer to let the words flow through my fingers.

I have been feeling guilty and have been very hard on myself for a really long time. You see, I haven't been to church in longer than I care to admit - besides a couple visits here and there, it's probably been a few years now. It breaks my heart, as church and my family / church family (my family and I are members of the same church) has always been a constant rock in my life. But, I have a lot of difficulty with many aspects of the church-going experience, so here I am.

I miss it. I miss being surrounded by others that love Christ. I miss the Scripture, the songs, the sermons, the community. I miss feeling His presence.

My church has been streaming podcasts of the weekly sermons for a while now. I started listening to them, when they first started, but I haven't stayed disciplined in listening to them. For whatever reason, I decided to pull one up this morning and listen to it. Where should I start? At the beginning? The most recent? So, I just kinda randomly chose one... it ended up being the sermon from May 5, 2013. Wow!

The sermon speaks to how Jesus Christ came to simplify our lives and our faith. We are called as God's people to live and love simply.

I've been thinking a lot about this idea of living simply, as I definitely do not. I over-complicate and over-analyze my life so much!

We over-complicate life, and Christ came to simplify it. We over-complicate our relationship with God, and Christ wants it more simple. We over-complicate forgiving other people (perhaps most of all, ourselves), loving other people... and it's all really simple. Christ came so that all are forgiven and loved. All we have to do is accept it and offer it to others. Simple. But, simple is not easy. A simple life of faith is not easy.

It's easier to only love and forgive certain people (for example, people that think or believe what we believe), but it's simpler to love and forgive everyone. And, we're called, as God's people, to love and forgive everyone - just as God loves and forgives us, unconditionally. It's not easy to love everyone unconditionally, but it's simpler.

Take, for example, Simon Peter. Simon Peter publicly and blatantly denies knowing Jesus three times (John 18:15-27). In a stark difference from the rules and regulations of the day to cleanse and repent for denying God, Jesus responds by asking a simple question... "Do you love me?" (John 21:15-17).

In order to be made holy and righteous, and be reconnected and back in relation with God, all He asks is, "Do you love me?" The only other thing we're asked to do is to simply go love and forgive others the way we've been loved and forgiven by God.

No matter how much we've messed up, how far we've strayed, what we've done... if we want to be forgiven by God and be in a relationship with God, all we have to do is answer this question:
Do you love Me, and will you go and love other people the way I've loved you?  ~God
Wow! What a huge release of so much guilt, disappointment, and hate that I've held toward myself. There's nothing difficult that I have to do to try to make things right between God and me. I love God, and I do my best to share His love and forgiveness with others. I feel like not being able to make it to church has somehow stifled my relationship with Him, but maybe He's growing me in different ways right now. I do hope to be able to rejoin my church community in weekly worship and service, but I'm trying to find peace in doing what I can right now... growing my relationship with God from where I am, knowing that the Lord of All has the reigns in my life.

All we have to do is accept God's unconditional love and forgiveness in our lives, and then go offer it to other people. That's it. So simple! 

A Life-Affirming Visit

You know those amazing, life-affirming visits with someone (be it a friend or a stranger), where you leave feeling that your soul has been refreshed / renewed?

I had one of those Sunday night. I had a chance to visit with a long-time friend of the family, who I only get to see every four or five years. She happened to be in town for a few days, and I (thankfully) was feeling well enough to visit a bit with her and some of my family.

She and I chatted with one another for a little while, and I feel that we connected in a special way. She shared with me how she saw me before the chronic migraines (very active and busy, an intellectual, etc), and then recognized and allowed me to talk about the difficulties that have come with learning to live life with so much pain and so many limitations. She said she knows I've always been determined and strong, and that she knows I'll do my best to be and live as well as possible.

She shared bits of wisdom that she's learned over a lifetime of experiences... bits of wisdom that seem so simple and basic, but are truly life-changing:
  • Listen carefully to your body.
  • Do what feels right to and for you (call it your gut, instinct, or just a feeling).
  • Be okay / comfortable with the decisions you make.
  • What others say to / about you is about them, not you.
  • Don't spend precious time and energy on wasteful things. 
  • such as, thinking or worrying about... what others say to/about you, expectations of self and others (what you should be doing), what may or may not happen, and other things that are out of our control.
  • There is meaning and purpose in life, even when it doesn't feel like there is.
  • The faith that we gain during times of struggle are priceless.

I'm sure there are other things that'll keep coming to mind, as the words shared between us play in my mind further. There were aspects of this journey that I haven't talked about in quite a long time (like identifying myself with my intellect, and the loss of that when I struggled with and then decided not to continue graduate school). It was interesting for me to see what I've dealt and come to terms with, and what is still a little raw to talk about. I know that this is all a journey, and it was nice to share parts of my journey with this friend.

I feel validated and better understood. I also feel a renewed sense of hope and direction that feels great!

I count myself so blessed to have this person in my life, and that she was willing to spend some time sharing with and really listening to me. My heart is filled with gratitude!